PROSECCO has hit the headlines twice recently. First, sales of
it on the British market now outstrip champagne. This comes as no
surprise, as it is half the price, and, for the average consumer,
has a softer, more appealing taste. As one leading champagne
producer said: "This is not a concern for me. Prosecco sells in a
totally different marketplace."
The second headline, however, may be more worrying: "Supply of
Prosecco can no longer meet demand." Again, this could have been
foreseen, as the wine has become immensely popular, not just here,
but particularly in the United States. I was talking to a leading
importer recently, and he has been told that he can expect no more
supplies for three months - and this as the peak wedding-season
approaches. What is not clear is how long it will take for this
shortage to be reflected on high-street shelves.
There are two main reasons for the success of prosecco. The
first is that, for a sparkling wine, it is very affordable; the
second is that it is very easy to drink, as I found out at my
nephew's wedding recently. As far as price is concerned, the most
evident replacement is Spanish cava, the fashionable fizz not long
Most is produced in the Penedès region, south-east of Barcelona,
from the local grapes Parellada, Xarel-lo, and Macabeo, which can
give it a slightly rustic flavour. Now, however, many producers are
putting a proportion of Chardonnay in the blend, which softens out
The outstanding bargain, as far as cava is concerned, is Aldi's
award-winning offering at just £4.99 a bottle. I also recommend La
Rosca cava from Waitrose, now £5.61; and the popular Codorníu Brut
that Majestic is offering: at £7.49 a bottle, if you buy two, or
£6.66 each for two or more bottles of the rosé.
The wine that perhaps comes closest to prosecco (unsurprisingly,
because it is Italian, and is made from the same grape) is
Waitrose's Bright and Fruity, which makes an ideal summer-party
wine at £6.49. This might also, however, come under similar supply
pressure to prosecco. The same might apply to Tanners Fabio Ceschin
Grappolo Vino Blanco Frizzante, at £7.99, which has more a foaming
than a full-bodied sparkle.
Another good field for sparkling wines at less than £10 a bottle
is that of the various French crémant wines. While these -
especially those of Alsace, Burgundy, and the Loire Valley - are
widely drunk in France, they have never caught on widely here.
Aldi, however, offers an excellent, bemedalled Crémant du Jura at
£7.29, and a Crémant de Loire at just 50p a bottle less.
It is not long since sparkling wines were punitively taxed in
the UK, as luxury items. Now, with prosecco and cava, they have
been democratised, and the consumer has been the first to benefit.
There are still those who drink nothing but champagne, but many
more now enjoy a regular glass of prosecco.
Increased demand will mean an increase in prices. Perhaps now is
the time to stock up.