New classification crucial for Cava since Catalonia declared independence

The introduction of a new top tier for Cava could take on even greater importance since Catalonia’s parliament declared independence from Spain.

There is a fear that the Spanish might boycott sales of Cava, according to Pedro Bonet, who is president of the DO

Launched internationally in London last month was Cava de Paraje Calificado, which, as db reported last week, is the strictest sparkling wine classification in the world, and so tough that only nine cellars have reached the standards required to use the new quality seal.

Although it was conceived before Catalonia’s parliament declared independence from Spain on October 27, Pedro Bonet, president of the DO Cava told db on Monday last week that the classification could become crucial to the Spanish sparkling wine’s long-term success following the political changes of the last few weeks in his country.

This is because, as Bonet explained, the majority of “premium Cava” – which encompasses the Reserva category and above, representing around 30m bottles – is sold in Spain, and there’s a concern that sales may be affected by a boycott of the fizz, which is seen as an emblematic product of Catalonia.

“There is a fear that the Spanish might boycott sales of Cava, and 33-34% of sales are in the domestic market, and in Spain, we sell a higher proportion of premium Cava compared to our export markets,” he said.

“So, the goal of the regulatory council is to open the world to the market of premium Cava, and for that, we need Cava de Paraje,” he added.

In other words, Cava – 95% of which is produced in Catalonia – must focus on raising sales and awareness of its more profitable top-end sparkling wines, and broaden the demand for these upmarket products, which are currently sold mainly within Spain.

Indeed, Bonet said that “Cava needs to go after the premium [end of the spectrum], because the low cost is dead.”

While last year’s sales in volume and value represented a new record for Cava, reaching 254m bottles worth €1.2 billion, Bonet said that it was widely felt the region would struggle to better last year’s performance since the political situation changed in Spain last month. “There is a concern due to the issue of Catalan independence,” he commented.

Continuing, he said, “The media are starting to write about a boycott [of Cava], but now we don’t see it, the deciding point will be in December [when the majority of top end Cavas are bought in the Spanish market].”

He also said, “There are some regions that might boycott Cava, but the politicians are telling the people now that if you do boycott Cava, you must remember that the cork is made in another place in Spain, and the bottles are mostly from Aragon and Andalucía, so it is only the grapes and brands that are Catalan.”

But there’s a further issue for Cava since independence was declared for Catalonia, if not actually achieved, and that’s the potential added cost from Catalonia becoming a separate country, and falling out of the European Union.

“If independence does become a reality then it will be a problem for companies in Catalonia because they will no longer be in the European Union, which means that they will have to pay a tax to sell in Germany, or France, or the UK, all of which are good markets for Cava, and this will be terrible for medium-price Cava,” he explained.

Already, the second biggest Cava producer, Codorníu, has moved its headquarters from Catalonia to Rioja – where the company owns Bodegas Bilbaínas – while Freixenet, the largest Cava maker, has said that it will move its HQ out of Catalonia should the autonomous region gain independence from Spain.

Outlining the complications of Catalonian independence, Bonet said, “Theoretically Cava is an appellation of the Spanish state so if Catalonia gets independence, then I don’t know what will happen, because 95% of Cava is produced in Catalonia.”

On the other hand, he said that if Cava producers move their official addresses to places in Spain outside Catalonia, then they can continue to operate as a Spanish company, and therefore benefit from the free-trade agreements in place among members of the European Union.

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