The Italian Almanac


Italian Bubbles Abroad

Italian sparkling wine, generally known as spumante or prosecco, is becoming increasingly popular abroad where it is now recognized as the alternative to French champagne. According to the Coldiretti farmers' union, some 80 million bottles of spumante were popped at the end of the year in Italy and 50 million bottles abroad, a 22% jump in value over last year.

Almost half of the 300 million bottles of spumante produced in Italy every year are drunk between the middle of December and the middle of January. In Italy, the union observed, only 2% of the bubbly consumed during the end of the year holidays is French champagne and this because of the major quality/price advantage of prosecco.

This advantage is also boosting sales abroad, with increases of 16% in Germany, 8% in the United States and 72% in Britain, which is now prosecco's third largest market. In Russia, spumante sales are up this year by 124%, in Spain by 33% and in France prosecco imports rose 2%. Spumante is now outselling champagne in the United States and Switzerland and last year exports of prosecco broke the threshold of 100 million bottles.

Most Italian spumante is made using the Charmat Method or 'closed tank' method, compared to the traditional Champenoise Method. The Charmat Method, invented in the early 1900's by Eugene Charmat, involves putting bubbles in wine by adding sugar to a sealed tank, letting a second fermentation take place and then transferring it to a bottle under pressure. In the Champenoise Method, invented by the French monk Dom Perignon in 1640, the wine is fermented in the same bottle in which it will eventually be served.