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Tag Archives: prosecco

Winebits 362: Wine sales, Cava, imported wine

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u.s. wine salesMore wine: We’re continuing to drink more wine than ever in the U.S., up about 1 million cases in 2014 over the previous year, reports Shanken News Daily. The percentage increase isn’t much, just 0.3 percent. But that there is growth, despite the after-effects of the recession, shows that wine may have finally established itself in this country as something more than a niche product. As the Shanken story notes, “consumption has increased nearly 80 percent over the past two decades,” and per capita consumption has finally risen past its 1970s levels. 

Bring on the sparkling: Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, has long been a Wine Curmudgeon favorite, but it faces intense competition from Prosecco, the similarly-priced bubbly from Italy. The latter is typically sweeter and fruitier, and the Italians have parlayed that into double-digit growth over the past several years. Freixenet, the biggest Spanish producer and the top imported sparkling in the U.S., saw sales fall four percent last year. Why does that matter? Because exports account for around two-thirds of global Cava sales. Hence concerns that competing with Prosecco on price alone could lead to what happened with Australian shiraz and Argentine malbec — lots of cheap wine of varying quality. I’m not sure that Freixenet’s plan to add more expensive wines to differentiate itself from Prosecco is any better, given that Cava quality is so good at $10 and $15 there is little reason to trade up.

Bring on the imports: How global has the the U.S. wine consumer become? Imports account for about one-third of the wine we drink, and that figure is expected to increase over the next two decades to as much as 45 percent. In the first half of 2014, though, we drank less imported wine than in the previous year (but the dollar value of the wine we drank increased by five percent). The biggest winner in those six months was New Zealand; the biggest loser was Australia. Sales from Italy and France, the top two exporters to the U.S. were mostly flat, though the dollar amount of what they did sell increased eight and six percent.

Wine of the week: Astoria Prosecco NV

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Astoria ProseccoThe Wine Curmudgeon, slowly but surely, is understanding Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine. First, because I’m making an effort to appreciate it, and not to dismiss Prosecco because it doesn’t taste the way I want it to taste. Second, because Prosecco winemaking has improved, so the wines are not just sweet and fizzy; also, that it’s possible to find these better quality wines on store shelves because the wine has improved so much.

Case in point is the Astoria ($13, sample, 11%), one of the best Proseccos I’ve had in a long while. It wasn’t just sweet, which made it wine and not the product of a focus group. In fact, it was interesting, with all sorts of things going on, and that’s not something I usually get to write when I write about Prosecco.

Look for lemon and apple fruit, enough sweetness to make you wonder if it is sweet, and soft but long-lasting bubbles. Another problem with too many Proseccos is that the bubbles are sometimes like a flat soft drink. There is even a sort of minerally finish, which is again unexpected. Highly recommended, and the kind of wine to keep on hand as the holidays approach. This would pair well with Thanksgiving — light enough for a long meal, but well made enough so that it complements and doesn’t overwhelm the food.

Mini-reviews 64: Muscadet, Stoller, Prosecco, Villa Maria

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Labor Day wine reviewsReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, four more wines for Labor Day.

Noël Bougrier Muscadet 2012 ($8, purchased, 13%): This French white wine, a private label for the Total Wine chain, was tart and sour, with little varietal character. Muscadet, made with the melon de bourgogne grape, should be light and refreshing. This reminded me of bad cheap French wine in the old days.

• Stoller Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2012 ($25, sample, 13.8%): Delicious Oregon pinot noir, with berry flavors, zingy tannins, and as balanced as it should be. A fine value, even at this price. Highly recommended, and another example of the fallacy of scores. It scored 86 on CellarTracker, the blog’s unofficial wine inventory app, while the barely drinkable Bourgier scored 88.

Deccolio Prosecco NV ($13, sample, 11%): This extra dry Prosecco is not too sweet, which is saying something. Extra dry is sweeter than brut, the most dry, and can be almost syrupy. It’s well put together with lemon fruit, a little minerality, and better bubbles than I expected. But extra dry cava will give you the same thing for a couple of dollars less, as will something like La Marca Prosecco.

Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin 2012 ($15, sample, 13%): A wine I desperately wanted to like, but that shows again Villa Maria’s fall from grace. This New Zealand red is nothing but sweet cherry fruit, without any pinot character.

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