Prosecco DOCG just $6.99! Unfair pricing practices undermine small Prosecco growers (& my op-ed for @WineSearcher)

best price value prosecco costcoOn Monday, a colleague and friend in California sent me this image above and the one below.

He snapped it at one of the myriad “big box” stores that dot the landscape of my childhood Southern California.

To some, $6.99 for a bottle of Prosecco DOCG may seem like a great bargain for a high-quality wine.

But to Italian wine trade observers, the notion of an under-$7 Prosecco DOCG reeks of unfair pricing practices.

According to, the average retail price of a bottle of Prosecco DOCG from an established bottler in California is around $17. And I can tell you anecdotally that you should be able to find a great bottle of the DOCG there for somewhere between $13-16 — twice the big box price.

costco wine pricesWhen I asked a Prosecco grower and bottler how such a low price could be possible, he told me that the grower and bottler of the big box wine were probably making just cents on the dollar for the wine.

Why would growers and bottlers sell their fruit and their wine at such abominably low prices?

Prosecco DOCG has to be made using hillside-grown fruit from the townships of Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, and Asolo.

Prosecco DOC is made from fruit grown on the valley floors of Treviso province or the entire region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Vineyard management costs for hillside growing areas are higher than those for the valley floors. And that’s one of the reasons, although not the only one, that Prosecco DOCG costs more than DOC.

But because consumers seem to make no distinction between the higher-quality DOCG and the DOC, sales of Prosecco DOCG are being eclipsed by the cheaper and lower-quality DOC. As a result, many smaller and mid-tier DOCG growers are sometimes forced to sell off their fruit at bargain-basement pricing.

It’s a problem that plagues other DOCGs as well, including Franciacorta, Brunello di Montalcino, and even Barolo.

But in Proseccoland, where the Prosecco boom shows no sign of slowing, its impact is acutely felt by smaller growers who see their livelihoods being undercut by big business and big box Prosecco.

And the unsustainability of this tenuous situation (read Marxist notion of boom and bust), is exactly what I wrote about yesterday in my op-ed for WineSearcher.

Thanks for reading…

11 thoughts on “Prosecco DOCG just $6.99! Unfair pricing practices undermine small Prosecco growers (& my op-ed for @WineSearcher)

  1. This is the real problem Prosecco faces, much more damaging than Prosecco in a keg, and its a problem created entirely by their own authorities.
    In Australia we arent quite seeing those prices for DOCG but we are for DOC and the consumer does not care about the difference. In the last 18 months our DOCG sales have fallen by one third as the market floods with cheaper DOC wines. IMO, the authorities ranting about Prosecco in a keg is a ruse to avoiding the real problems here.

    • Matt, I really appreciate your insights here and I agree. The over-arching problem is that the Prosecco consortium hasn’t done much to inform consumers and shape their perceptions of Prosecco DOC vs. DOCG. Your comments here a while back set me down this path and I’ve heard many Prosecco growers and bottlers say that they fear the model is not sustainable. Thanks for being here.

  2. Hey Jeremy, That item is a close out. That asterisk in the corner is the ‘death star” in this particular club store.That is how they denote a discontinued item for their merchandisers. They’re just trying to get rid of it.

    • Edward, thanks for the note here. It was actually a Houston reader of the Houston Press blog who first brought this wine to my attention and he said it costs $6.99 in our market, too. I can’t name my source here but in Proseccoland, the sale of these grapes was very controversial.

    • $6.99 is not a close-out price. Costco prices close-out items using $0.97 instead of ending in $0.99. Still, I picked this up today at my local Costco for $6.99 and I am enjoying it. My first thought was it needed more bubbles, but I’m not going to complain. The taste is delicious.

  3. Wouldn’t using this particular Prosecco as a ‘loss leader’ introduce consumers to this wine and spawn exploration of other producers? I don’t think this marketing technique is that unfair, I see an educational opportunity here.

    • Vinogirl, I do think it’s great when retailers take a small margin in order to introduce customers to new types of wines. But unfortunately, I don’t think that’s what happened here. There was a lot of talk in Asolo about the sale of these grapes and essentially, the growers took a bath, as the expression goes. There are a lot of issues at play here and the bottomline is that hillside growers are having trouble selling their grapes at fair prices because valley-floor growers can sell theirs so much more cheaply. The good news for people who shop at this big box store is that this is a good Prosecco for a great price. But as far as the bigger picture is concerned, it’s not a sustainable model. Thanks for being here… Your voice is always appreciated here.

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  5. Aren’t you forgetting that the price at which a product is acquired for and how much it retails for after markup is added are two different things?
    The exorbitant markup you usually see in stores is why they are able to offer things at 60% and still make a profit. Costco isn’t about huge markups, it makes its money on volume. I don’t see how the growers loose out.

  6. It’s worth noting that Costco prices items including alcohol at a much lower margin than typical retailers so not all of the low price would be attributable to low price set by the grower/bottler.

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