The Prosecco Bubble Bursts?
Prosecco corks have been popping in the UK at a steadily growing rate for a decade and we drank 112.5 million bottles in 2016 (even leading to a dentist claiming that it was affecting the health of the nation’s teeth!! This was alarmist but not beyond the bounds of fact- we were at Veuve Clicquot in Champagne a few years ago with some restaurant customers. At a blending masterclass held by the assistant winemaker Floriane Eznack (now head winemaker at Champagne Jacquart), she claimed that the team had to have 3-monthly dental checks due the amount of acidic young wine they swilled round their mouths during the prolonged blending process!!! Ah, the frothing enamel). Er, I digress….
Shock, horror then to learn that Prosecco imports fell by 7% in the first half of 2018.
Are consumers jaded? Fearful of a no-deal brexit, a non-bubbly back-stop, perhaps?
There is some evidence that we’re beginning to look beyond the plump, peachy charms of pear-scented Prosecco. Sales of Cremants were up 70% in small independent wine merchant Waitrose last year. What’s a Cremant I hear almost no-one ask?
Well, I’ll tell you….a Cremant is a sparkling wine from France made in the same method as Champers but from outwith that region. We here at Great Grog Ltd sell Cremant D’Alsace, Cremant de Loire and the best seller over Chrimbo, Cremant de Limoux. The latter’s claim to fame is that it is the first ever fizzy wine recorded (1531), made by the monks (who else?) at the abbey at St Hilaire just south of the ersatz crenellations of Carcassonne. It was accidental at first of course; wine that seemed to have stopped fermenting would be bottled as winter approached. Come the spring, temperatures rose and the sleepy yeast woke up at started munching on any leftover sugar. Out came more CO2 (and bit more alcohol) but being a sealed container it dissolved into the wine making it effervesce. This actually was seen as a fault. Even the great Dom Perignon’s (1638–1715) main focus was trying to stop it happening until export markets, particularly the bubble-mad Brits, started loving this new style.
The main problem than was that the rubbishy glass (sorry about the technical jargon) couldn’t withstand the pressure and 50% exploded in the cellar. It was actually advances in coal-fired furnace glass making in Sunderland in the late 1600s which made good-quality thick glass that could withstand the pressure (fact geekery- 6 atmospheres; same as a bus tyre- not sure of the relevance of that!).
So what’s the difference to Prosecco? Well, Prosecco is made by sticking wine into a steel tank and bunging in (yet more technical jargon) more sugar and yeast, it ferments again then is transferred under pressure into the bottle. This makes a fruity, soft, clean style. Cremants (like Champagne and Cava) have the extra yeast and sugar added to wine in the bottle, which is then sealed. This keeps the yeast in closer contact with the juice, usually over a longer period of time, making for a creamier, less fruity style.
You pays your money and you takes your choice.
Whichever you prefer, let’s hope we don’t have to resort to smuggling in our euro-bubbles come the 29th of March or it’ll be English fizz or nothing.