Brits may be known for their love of Pimms, tea and a good pint, but it’s prosecco that seems to have the UK wrapped around its proverbial finger. As Bette Midler professed in Hocus Pocus: “I put a spell on you, and now you’re mine.” Why else would warnings of shortages cause panic?
Because it’s fizzy, fun and still tastes great when mixed. Our adoration of the sparkling substance is fact – we’ve been crowned its biggest fan, seemingly beating other nations away with a stick. Brits consumed a third of all prosecco produced in 2016, causing record sales.
Of course, there’s more to it than our mere appreciation. According to International Wine and Spirit Research’s Ania Zymelka, who spoke to Olivia Blair in an article for The Independent, Britain is the biggest importer of sparkling wine. And prosecco was always going to be a good fit, she said, as it filled a gap missing in that specific drinking category.
Champagne was too heavy to be considered a treat, while cava “had a dusty image and was deemed the ‘cheap alternative to champagne’”. Prosecco is thus what Goldilocks would term “just right”. So who could blame us for holding our very first two-day prosecco festival? In fact, with it being hailed the ultimate party drink, why hasn’t the concept popped up sooner?
It’s the very nature of prosecco sprucing up the party experience that inspired Siobhan Holmes to create the aptly named Vino Van. As the name suggests, her business is quite mobile and it’s her mission to offer prosecco galore at events. But how do you get such a venture off the ground?
“First of all, it’s not difficult to be passionate about prosecco,” she told Real Business. When you’re attending a festival not dedicated to prosecco though, the drink is notoriously difficult to come by.
“People are looking further and further beyond conventional venues for their celebrations and events now,” Holmes explained. “I had seen a lot of mobile drink stalls at events to cater to that trend, but never a bar serving just prosecco. So I wanted to be able to offer a service that could bring the bubbles to the party – and if the party’s in the middle of a field then that’s no problem.”
The Vino Van is self-sustaining, with all the trimmings needed to make it work in even the most remote locations. Previously, her stall was a horse box, which she brought as soon as the idea for the company came to mind.
It took six weeks to solidify those thoughts into a brand – taking just as long for the horse box to turn into its current prosecco-carrying splendour. Trades people were hired to re-do the floor, electrics and lights were installed and of course, the bar itself was created. Holmes took it unto herself to paint the Vino Van and add the logo.
“It was a quick decision and turnaround, but it was something I knew would work and a business venture I am incredibly passionate about,” she explained. “Spending a great deal of time choosing the right prosecco was thus a must. And after extensive taste testing – that was a tough day – I found one we liked the most and thought customers would like in turn.”
The wine is served from a cask. That’s what keeps it fizzy and at optimum temperature – you learn new things every day. “It also travels well,” Holmes added, “which is essential for a mobile bar.”
At the same time, “promotion via social media was essential, and when the van was complete, the business went from strength to strength.”
The Vino Van’s first outing was the Cheese and Wine Festival in Victory Park, East Village – an endeavour “far less nerve-racking than it first seemed”.
“It was extremely hard work and the day just flew by in a whirl of chatty bubble drinkers,” she detailed in her blog. “I’d go as far as to say it was a whole lot of fun. But, how can it not be fun – supplying fizz to happy festival goers? I think I’m going to love this job.”
Bringing that little bit of glee to the party was what Holmes was after to begin with – it’s the core of her company. “I wanted to be part of something that’s ultimately joyful; to make events really special, and there’s nothing more special than your own private bar with bubbles on tap! Being instrumental in people’s celebrations is a really enjoyable and rewarding way to make a living.”
Her hopes are high for the prosecco landscape, and plans to tour the UK are being put into action. We could soon see Vino Vans (plural) take over the country within the next year. But with business success and growth comes the need to innovate – something Holmes seems more than prepared for.
“I intend for my prosecco cocktails to accompany different events perfectly. The refreshing prosecco Hugo Cocktail would work perfectly at a summer sporting event such as a day at the races or watching tennis. It’s also great to make at home at a BBQ, or for a cocktail day with the girls.
“A prosecco Fizz cocktail is a classy cocktail that’s popular as a welcome drink at weddings or corporate events. But my cocktail ventures don’t stop there. I am always on the lookout for new and exciting ideas that I can incorporate into my Vino Van. I have recently discovered pink glitter you can add to prosecco for a sparkling drink. This is something that will be perfect for festival season.”
Given our penchant for drinking prosecco, our love of it going so far as to dent stock nation-wide, the Vino Van obviously has many years of success to look forward to. Cheers!
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