INDUSTRY VOICES: Stefano Zanette, president, Prosecco DOC Consortium

'As with Champagne, product protection is vital': Prosecco DOC Consortium

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Italy’s Prosecco DOC Consortium reported world sales of 155m DOC bottles in 2013 and 13% growth. Here chairman Stefano Zanette tells us how the drink can retain sparkling superiority in markets like the US.

The Prosecco DOC Consortium (DOC means controlled designation of origin under EU law) has protected, upheld and promoted the standards of Prosecco produced in Italy’s Veneto region since the straw-colored sparkling wine won its DOC in 2009.

The DOC label represents 30% of the total Prosecco market (if you venture further upmarket, for instance, you can buy DOGC – ‘Denomination of Origin Controlled and Guaranteed), according to the Prosecco DOC Consortium, which counts wineries, vine growers and bottlers as its members.

BD: Clearly comparisons with Champagne abound - the Consortium does take pains to distinguish itself from commercial rival Champagne, or does it revel in taste and price comparisons?

The differences between Prosecco DOC wines and Champagne are very apparent, although they are both part of the family of sparkling wines.

The main differences are of course the production area, the grapes and the method of production. This means that the organoleptic characteristics of Champagne and Prosecco are completely different. In the case of Prosecco DOC we have the floral and fruity aromas which are enhanced with bubbles and taste fresh, light and young.

The price varies depending on the production method. Indeed for Prosecco DOC, the method is quite short because you want to enhance the characteristics of freshness, while for Champagne the procedure is much longer, with a consequent increase of production costs.

BD: How are sales shaping up for 2014?

The Prosecco DOC Consortium, including the activities defined by Italian law, is responsible for administering the DOC name as well as creating the conditions for market equilibrium between supply and demand in order to ensure price stability over time. 2014 will be a year of growth, but it’s still early to predict any number.

BD: What do you think the secret of Prosecco's success is? Is it seen as popular, accessible, fun than Champagne, say, Cava or other sparkling wines - in my experience perhaps the taste is a little less dry and a bit sweeter…

The secrets remain secrets. I can confirm, however, what you said: the characteristics of a pleasant aroma and light, fresh taste have fostered the success of Prosecco. Not to mention the fact of its easy availability, thanks to the hard work done in large part by the companies within the Consortium.

Regarding the sugar content -- this depends very much on the tastes of the public. In fact, the Prosecco DOC sparkling wine is produced in different types just in relation to this parameter (brut, extra dry, dry and demi-sec), then the consumer can choose according to taste.

BD: What innovations do the Consortium and the industry generally plan to retain your lead over Champagne in countries like the US and UK?

The Consortium does not generally compare itself to specific categories of wine. Of course, the Consortium and the individual companies within will follow established procedures, both in the vineyard and in the winery, that are designed to improve the characteristics of our product.

We will continue pushing the product in third markets through promotion and marketing. Of fundamental importance are protection activities, which also apply to our colleagues in Champagne, in order to limit and protect consumers from imitation or counterfeiting and ensure authentic product.

BD: Are there any new markets that you are particularly keen to crack?

We would like to break the markets of Northern and Eastern Europe and the Asian markets (China and Southeast Asia), while also consolidating the major markets.

BD: Who is the typical Prosecco drinker - do they differ in, say, the States, Germany and the UK?

Prosecco drinkers tend to be younger, 21-35 years of age and female. No major differences by market, but the type of Prosecco consumed varies.

In the German market, given the tax on sparkling wines, consumers lean towards Frizzante (semi-sparkling, less pressure in the bottle) Prosecco, while in the United Kingdom and the United States, Spumante (sparkling, the most famous type of Prosecco with a fine, long-lasting perlage) is the most consumed type of sparkling wine.

BD: Will you be able to premiumize the drink further in time, do you think - or is this not on the agenda?

The activities of the Consortium (management, promotion and protection of the name Prosecco) will continue to uphold and increase the value of the Prosecco DOC label without compromising the quality of the wine.

Stefano Zanette is president and chairman of the Prosecco Consortium.

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