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The new bubbly kid on the block

Prosecco has been on the rise in recent years. In fact, Prosecco has seen such massive success in the past decade that Italy now exports over 600 million bottles of Prosecco per year as opposed to the approximately 150 million was exported in 2008.

Why has Prosecco become so popular all of a sudden? Mainly due to its price. For Brits in particular, Prosecco is far cheaper than Champagne and most other imported sparkling wines, allowing people to feel ‘bougie’ on a budget.

Another factor in its success is it being a key ingredient in many cocktails. Aperol Spritz, Bellini’s and Mimosa’s all rely on Prosecco to tie them together. And since there’s been an increasing worldwide interest in cocktails since the start of the pandemic, there’s a continued rise in Prosecco sales too.

Valdo is one of Italy’s leading Prosecco producers and exporters, and I was recently treated to a tasting of four of their six sparkling wines available in South Africa. I tried their Valdo Prosecco DOC Extra Dry, Valdo Superiore Prosecco DOCG Brut, Valdo Paradise Rosé Brut and Valdo Ice Demi-Sec.

Prosecco is characteristically light and fruity and these were no exception. Incredibly easy-drinking, soft and delicious, they went down a treat. My favourite was the Valdo Superiore Prosecco DOCG Brut, but then I have always had expensive taste.

The main differences between the four wines is that the Valdo Paradise Rosé Brut and Valdo Ice Demi-Sec are not actually Prosecco. In order to be called Prosecco, a sparkling wine needs to be comprised of at least 85% Glera grapes, the main varietal in making Prosecco. Any less and it is simply an Italian sparkling wine also known as a ‘spumanti’.

The other important differentiation is between DOC and DOCG. DOC (Designation of Controlled Origin) is a guarantee that you are in fact drinking Prosecco and it comes from a defined production area with specific growth and production requirements. DOCG (roughly translated: Designation of Controlled Origin Guaranteed) is an additional guarantee on the quality of the wine and the stricter requirements for the label.

The final and incredibly important differentiation is that Prosecco is not Champagne, nor is it produced like Champagne. Champagne, or MCC, undergoes its second fermentation process in the bottle, while Prosecco undergoes its second fermentation in stainless steel tanks, making it far easier and more cost-effective to produce. Prosecco, unlike Champagne, is made to be drunk fresh, not more than three to five years old, making for unfussy and easy drinking.

While Prosecco has certainly been a hit across Europe and the USA in the last decade, and we have begun to see an increase of availability on the South African market, it is yet to be determined whether it will have the same impact locally as it has had overseas. We already have fantastic local MCC and sparkling wine that dominate the bubbly industry at incredibly reasonable prices. In order for Prosecco to make a dent in the local market it will have to sell itself not as a cost-saving alternative to Champagne, but as a premium sparkling wine in its own right.