Oddly it is political comment that often causes me to reach for the dictionary rather more than English literature. I remember it was under John Major’s conservative government years ago that the word reciprocity first surfaced to baffle me. After a glass or so it was as difficult to pronounce as it was to spell, but the shorter Oxford came to John’s rescue during his negotiations with the European Community and defined the word as a state of mutual action – the epitome of the then E.C. furore.

More recently I have taken to research the many aspects of introduced poisonous substances in order to get the hang of ‘toxic’ loans. But the recent phrase on many lips has become ‘quantitive easing’.

Not as my jocular chum in the pub thought, that it was an ointment from Ann Summers sex shop, or as some wit in the wine press felt could well apply to the release of a Champagne cork, but the state we shall all benefit from when the Royal Mint simply prints more £5 notes for us to spend. So as the future economy appears to be off to hell in a hand cart, a trickle of worried parents have visited our cellars in order to provide liquid refreshment for their offspring’s forthcoming Easter and Summer weddings. How could I as a wine merchant quantitively ease their financial burden when it came to toast the bride and groom?

It is clear that in these uncertain and less than celebratory times Champagne, with its recent price hikes, is looking a bit on the costly side solely in order to impress the several hundred assembled guests prior to the nuptual canapés and the late night disco in the marquee. Over the years when cost is paramount I have suggested some French or Australian fizz made by the Méthode Traditionelle or even a Cava from North East Spain. All of them being sound wines and at least half the price of even the cheapest Champagnes. But the real point about wines such as Cava is that they have tried over the years to impersonate Champagne. If one was to abandon such comparisons and looked for an alternative then Prosecco is clearly poised to fit the bill.

From the Veneto region in North East Italy comes the late ripening white grape variety we know as Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene. Made in two principal styles. Frizzante, being slightly fizzy and often with a cork held merely by a knot of string, and Spumante with a heavier bottle and a Champagne cork to withhold a more pressurised wine. Styles vary from dryish to semi sweet. However, the best of them would comprehensively outpace the lakes of Asti we were fed in the 70’s and 80’s. The wine’s popularity is already noticeable and our sales have increased steadily over the last 2/3 years. Prosecco is now beginning to cloak itself in very stylish personae indeed. We long ago succumbed to Italy’s style, whether it was trips to Tuscany to visit Tony or Germaine, our acceptance, lock, stock and barrel of that tri-umverate of Italian cuisine, Pasts, Olive Oil and Basil or more recently as a dramatic reaction to injudicious oak ageing of Chardonnay, resulting in the wholesale acceptance of Pinot Grigio.

As with Pinot Grigio, Prosecco arrived on our shores with little fuss, little comprehension but most importantly little or no brand advertising.

As you are all aware, many wines destined to become perennial products on supermarket shelves, are the result of multi million pound campaigns initiated before the bottles have even arrived and followed on by even greater budgets to keep them in the forefront of consumer choice.

Pinot Grigio slipped in almost unnoticed and I feel the same unconscious stealth has occurred with Prosecco. It is a wine that has a number of attributes playing in its favour. The region from whence it comes tends to be peppered by small producers so the might of the supermarkets’ insatiable demand for bankrupting price-points is naturally defrayed as few producers have anywhere near the capacity to meet volumes required for such wholesale demand.

Variety also plays a part with a vast choice of domestic styles on offer to the eagle-eyed wine-drinker. It is also very easy to like with its sweet apple-fruited flavours and simple refreshing acidity, it can be drunk on its own, with pastries, dessert, pâté or salads, its versatility becomes its strength for a change. Not least of all is that you get good value for your money with choices ranging from £6.00 to £16.00 per bottle being commonplace.

It appears to me that the consumer, for once, has made the choice for the nation not the importers or the retailers, by using the oldest commercial trick in the book and providing customers with an attractive wine at an attractive price at a financially unattractive time.

So this Spring I expect to hear a cacophony of Prosecco corks gently-eased – now for that I don’t need the dictionary.