The sparkling wine category is tipped to rise even further, according to Marco Mazzini, global director of Martini sparkling wines at Bacardi. Not only that, but sparkling wine is set to enter unexpected new markets.
“When you look at the forecast, the forecast predicts continuous growth,” said Mazzini. “Sparkling is definitely one of the categories which has a very bright future.”
Quality will be one driver of growth, with the emergence of new, premium products. Mazzini also believes the category will also become differentiated further, as different parts of the world embrace different tastes and products. “We see Prosecco here in Europe. In the US it’s also Prosecco but in Asia, for instance, there is more appetite for a sweet tasting product such as Asti.”
Martini, founded by Alessandro Martini and Luigi Rossi in Italy in 1863, forged its sparkling reputation initially with Vermouth, and later with Asti. “It’s the one that put us on the map, 160 years ago.” Today, the Martini portfolio – now part of Bacardi – has seven or eight versions. “Besides Asti, we have a Prosecco. We have two different rosés, We have an extra-dry and a demi-sec. We have a Riesling, and two classic methods.” Earlier this year, Martini launched three premium sparkling wines: the Martini Prosecco DOC, the Martini Brut (a blend of Chardonnay, Trebbiano and Garganega) and the Martini Rosé Extra Dry, a blend of white grapes plus Nebbiolo.
As for where the growth is going to come from, Mazzini is very upbeat about Asia, particularly China, even though the category currently struggles somewhat. “[Chinese people] are open to embracing sparkling wine at the table and they are quite open for a sweet taste,” he says. “We definitely see China as one of the biggest opportunities we have. The fact that we have a historic brand, an iconic Italian brand, along with a very good product,” offers unique opportunities.
Mazzini says the rest of southeast Asia is becoming “increasingly interesting. Take the Philippines, for instance. There we are growing with Asti. Japan is now a large market – we see Asti growing there quite quickly” He added that Japanese colleagues had told him that “the Japanese are ready to embrace Prosecco.” So are consumers in the Philippines.
Mazzini’s real bombshell, however, is that an up-and-coming area for sparkling wine is the Middle East. “It’s an area which is relatively unexplored by the big brands of bubbles or spirits, for obvious reasons. One thing we’re currently looking into is whether there is potential for non-alcoholic sparkling wine.” And he’s not talking about the ex-pat market, but locals. He says that Middle Easterners, just like everybody else, like to celebrate. There are, of course, formidable market barriers, not least of which is making a high-quality, palatable, non-alcoholic wine. Getting the right halal certification is another issue. “It’s not easy, but it’s not as difficult as you think,” says Mazzini.
Even without new markets, Prosecco sales continue to soar – raising the spectre of producers cutting corners to supply demand, hurting the overall image of the category. “There’s no denying that it’s the hottest category,” said Mazzini, “but as you said, in many markets the category itself is becoming a giant commodity.” He says that for Martini, the solution is to spend time and care on markets where Prosecco can be presented as a premium product. “It’s a longer journey, but a more rewarding journey. Also, lately we have developed what we call the Collezione Speciale, which is an even more refined version of Prosecco,” which he says has won critical acclaim. “We look at Prosecco exactly as we look at the rest of our portfolio – as a premium game.”