The global economic downturn has resulted in an upward lift in the sales of Prosecco adding a notable sparkle to this market. In the UK, where we unashamedly lapped up Champagne, now we quaff increasing volumes of Prosecco.
I recall a time when Prosecco was slightly sniffed at, but when times are uncertain, it has become an acceptable alternative to Champagne. Indeed Champagne might be deemed somewhat ostentatious in times of some austerity.
Prosecco is largely seen as a ‘bung in the trolley’ sort of wine together with the groceries, but frankly there’s little pleasure in some of these vapid wines at £8 or less. When the DOC Prosecco area was expanded a decade ago, it incorporated the flat lands, formerly cornfields, and this area churns out the nondescript mass market fizz.
The better area became DOCG Prosecco Superiore. This stunningly beautiful hilly region is called Conegliano Valdobbiadene and either or both names may be used on the label and the wine comes in Brut, Extra Dry or Dry versions.
Btw Prosecco is made from Glena, a highly productive variety with large bunches. The DOCG has a maximum permitted yield of 13.5 tonnes per hectare, lower than on the plain and the wineries tend to blend from various micro-zones of the area for more complexity.
Better quality Prosecco is certainly cheaper than Champagne, but is it good value? in my local supermarket, the better Prosecco brands are now closing on £14. Hang on, this is fizz made made by the Charmat method, in other words large volumes which go through a second fermentation in tank and are swiftly bottled. It’s a damn sight cheaper and quicker to make wines this way, than the traditional, bottle fermented fashion. In other words £14 seems rather expensive for an industrially made product. You could argue it’s better value to stockpile some Champagne when it’s on offer. Look along the shelf at the same supermarket and – on occasion – you can snaffle Bollinger for £32. Maybe drink fewer and better bottles?
But let’s not be too hasty…. or hypocritical, as I love a ‘good’ Prosecco. However I would advise against a lazy supermarket approach and focus rather on your local wine merchant.
A wine merchant worth their salt will have ferreted out something interesting and well worth the money. Ideally selecting a family estate that has been quietly making quality stuff since long before the Prosecco bonanza.
Follador is one such family. ‘Follare l’uva’ is local dialect for ‘to press grapes and make wine’ which this family have been doing for generations. When I tasted the wine from this estate, I felt I had to write about them for those equally disenchanted by their supermarket offering of prosecco.
The Follador’s estate is called Il Follo after a small village in the prime DOCG region of Valdobbiadene, where the family have both their winery and their finest vineyard Villa Luiga. At the helm are Luca, Maria and Marta.
Il Follo Prosecco Treviso Spumante Brut
This DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) wine is fresh, fruity and really rather spicy with crisp apple notes. It’s charming and has personality. The grapes come from Treviso just 30 miles from Venice and is actually a declassified DOCG.
Il Follo Prosecco Superiore Villa Luigia Brut 2016
Here we move up to DOCG (e Garantita). The Luigia vineyard is 12 hectares and the yields are restricted to 70hl/ha. Now this is rather good. Elegant Prosecco with good intensity. The nose is rather floral. The body nicely rounded with a fluffy mousse. It is both fresh and perfumed. Again this is a Prosecco with character. It wants to be noticed.
Il Follo Cuvée rose Spumante Rosado Brut
This has 15% Cabernet Sauvignon for some structure, which means it cannot be called Prosecco. A pure and intense rose with a hint of strawberries on the aroma, a light creamy palate and a slight peppery tannic bite. I particularly like this one.
So sniff around and in the flood of Prosecco to our shores you will be rewarded by a decent bottle. In other words something light with green apple freshness – not a ‘serious’ wine, but seriously enjoyable with more a modicum of structure and which does not fall of a cliff on the finish.
My local wine merchant – Lea and Sandeman
Il Follo Prosecco Treviso Spumante Brut £12.95 (Price per bottle as a case £11.95)
Il Follo Prosecco Superiore Villa Luigia Brut 2016 14.95 (Price per bottle as a case £13.95)
Il Follo Cuvée Rosé Spumante Rosado Brut 12.95 (Price per bottle as a case £11.95)