All winemaking is alchemy, but few winemakers in the world have exercised the alchemists’ art more effectively than the producers of Prosecco. While makers of sparkling wine in places from California to Cornwall focus on using the costly and time-consuming methods associated with Champagne, the wizards of the Veneto have seduced the world with fizz produced by the quicker, simpler Cuve Close. Prosecco is much cheaper to make than Cava but sells for a higher price and is far more popular. In sheer capitalist terms, what’s not to like?
Well, apparently, the thing the Prosecco-makers actually do dislike is bar staff serving sparkling wine from their part of Italy in a way that reflects the industrial methods used to produce it. (And I use that term as someone who genuinely enjoys drinking Cuve Close Prosecco). Champagne could not, by definition, be sold on draft in the way that fizzy Italian wine is routinely poured in countless pubs and bars. And nor, legally it seems, should Prosecco.
Prosecco is officially Britain’s favourite fizz, and this is something that may well owe something to the clever way that companies like Frizzenti have clamberered onto its bandwagon. When it was launched, Frizzenti, a UK-developed brand of Veneto sparkling wine sold on draft, described itself – in Italian – as ‘Classico made from Prosecco grapes’. Today it contents itself with ‘Vino Frizzanti’. Until the tightening of the regional rules covering Prosecco, however, this wine could probably have legitimately been labelled as Prosecco. Today, it can only be legally sold under the name of its grape: Glera. But given the fact that it looks and tastes like basic Prosecco, it’s hardly surprising that this is what it’s called by bar staff and their customers.
The Prosecco Polizia may be able to prevent the abuse of their brand name in at least some outlets, and as brand-owners, they are almost certainly right to try to do so. But they’ll never halt it completely, any more than the Champenois and Cognaçais have been able to stop Spanish barmen from offering Spanish ‘Champagne’ and ‘Cognac’.
But surely there’s a clear lesson for any serious, high-volume, wine company. Consumers like buying fizz by the glass and bar staff like drawing it from a tap. Why has it taken so long for the industry to address this obvious gap in the market? And why haven’t any big producers got in there with their own branded taps? And why stop at fizz? Maybe a few more industry professionals should take a look at the way the innovative Jean-Charles Boisset has successfully launched super-premium Burgundy and Napa wine on tap in ‘Barrel to Barrel’ Bags-in-Boxes hidden in bar-top wooden barrels. The wine industry would do well to recall Henry Ford’s memorable comment that, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”