Prosecco and Cava: A glass half full?

15 January, 2013

Raventós adds there will be a name change: “My dream is that the Raventós i Blanc wines of this new era will have their own name. For this reason, inspired by the book La Vida al Camp from Jaume Raventós (1868-1938) we want to recover the Conca del Riu Anoia, the name of a small geographical area, to help us to better understand and convey our viticultural traditions, the strength of our land, our unique grape varieties and the characteristics of our soils: in short, the way we make sparkling wines.”

Importantly, the press statement points out that Raventós is not against cava: “You will not hear a single detrimental word from Raventós i Blanc or the people involved in this project towards cava, whose forerunner, promoter and founder was Josep María Raventós i Blanc. But our dream is that the wines from this new era will have their own name.”

The Regulatory Board had not responded with a comment at the time of going to press. 

Consumers

While financial woes grip Italy and Spain, the downturn doesn’t need to spell disaster for prosecco and cava. Recessions can profoundly change consumer habits. 

When people have money to spend, they can convince themselves they need all kinds of things. Less money forces them to look for cheaper alternatives. These often turn out to be enjoyed and then become part of a consumer’s habit. In other words: you like champagne, you drink champagne, you suddenly can’t afford champagne, you try other sparkling wine and realise it’s good, so you continue drinking it, money or not. 

Mark Juggins, senior buyer at UK supermarket Sainsbury’s, has certainly seen this trait among newly savvy shoppers. “Champagne and sparkling wine have grown massively in popularity in the UK and are no longer seen simply as a choice for special occasions. 

“Customers have become a lot more savvy when it comes to sparkling wine, especially when it comes to popping a bottle open at the weekend to share with friends or as a simple aperitif – prosecco in particular has seen a huge surge in popularity over recent years.”

UK cava volumes, according to IWSR and Wine Intelligence, were down 1% between 2010 and 2011 to 2.9 million nine litre cases. Prosecco in the same market during the same period grew 9% – albeit from a smaller base – to 1.56 million cases. 

Sainsbury’s Juggins says: “Cava is less fashionable than prosecco at the moment but customers still recognise that they can get great value for money with cava. With a flavour profile that is more akin to champagne and being made by the same method, it’s often better value for those on a budget than some champagne brands.”

Against the odds, Freixenet fought to become the largest sparkling wine brand in the UK with 8% share of the category and making up 16% of cava sales (Nielsen: off-trade MAT to 13/10/12). 

Overhauling cava’s image might be one way of tackling the problem. Certainly in UK supermarkets, a bottle of the fizz can usually be obtained on offer for around £5. Great though it is to get a bargain, it doesn’t do much for a brand’s credentials. 

But what’s so baffling is that quite often you can pick up a bottle of prosecco at a reduced rate, too. Perhaps the lighter, fruity style is more appealing – that comes down to predicting what a drinker wants. 

As the consumer continues to evolve and grow, producers need to do the same. As our heroine puts it in Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland: “It’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”





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