They have been fierce competitors for years, but now it seems that Champagne has regained its crown over Prosecco as Britain’s favourite fizz.
An aggressive pricing campaign by French producers has edged Champagne ahead of its Italian rival in the battle of the bubblies for the first time in five years, just as the UK heads into the festive season.
After a stratospheric rise, sales of Prosecco overtook those of Champagne in Britain in 2015, with the Italian fizz firmly ensconcing itself as the nation’s summer drink of choice.
But sales of Prosecco in the UK are forecast to have fallen 6 per cent this year, while sales of Champagne are predicted to have grown by 34 per cent.
The figures were revealed at an event in the northern city of Verona, organised by wine industry organisations Osservatorio Vinitaly and Nomisma Wine Monitor.
“France has lowered the price of Champagne in the UK by more than 25 per cent, something which is pretty unusual for French sparkling wine,” Giovanni Mantovani, an event organiser, told Corriere della Sera newspaper.
“Evidently they have decided that it is worth sacrificing their price margins in order to reconquer an important market which had been won by Italian sparkling wines.”
Leta Bester, the president of the London Wine Academy, said after years of booming Prosecco sales, consumers were getting a little jaded with the drink.
“What we are seeing is the same thing that happened with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – people get on top of a wine style and then they get a bit bored with it and want to try something new,” she told The Telegraph.
“Another factor is that cheaper Champagne is now much better than it was 10 years ago – producers have cleaned up their act because of the competition from other countries. Cava from Spain is also good value and no longer has that damp dog flavour that came from old wine barrels.”
The thirst for Prosecco is also being eroded by interest in other variety of fizzes, including English sparkling wines and offerings from the New World.
Prosecco is hardly on its knees. Since more vineyards were planted in the northern Veneto region, production has risen dramatically and sales to the UK rose by 163 per cent in the last five years.
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Last year, 560 million bottles of Prosecco were exported from Italy, with Britain the number one market.
The worldwide sale of French sparkling wines, including Champagne, was up by 9 per cent in value in the first half of this year, according to French figures.
Sales to Britain in particular were up, thanks in part to distributors buying up French wine to stockpile ahead of any Brexit-related disruption.
“Both Prosecco and Champagne will always have a place at the table,” said Ms Bester. “It depends on what you’re eating, what time of day it is – and how much money you have in your pocket.”