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Prosecco tops Champagne in bubbly sales

Milanee Kapadia

Move over Champagne, there’s a new sheriff in town. For the first time ever, Prosecco outsold the French bubbly last year, 307 million to 304 million bottles. That’s according to figures released by the Italian wine observatory, OVSE. Price point is a huge factor. A weaker economy has seen sales of Champagne fizzle. The last time it had a banner year was 2007 before the financial crisis. According to Nielsen data, Prosecco has climbed recently in the U.S., growing 27% to reach approximately 2.3 million cases in 2013. Less than two decades ago, Prosecco’s U.S. volume was around only 500 cases.

Plus, Prosecco offers a lot of flexibility as an aperitif, a meal accompaniment or as a mixer. In the associated video above, Chris Adams, Chief Executive Officer of Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits, a major Manhattan retailer says sales have been through the roof. “We went from selling 800 to 900 cases a year just a few years ago to over 2000 cases of Prosecco this year,” he exclaims.

He likes Zardetto from the Veneto region of Italy.

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Prosecco prices start at $12 to $16 a bottle and can run as high as $30. Price is one reason Prosecco is popular with Millennials. Another is taste: They prefer wines with less tannins and more sugar and some sparkle. Baby Boomers may be the biggest wine drinkers, but Millennials are the fastest-growing demographic. And curiosity drives their wine purchases. Adams says Millennials want to know where their wine comes from, the stories behind the bottle and will use social media to learn about it. “Younger people are exploring. This is part of what has given a rise to Prosecco and brands from across the world.  They are looking for something unique. They are looking for something that has a personality and character to it, that goes off the beaten path,” he explains.

Dom Perignon’s “P2” doesn’t exactly fit that category. The 1998 vintage sells for $380 a bottle at Sherry-Lehmann. But Adams says it is seeing robust sales as some of his high net-worth clients are picking up a bottle of the French bubbly for the festive season.

It’s not the only beverage the very rich are buying to grace their holiday tables in their manses. Also on the list is the Domaine Bouchard Pere et Fils Le Montrachet 2011 from Burgundy, France. That’s a mouthful to say and even more to drink. The wine retails for $700 a bottle. Adams says the grape comes from the greatest Chardonnay vineyard in the world.

And if a Montrachet isn’t rich enough for your blood, then how about a Petrus 2010 from the Bordeaux region? If you can even afford a swallow - it’s an eye-popping $5,000 a bottle. And every sip makes it even more expensive. Adams is a dealer in Bordeaux futures and says getting his hands on a bottle is extremely difficult as the vintage has limited supply and allocations are in high demand. But bragging rights don’t come cheap, and it is selling well.

So whether you are a billionaire buying up Bordeaux, a Millennial checking out wines from around the world or just want the tingle of a few bubbles of Prosecco like I did- Salud!

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