Prosecco is a drink, not a personality trait

I’m not one for conspiracy theories but, towards the end of last year, I felt there were dark and sinister forces at work.

It happened in a supermarket. I was jolted out of my usual autopilot, slammed my basket on the floor and exhaled a stream of expletives at a higher volume than intended. ‘Seriously?’ I kept repeating. 

I was never going to get a response because the cause of my rage was a simple fishcake. Except it wasn’t simple. It had undergone the fishcake equivalent of a vajazzling and had a Prosecco ‘melting middle’. The nearest Prosecco should be to a fishcake is in a glass before eating one, not oozing out of it like pus.

It didn’t end there. Lying in wait in another aisle was a stack of signs in distressed wood telling me that ‘Home Is Where The Prosecco Is.’ By this time, I was the one who was distressed. 

My way to the checkout was paved with Prosecco-scented candles. Would I go to someone’s house and be able to identify a top note of Prosecco in the air? I seriously doubt it. Do I want my house to smell like a wine bar? Definitely not.

I am beyond bored and perturbed by the idolisation of this drink and its relentless marketing as the cure to all of life’s ills.

An alien landing on earth might reach the conclusion that Prosecco, rather than oil, is the valuable commodity here and that we are a nation fuelled by it. In March 2019, trade publication The Drinks Business set out the 10 biggest drinks trends of the century to date: Prosecco had expanded tenfold in a decade. 

Until 2018, over a quarter of exported Prosecco was consumed in the UK. According to Drinks International, Prosecco DOCG (the premium end of the market) reached record sales in 2019. While sales have dipped slightly, especially during the pandemic, it appears that the bizarre, talismanic power of Prosecco has not.

A casual browse on the high street leaves me with the impression that women – and it is women who are clearly the target audience – don’t need careers, friends or interests, they just need Prosecco, preferably by way of a mobile drip. How could they possibly function otherwise? 

Looking for a birthday card, I find myself wading through forests of glittered guff trilling at me that I should ‘Keep Calm and Drink Prosecco’ and with the festive season upon us, the Prosecco juggernaut is in overdrive. 

You don’t even have to worry about having any agency in your own life. Oops! Prosecco made you do it, according to the vast array of plaques and wall art available

Leafing through a gift catalogue, I saw it was saturated with the stuff. Mugs, coasters and prints emblazoned with ‘She Believed She Could Especially After Prosecco’ (in pink, of course) had me heading straight for the shredder. 

Based on the marketing, you would think that women are a pink-obsessed, vapid bunch, prone to hysteria. But Prosecco is, apparently, the answer to all problems.

Worried about gaining weight? Don’t be – the availability of ‘skinny’ Prosecco means that you can dive into those bottomless brunches guilt-free. 

Low in self-confidence? Here’s a fridge magnet to remind you that Prosecco is ‘how classy people get s***faced’ and making Prosecco disappear could be your ‘superpower’.

You don’t even have to worry about having any agency in your own life. Oops! Prosecco made you do it, according to the vast array of plaques and wall art available.

You can ‘live, laugh, love’ all under this drink’s benevolent umbrella. 

However, this consistent advertising push for women to get mullered on it sits uncomfortably when set against the general rise of problematic drinking during lockdown. Alcohol Change UK commissioned research from Opinium into drinking habits during lockdown and found that one in five of the drinkers they surveyed, which scales up to reflect around 8.6 million adults, said they had been drinking more frequently.

Where Prosecco leads, others are likely to follow. The Drinks Business states that Prosecco sales are being dented by increased competition from gin. While there is plenty of ‘Gin o-clock’ merchandise around, at Christmas more than ever, Prosecco’s crown is firmly affixed.

This also means more additions to the ‘Frankenfood’ department (see the oozing fishcakes). If Prosecco is not enough in liquid form, there are plenty of solid options to ensure your palette is not deprived: instant pasta in a Prosecco and mushroom sauce; Prosecco-flavoured cheese; Prosecco gums for when you need a sweet hit; gourmet Prosecco flavoured popcorn. Festive edition Prosecco and Pink Peppercorn Pringles? Try explaining that one in a school lunch box debate on Mumsnet.

What next? Tequila turkey with Sambuca stuffing? Currently, it looks like we are incapable of ingesting food unless it is soused in alcohol. 

In 2018, the advertising watchdog banned an advert by B&M Stores for a Prosecco glass that could fit an entire bottle inside it that carried the accompanying text: ‘The perfect gift for Prosecco lovers!’ It’s not enough to simply enjoy a glass of the stuff from time to time, we now must define ourselves through our love of it, as though Prosecco drinking were a personality trait or particularly consuming hobby.

In October, The Drinks Report featured PINK Prosecco, one of the first brands to launch a Prosecco rosé. I’m steeling myself for the onslaught. 

This gradual ‘proseccotisation’ is insulting at best and at worst, damaging. Its link with dieting is particularly insidious (there are less calories in a Prosecco than a banana! It’s dairy free!).

I’m no teetotaller. I enjoy a drink, but please can we stop now with the same tired trope of lazy marketing. It may be hard to believe from the merchandise, but there is more to life than Prosecco.

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