Gianluca Bisol has great expectations for the white sparkling wine his family has been making since 1542 in the Valdobbiadene and Conegliano regions north of Venice.
A 22nd-generation Prosecco producer, he is hoping Prosecco’s growing international renown will help his fizz gain ground over pricier Champagne. Prosecco production has grown to 150 million bottles from 5 million a year in 40 years, mainly driven by demand for exports to Germany and the United States.
Now, its makers aim to increase production to 250 million bottles, moving it closer to the world’s leading bubbly. France last year produced a record 339 million bottles of Champagne.
“Prosecco is softer, easier to drink than Champagne,” Bisol told the International Herald Tribune. “Add the good price/quality ratio, and Prosecco could become the leading world bubbly over the next 30 years.”
Taking on Champagne will require boosting exports, which amounted to about 16 million bottles last year, a fraction of the 150 million bottles of Champagne France exported.
One battleground will be emerging wine markets such as China. Exports of Champagne to China soared 30 percent to 650,000 bottles last year, a nine-fold increase in five years, according to the association of Champagne producers. Prosecco sales totaled fewer than 100,000 bottles.
In Prosecco’s favor may be the fact that its flavor is sweeter than the traditional Bruts that are sought out by Champagne buyers. Some Chinese consumers still like to mix their white wine with lemonade to make it palatable.
But mostly, Prosecco needs to become trendy.
It will have to find favor with the young, rich clientele of places like i-Ultra Lounge, a Beijing bar that mixes deejay beats and a dance floor with a Champagne collection that includes vintage Dom Perignon.
“Very few of our guests know about Prosecco,” said Gary Li, the bar’s manager, adding his brand-conscious clients order Moet (et Chandon) the most because Moet does a lot of advertising.
“Prosecco definitely has potential,” Li said. “Champagne leads the market because it broke into China first, and Prosecco may need one or two years. But its quality is no less than Champagne’s. It just has to attract an audience.”