Cava’s quality restructure

20 December, 2022

There’s been a boom in sales for the Spanish sparkler, and as more producers adopt recently introduced regulation there’s the promise of more interesting wines to come.

Of the big three fizz varieties, cava is generating the most fuss. The Spanish wine is not only enjoying a growth in volume sales, but making regular headlines following the introduction of new regulations this time last year.

According to DO Cava, sales increased by more than 17% in 2021 to 252 million bottles, which the board credited to its international performance. In fact, 71% of total sales were registered in international markets, with double-digit growth in the US (40%), Belgium (11.6%), Austria (65.5%), Brazil (37.7%), and Poland (27.4%). Within this growth, organic wine sales increased 65% and long-aged cava more than doubled. Although those final figures are a likely result of the new rules.

What’s new?

Under the new regulations, cava is now divided into two main categories: Cava de Guarda, the youngest bottlings of which must be aged for nine months, and Cava de Guarda Superior, which require a minimum of 18 months – all of course using the traditional method of secondary fermentation in-bottle. The latter category includes three quality tiers – reserva, gran reserva, and paraje calificado – which must be vintage dated, and all Guarda Superior wines must be certified 100% organic by 2025.

As well as production rules, the DO has regulated the way bottles of cava can be labelled, including all Guarda Superior having to declare the vintage on every bottle. DO Cava president Javier Pagés was re-elected in August last year and has been a driving force behind the introduction of these new laws.

“It was never going to be easy coming up with new regulations because people inside a DO will always have different philosophies and ideas, but overall I think it’s been a great success,” Pagés tells Drinks International.

“It’s becoming more and more important to declare the origin of a product – not just in the wine business but with food and other drinks. Consumers want to know where things come from and their stories. That’s why labelling is so important, because having the origin clearly shown will give people an immediate understanding of the wine before they get used to the new tier structure and the new language.”

Changing style

Cava has just undergone its second harvest under the new regulations and, according to Pagés, the yield was 25% less than on the previous year, which he says makes it clear that producers are having to harvest earlier.

In a report by Caitlin Miller for Seven Fifty Daily, Cordorníu technical director Bruno Colomer agrees with the changing harvest patterns.

“Over the past 20 years, the start date of the harvest session has been brought forward by approximately 20 days,” says Colomer. “This is the trend, and it is very likely to get earlier and earlier due to climate change.

“Traditionally, the harvests in the cava region have been very regular. Although, in recent years we have been facing frequent challenges: droughts, high temperatures, torrential rains, frost and hail at unusual times, and massive pest attacks.

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