db meets: Javier Pages of Codorníu

Javier Pages is CEO of Codorníu Raventos. Founded in Catalonia in 1551, Codorníu is the oldest and second largest Cava producer in the world. In addition to Codorníu, the company also owns Viña Pomal and Bodegas Bilbainas in Rioja, Scala Dei in Priorat, Septima in Mendoza and Artesa in California among other brands.

Eyes on the prize: Javier Pages of Codorníu

How is business at the moment?

The year is developing the way we hoped it would and we’re doing quite well in terms of sales.

Our business year started in July, so we’re only a few months in, but business is developing as planned in North and South America, Asia and Europe, with particularly strong sales in Belgium and Switzerland.

We’ve had a slower start to December than usual in Spain, which is suffering economically from the political situation. But hopefully the downward trend in Spain will only be temporary.

Which of your brands have performed particularly well this year?

Our on-trade focused Anna de Codorníu Cava is enjoying steady growth in the US, which is very important to us, while our Argentine wine brand Septima is doing well in Argentina as sales have really picked up. It used to be more popular outside of Argentina but the balance has been redressed.

Which export markets have good growth potential for you?

We still have a lot of room for growth in Asia, in places like Japan, China and Hong Kong. Asia will be a key focus for us in 2018, as our strategy is to focus more on premium and prestige wines, and Asia is a good market for these wines.

We’re devoting a lot of time and resources into making this happen and are already seeing positive results in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

Our focus in Asia will be on the red wines in our portfolio from Rioja, Riberal del Duero and Priorat, as that is where the interest lies as the thirst for Cava hasn’t caught fire there yet. The US will also be a key focus for our premium and prestige wines next year.

What are your latest releases?

We’re very proud of our Ars Collecta top-end Cavas, a series that will continue to grow next year. The wines have been very well received and have had great scores.

We’ve also just launched a €50 Trepat from our Abadia de Poblet estate in Conca de Barbera that was made in a monastery from old vines. We think we’ve created something unique here with this red, which is well rounded with soft tannins and has a spicy character.

Javier Pages and Mar Raventos, president of Codorníu, with the new Ars Collecta 456 Gran Reserva 2007 Cava

Why did you decide to move your historic headquarters to Barcelona?

We haven’t fully moved – our HQ and offices are still in Penedès, we’ve just moved the address of our registered holding company. Our shareholder and board meetings will take place in Rioja now.

We felt that it was the right moment, legally speaking, to move as we were in limbo and we have interests outside of Catalonia in Rioja, Argentina and the US, so we wanted to protect those companies.

One would never like to change things when there isn’t a need for it, but we have to make sure our companies are protected. Once you make the move you have to adapt to it.

How is life in Catalonia at the moment?

Business has dropped a bit and the economy has suffered from the uncertainty, but life continues to be the same. We have elections coming up that will be important for the region on 21 December.

What does Cava’s new single vineyard classification mean to Codorníu?

The Paraje Calificada classification fits with our prestige push. We want to push products that differentiate themselves and have a clear story behind them. It’s something we started a long time ago as part of our strategy.

Three of the 12 Cavas in the new classification are ours, so it’s great recognition for us and a really positive step in the right direction for the region.

Cava has an intrinsic quality that hasn’t been fully recognised by people in general, and it takes time to changes people’s minds. The quality of Cava is higher than the perception sometimes.

How do you plan on telling consumers about the new classification?

It will be a challenge to communicate this to consumers. As we’re dealing with expensive products, consumers usually go for the brand names they know with the good reputations.

Building a higher-end name takes time, but we acknowledge that, and started creating our single vineyard Cavas back in 2007. The market seems to be moving in the right direction.

How big an impact do you think the new single vineyard classification in Rioja will have on the region?

The Viñedos Singulares classification in Rioja is another step towards quality, and we’re in favour of this. We own 260 hectares of land at Rioja Alta in Haro, and are the largest single owner of vineyards in the Rioja Alta sub-region.

It’s great that there will be more recognition for single vineyard wines in Rioja. Any steps to support quality aspects are welcome.

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