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Cava's upcoming new classification meeting mixed reaction from trade

Published:  27 July, 2016

The Cava de Paraje Calificado classification due in late autumn, which aims to up the focus on quality wines, alreday has the trade talking. 

According to the chairman of the Consejo Regulador, Pedro Bonet, the new Cava de Paraje Calificado (Single Estate Cava) classification will start to appear on Cava labels in late autumn 2016, following its inauguration ceremony in June this year.

It specifies that Cava made under this new designation must be produced from estate vineyards and subject to minimum 36-month ageing period on the lees.

"The new designation was created to focus trade and media attention on high-end Cava. To present Cava not just as the great celebration wine that it is, but also as a great gastronomic wine. The end goal is that ultra-premium Cava accounts for 2% of our total export sales," said Bonet.

"Cava is the second largest Spanish DO by volume and the number one in terms of international exports. The growth and improvement of Cava is essential for global sustainability in the region and to ensure its future," he added.

The new classification has been welcomed by the majority of the industry, who argue that it will encourage higher quality across the board. "We hope classifications such as this will demonstrate Cava's willingness to improve quality across the region and minimize the significant disparity between producers," said Meritxell Juvé, CEO of Juvé & Camps.

However, Raventos I Blanc, who left the Cava DO in 2012, has argued that it will make little difference to Cava's overall standing. "I don't think the classification will really make a difference to Cava's image, as what fixes consumer perception is situated at the low end," said owner Pepe Raventos.

The UK trade's response has been similarly mixed, with some welcoming the initiative, while others have maintained their skepticism as to the classification's potential effectiveness. "Bar 44 will get behind the classification on our lists, because it's another thing to tell and talk to the customer about. It's all about quality, so that's great," said restaurateur Owen Morgan.

"My general feelings about the initiative is that it's of little relevance - Cava is considered the drier alternative to Prosecco, that's all. Price is still a driver and Cava drinkers tend not to trade up," argued Ted Sandbach of the Oxford Wine Company.

Speaking at the launch of the new classification, Pedro Bonet did concede that "there is still a long way to go," in transforming Cava's image from a cheap product to a premium sparkling wine and encouraged the entire industry to focus on augmenting Cava's image.