Above: The Prosecco DOCG growing zone is renowned for its distinctive Morainic hills, with their steep slopes and stony and sandy subsoils. The DOC lies in the plane in the distance. See the DOCG/DOC map below.
“Unfortunately, the uniqueness of the Prosecco DOCG has gone unrecognized and there are just a few brands that consumers identify with it and that they ask for by name. When Prosecco is perceived as a generic wine — ‘unbranded’ as they say in English — it focuses the competition solely on price. As a result, the value of the product is put at risk. We must work to build awareness of the Prosecco DOCG.”
In April 2014, Cantine Ferrari — Trentino’s premier producer of sparkling wine — acquired a 50 percent stake in the historic Prosecco house Bisol. The statement above was published last week as part of an interview on the Mille Bolle Blog (translation mine).
When Bele Casel grape grower and winemaker Luca Ferraro posted the above excerpt on his Facebook yesterday, a lively discussion ensued.
Luca and his family represent but a sliver of the wine produced in the Prosecco DOCG. But when it comes to the appellation’s current branding crisis, he faces the same issues as Matteo Lunelli, a major player in the Italian wine industry and a 50-percent stakeholder in one of the Prosecco DOCG’s largest wineries, Bisol.
When the Prosecco consortium created the Prosecco DOCG in 2009 and enlarged the Prosecco DOC to cover a wide expanse of flatlands in the Veneto and Friuli (see map below), some believed that the move would help to protect DOCG growers and bottlers because it would help consumers differentiate between the two tiers of production.
According to the logic of the moment, the small and exclusive DOCG — Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, and Asolo — would ultimately denote superior quality in the minds of consumers while the DOC would be identified with a lesser appellation.
Five years later, the ugly truth is that foreign consumers do not understand the quality difference and DOCG producers are struggling with sales while Prosecco DOC — sourced at lower cost — continues to surge.
Above: Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, and Asolo are the three historic townships of Prosecco. Today, it’s increasingly challenging for Prosecco DOCG growers to compete with the DOC growers and bottlers in the planes of the Veneto and Friuli, where growing costs are significantly lower.
As an observer of the Italian wine trade and a consumer, I see evidence of this in nearly every segment of the industry.
When visiting wine shops, consumers are baffled by the disparity in prices.
This morning, a U.S.-based search for Prosecco on WineSearcher.com delivered 465 results, with prices ranging from $8 to nearly $50.
Because of the way that the Prosecco brand was originally positioned in the U.S. market — as a lower-tier sparkling wine — wine shoppers are unlikely to have any experience with the higher priced bottles.
And the same thing occurs with restaurant buyers. Why, they ask, should they pay more for a Prosecco DOCG when the vast majority of guests will not recognize the higher quality DOCG or its brands?
The genie is already out of the bottle and there’s no turning back.
The only way to combat this misrepresentation and misperception of Prosecco and to protect Prosecco’s top producers is to raise awareness of the Prosecco DOCG (one of the few instances within the DOC/DOCG system where the DOCG does actually denote a higher quality wine).