by Fiona Beckett, The Guardian, April 21, 2016
For nearly as long as I’ve been writing this column, the story about sparkling wine has been the rise and rise of prosecco, a wine now so popular that one leading dentist coined the phrase “prosecco teeth” to describe enamel worn away by frequent consumption. But even supermarkets are beginning to wonder if they can satisfy demand: one industry insider recently told me that, given the competitiveness of the market, they couldn’t reduce prices, so quality is bound to suffer. Will that be enough to put people off?
In a desperate attempt to find an alternative, the supermarkets are pushing another drink that begins with p and ends with o – pignoletto – at roughly the same price. Unlike prosecco, however, this is the name of a grape variety and produced in Umbria rather than the Veneto. It produces a pleasant enough, if slightly characterless, sparkling wine of roughly the same ABV, but a little drier than prosecco. I revisited a couple – Tesco Finest Pignoletto (11.5% abv) and Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Pignoletto – and the Sainsbury’s version at 11% abv marginally has the edge, though probably not quite enough to justify the extra £2 per bottle it normally costs; at the moment, it’s on offer at £7.50. The Tesco one is £7, but I’d be inclined to buy either only on a special deal.
But in the UK, at least, maybe it’s going to be all about English and Welsh sparkling wine. I’ve always thought that the price would daunt most prospective buyers, but it appears not, from the increasing number of producers being taken on by the supermarkets. Not only that, but consumers I speak to seem to like the idea of a home-grown alternative to champagne.
While quality is not uniform, the best are really good. Four I’d recommend from the recently expanded Marks & Spencer range are the pretty Camel Valley Classic Cuvée (£28 in 94 branches and online; 12.5% abv), which is made in Cornwall with grapes sourced from around the UK; the fresh, elegant Hambledon’s Classic Cuvée (£29, or £28 from Winetrust; 12% abv), from Hampshire; the delicious Digby Fine English Leander Pink (£30, but currently on offer for £26.99 at the Oxford Wine Company; 12% abv), also from Hampshire; and the rich, toasty Bluebell Vineyard Estates Hindleap Blanc de Blancs 2011 (£24; 12% abv), from Sussex. I balk a bit at the idea of buying a champagne-style wine called Bluebell, but it’s the best value of the four at M&S; the same wine is £23.99 in local branches of Waitrose and direct from the winery. One to mark St George’s Day, maybe.
This article was written by Fiona Beckett from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.