The year was 2015. It was a momentous year in the history of wine.
In the United Kingdom, for the first time ever, sales of Italian Prosecco surpassed sales of French Champagne.
Take a moment to digest that factoid. Never before in the history of wine — dating all the way back to Dom Perignon, who may or may not have “invented” Champagne (but that’s another story) — had Brits consumed more Prosecco than Champagne.
So what happened? Theories vary, but I have my own. Before getting to that, however, let’s take a look at the basic differences between Prosecco and Champagne.
While both wines are “bubbly,” they’re made from different varieties of grapes. In the Champagne appellation of France, the grapes include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. In Italy, the primary grape is called Prosecco, a.k.a. Glera.
The other main difference involves how the wines are made. In France, the “traditional” method is utilized. It’s a process that is both time- and labor-intensive. In Italy, a much less-complicated “tank method” is embraced. You still get all the bubbles, only with a lot less work.
Because sparkling wine is served chilled, the varying flavors of the various cuvees are not as distinctive as in table wines. The colder the wine, the less its flavors will come through. Thus, even if a French Champagne were far “superior” to an Italian Prosecco, most people wouldn’t notice it unless they drank the wine at room temperature.
So, if the flavor differences are negligible and both offer plenty of nose-tickling bubbles, what’s responsible for Prosecco’s rise in the U.K.?
My best guess is price. Generally speaking, you can get a perfectly good Prosecco for about one-third the price of a perfectly good Champagne. That means restaurants and wine bars are able to charge less for Prosecco, and consumers are able to enjoy two or three glasses instead of just one for basically the same price.
The go-to sparkling wine around my house has become the Borgo del Col Alto, a crisp and refreshing Prosecco that has a persistent stream of tiny bubbles. It’s wonderful as an aperitif, or for accompanying almost any treat from the sea.
That’s not to say we don’t drink French Champagne, because we do — mainly for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. For those who like bubbly, the Sparkling Wine Club from Vinesse provides beautiful bubblies from around the world — including France and Italy.
The Brits have made their decision on the Great Bubbly Debate. Where do you stand? Joining the Sparkling Wine Club will give you all the tools you need to make an informed decision.