Once upon a time a glass of fizz was reserved for special occasions. Not any more. As sales rocket, Rebecca Armstrong reports on how us Brits got a taste for Prosecco.
While the statistics make for pretty dry reading – “exports of Italian Prosecco rose by 29 per cent in 2015, to a total of 362m bottles”, “Brits buy one in every five bottles of Prosecco produced”, “Prosecco sales worldwide have been growing by double-digit percentages every year since 1998” – they clearly show that when it comes to the Italian fizz, we can’t wait to wet our whistles.
Given that Marks and Spencer anticipates that it will sell 10m glasses of the stuff over Christmas, it’s clear that the Prosecco bubble is a long way from bursting. In fact, it’s growing. Thanks to supermarkets and shopping websites, there have never been more ways to enjoy Prosecco – and these days, you don’t even have to drink it. Take, for example, the raft of products that boast Prosecco as an ingredient or a flavouring. While Prosecco ice-lollies might not sound that outlandish (despite their rather baroque name: Pops Bellini Prosecco Ice Popsicles, available from Ocado), some manufacturers have taken the idea and run with it.
Marks and Spencer’s Winter Berries and Prosecco Hand-Cooked Potato Crisps are a case in point. Launched last year and back for 2016, they come sprinkled with “edible gold stars” and have “a touch of fizz”. Having tried them, I can safely say that there is a reason why fizziness isn’t something that one usually seeks in a crunchy snack. It’s a very strange sensation. But the tiny stars are undeniably beguiling. For those with a sweet tooth, M&S also offers Hand-made Prosecco Mallows as part of its Christmas range, as well as Prosecco cream on mince pies and Prosecco conserve. Meanwhile, Aldi has a Prosecco panettone (sounds nice) and, for those who want to wake up with the taste, but not the alcohol content, there are even Prosecco tea bags. But if you thought that Prosecco was a purely comestible substance, you’d be wrong.
“One of our best-selling Christmas products so far has been a Prosecco flavour lip balm,” says a spokesman for Waitrose. “It sold out really quickly so we’ve had to double our original order to meet demand.”
At Amnesty, there is a £19.50 Prosecco candle for sale “for the champagne socialist in your life” which consists of “a spicy scented candle presented in a repurposed wine-bottle holder”.
When did loving Prosecco become a lifestyle choice? At Notonthehighstreet.com, the shopping site that hosts small creative businesses, Prosecco products have become their bread and butter.
“We have a whole Prosecco gifting edit,” says Sally Bendelow, the creative product director. “That’s how important it has become.” n her site are thousands of Prosecco-themed items, with 200 different products in the Home category alone.
“There are mugs, prints, kitchenware,” she adds, “and now it’s getting on trend for the garden. One new product is the Grow Your Own Prosecco Gift Crate from the Gluttonous Gardener.” The amount of tote bags and jewellery dedicated to Prosecco is remarkable, too.
In fact, “Prosecco” is one of the most searched-for words on the site – along with gin, which has also become a byword for cheeky, middle-class drinking culture. So why is Prosecco so popular?
“It’s great value, you can drink it with food and it’s not just for a special occasion,” explains Bendelow. “Basically, it’s ideal for women: it won’t break the bank and it’s low-calorie… happy days!” She and her team have been instrumental in developing the market. “We spotted the trend and realised that it was bang-on for our partners and our customers.
“It’s not seasonal, like red wine, and it’s become an ingredient – you don’t just have to drink it.” No – but if you do, it might get rid of the taste of those crisps…