The Adami Prosecco is Italian bubbly that shows how enjoyable Prosecco can be
Those of us who want more from Prosecco than a sweet, fizzy wine often have difficulty finding something that costs less than $15. Which is where the Adami Prosecco comes in.
The Adami Prosecco Brut Garbel NV ($13, purchased, 11%) combines all that makes this style of Italian sparkling wine popular while not dumbing it down. That means a quality bubbly with a bit of sweetness that is part of what’s going on and not its reason for being. In fact, I have three tasting notes for the Adami over the past decade, and each says mostly the same thing. That’s amazing consistency for a wine at this price.
Look for a fresh and rounded wine, with more apple and less tropical fruit than many similarly-priced Proseccos. It has also more and sturdier bubbles than many others, for a more enjoyable fizziness. Highly recommended, whether for New Years or just because it’s sparkling time.
This week’s wine news: Top Italian producer says cheap Prosecco is undermining the market, plus chefs oppose wine tariff and Kroger becomes top e-commerce company
• Cheap Prosecco: A leading Italian producer says too many wineries are selling Prosecco at slashed prices, which is hurting the bubbly. “Prosecco is being sold at below the production cost at some retailers, which is such a big mistake,” Sandro Bottega told a virtual tasting in early December. “I don’t know how or why they do it, but it’s conveying a bad message for consumers about the product.” This is not the first time we’ve seen this complaint; it seems to happen every couple of years. In this, Bottega says producers need to produce less wine, but of higher quality at higher prices.
• Chefs vs. tariff: A new chefs group has called for the Biden Administration to end all tariffs on European food, wine, and spirits via executive action on its first day in office. The group, Coalition to Stop Restaurant Tariffs, says tariffs make the pandemic that much worse for restaurants, increasing costs that they can’t already afford. The group is a who’s who of the restaurant business, including Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and New York City’s Daniel Bouloud. This is a big deal, not just because of the names, but also because chefs usually don’t get involved in politics like this.
• Kroger e-commerce: Kroger has become the country’s ninth biggest e-tailer, the only grocer to make the list, reports Supermarket News. Why does this matter to wine drinkers? Because more than half of the wine sold in the U.S. is sold in supermarkets, and Kroger is one of the biggest. As such, it has a stake in continuing the growth of on-line wine sales that has taken place during the pandemic – and it will likely want to. I saw Kroger’s political muscle when it bankrolled a wet-dry election in Dallas after the recession; anyone who thinks it will go meekly back to the old days when the pandemic ends is mistaken.
The former is a lovely $15 wine, while the latter is a $40 Prosecco. How can Italy be going in two completely different directions?
Premiumization has done horrible things to the wine business, so horrible that they go beyond cutting sales and alienating younger consumers. Thanks to premiumization, wine is becoming something not to drink and enjoy, but for collecting and for showing off. Case in point: these two Italian wines.
The Boffa Carlo Arneis 2017 ($15, purchased, 13.5%) is a beautiful, almost elegant white wine, with subtle lemon and stone fruit, nuanced minerality, and a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a tremendous value for arneis, a lesser-known grape where prices can top out at $30.
The Mionetto is a $40 Prosecco (sample, 11%). It’s a well-made and enjoyable sparkling wine, but in the end, it’s a $40 Prosecco, not all that different or better than the legions of $12 Proseccos cluttering supermarket aisles.
So how did Italy, a country with thousands of years of winemaking chops, go from the more or less traditional approach that gave us the arneis to one based on premiumization and a $40 Prosecco? Because decisions are increasingly made based on marketing and category management, and not on wine.
My guess? Someone, somewhere decided Mionetto needed a product to compete with Champagne and high-end California sparkling wine. So we got a $40 Prosecco – not because the world was demanding a $40 Prosecco or because the grapes were of such high quality that they would produce a wine worth $40. We got it so an Italian wine would be able to sit on a store shelf next to Champagne and grab some of that market share. Because if a wine costs $40, it must be worth it, right?
The same thing has happened with rose, where the marketplace has been flooded with $25 pink wine that is almost no different from $10 and $12 rose in anything other than retail price. The reason? Because people who buy $25 red and white wines have been taught that cheap wine is crap, so why not sell them $10 rose that costs $25? A rose producer I know can launch into a rant on that subject even more quickly than I can, which should tell you how widespread the practice is.
Finally, remember that this post is not about price, but about value, and that expensive wines can offer, value, too. That’s the Wine Curmudgeon’s mantra. The wine business will have you believe that value is no different from price, because that’s how it makes its money. Because, $40 Prosecco. But we know better, don’t we?
The Val D’Oca Prosecco offers surprising quality and value for a New Year’s sparkling wine
Most Prosecco that costs less than $15 tastes mostly the same – a little sweet, not very sparkling, and kind of blah. There’s nothing really wrong with these version of the Italian sparkling wine, but it’s not something that you look forward to drinking. Enter the Val D’Oca Prosecco.
The Val D’Oca Prosecco ($12, purchased, 11%) has most of the things that the others don’t. Yes, it’s a little sweet, but the sweetness is balanced by a touch of citrus (lime?). Meanwhile, the bubbles are surprisingly tight and bubbly for a Prosecco, and the finish is actually clean and almost crisp. Again, that’s not common for a Proseocco at this price.
Finally, it’s also quite food friendly, whether to pair with something like grilled shrimp with with fried appetizers like frito misto. In this, it’s too well made to use for mimosas.
Rather, it’s exactly the kind of wine to toast the New Year with when you don’t want to spend $40. Highly recommended, and this comes from someone who doesn’t usually say that about Prosecco.
This week’s wine news: The Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants chain has a new investor. Plus, the Italians tell the Aussies to stop using the name Prosecco, and robot bartenders debut
• July 23 update: Ares management is making an investment in Cooper’s Hawk, reports Nation’s Restaurant News, but not necessarily buying it. The best part of the update: The Ares statement, which includes the phrase “disruptive restaurant concept and lifestyle brand.” How 21st century-speak can you get?
• Lots and lots of money: Tim McEnery’s more than unique idea has apparently paid off. His Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants chain has reportedly been sold, says Nations Restaurant News. The price is $700 million for the 35-location company, paid for by the Ares Management private equity firm. At a time when the restaurant and wine businesses are flat, Cooper’s Hawk recorded an almost 17 percent growth in sales between 2017 and 2018, and its annual per store sales have increased each of the past three years. Those are amazing numbers for a company that is part wine bar, part restaurant, and part wine club, a concept that almost no one but McEnery thought would work.
• A bubbly battle: Australian producers have been making a Prosecco-style sparkling wine for years, and they have called it Prosecco for as long as they have made it. This has infuriated the Italians and the European Union, which have signed trade deals with much of the rest of the world to stop that sort of thing from happening. That’s why we can’t call California sparkling wine Prosecco or Champagne, and why the Europeans can’t call a smoked pork product Virginia ham. In the most recent tussle, the EU wants the Aussies to stop using the word Prosecco as part of a $100 billion trade agreement currently being negotiated. The EU says “prosecco” is a geographical indication for a type of wine produced in northern Italy, rather than a grape variety; the Aussies are having none of it.
• It will never get bored: Prague’s Karlovy Lazne Music Club has installed a robotic bartender to mix cocktails. Customers use touchscreen terminals to order from among 16 mixed drinks. The bartender — two robotic pincher arms, modeled after those used in car factories — stands on a small stage in a corner of the room, below a mass of liquor bottles, and can make 80 drinks an hour. The Reuters report doesn’t mention if the pincher arms can sympathize as customers complain about their spouses, job, or kids.
• Sacha Lichine Single Blend Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, %): Quality $10 pink from the Languedoc, so it’s not quite as subtle as something from Provence. But the wine uses first-class grenache, so it’s not too jellyish. Hence a crisp, fresh, and enjoyable wine. Look for strawberry fruit and a stony kind of finish. Imported by Shaw-Ross International
• Château La Gravière Blanc 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This white French Bordeaux is almost certainly the best cheap wine I tasted in 2018. It did everything cheap wine should do — offer value, be varietally correct, and taste delicious. Some lemon fruit with an almost grassiness, and old-fashioned white Bordeaux minerality. The difference may be more semillion in the blend than sauvignon blanc, so the wine isn’t a New Zealand knockoff. Highly recommended. Imported by Luneau USA
• Rotari Trento Brut 2013 ($18, sample, 12.5%): Impeccably made Prosecco. the Italian sparkling wine. Look for berry fruit, plus more body and depth than in cheaper Proseccos, as well as deliciously tight bubbles. If there’s a catch, it’s the price. Imported by Prestige Wine Imports
This week’s wine news: Texas liquor retailer sues the Texas ABC, plus a restaurant tries to solve the industry’s wine problem and Italian authorities seize fake Prosecco
• Texas ABC lawsuit: The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which has been plagued by scandal, mismanagement, and more scandal over the past several years, is in even bigger trouble. Spec’s, the largest independent retailer in the state, has sued the agency for malicious enforcement. The federal lawsuit is the result of the TABC’s attempt to fine Spec’s $700 million after a lenghty investigation a couple of years ago.. The catch? Two judges dismissed the agency’s suit against Spec’s, saying the charges were completely unsubstantiated. Why does this matter to wine drinkers in the rest of the country? Because it might mean the end of the TABC when the state legislature meets early next year. It almost dissolved the agency two years ago, and pressure is mounting to kill it in the upcoming session. If that happens, it will send a message to liquor cops across the country about how they enforce three-tier.
• One last chance: An English restaurant chain, emerging from bankruptcy, says its new plan revolves around selling better quality wine. Says the new wine buyer for the Argentine-themed Guacho: “It’s always the big wineries [who are represented] – those who can afford PR, travel and marketing. But there are so many super-interesting smaller wineries in Argentina. It’s my duty to champion those guys. If no one gives them a chance they’re never gonna get an importer.” It’s a fair plan, the idea of moving away from Big Wine, and stands an even better chance of working if the chain keeps fair pricing in mind.