Javier Pagés: Cava targets middle ground

The Cava DO is seeking to redefine itself to claw back the middle ground in sparkling wine, between champagne at the top end and prosecco at entry level.

President of the Consejo Regulador del Cava, which regulates the Cava Denominación de Origen (DO), Javier Pagés, was in London today (December 2) for a Cava Summit.

Representing 224 wineries, 145 base wine producers and 6,647 growers, Pagés outlined the DO’s strategic plan, titled ‘Future in the Making,’ which looks to reaffirm and concentrate on quality by focusing on better segmentation, zoning of the disparate regions that make cava in Spain, with a long term view to differentiation to make identifying and choosing appropriate quality, traceability and sustainability. 

Despite hard discounting particularly in UK supermarkets, cava’s fourth largest market, cava has been badly affected by the soaring success of prosecco. The DO asked six professionals, including three masters of wine, a restaurateur, and experts on sparkling wines for their opinions on cava.

At the summit, opinions were given from the former Selfridges buyer, now an importer/buyer, a former retail buyer and the owner of leading Spanish restaurant chain.

Dawn Davies MW, who now works on Speciality Drinks, was particularly critical of cava, saying that it had ben squeezed in the middle ground between champagne - and English sparkling wines, and prosecco at the ‘fresh, fruity and fresh entry level end.  She also said that cava has focused on sommeliers when it should have been talking to bartenders, which are the cutting edge opinion formers. She said cava was “missing a sense of cohesion” and there was a “lot of ground to make up”.

Ex-Waitrose wine buyer Nick Room outlined the things cava producers need to do to gain facings in supermarkets and Richard Bigg, owner of the Camino chain of eight London tapas bars, said cava’s image had been badly tarnished by the 2-4-1 discounting in multiple retailers and not had been done to promote the positive images of Spain. He said cava was “under the radar”.

He suggested: “Educating, but not preachy to get the message across”.

In a question and answer session, well known UK wine writer, Antony Rose, criticised the DO for not ensuring better grape prices for growers as a way to drive up quality.

Former Hakkasan restaurant wine buyer, Christine Parkinson said she had been increasingly asked for vegan wines. Pagés, having banged the drum for cave’s organic and sustainability initiatives, replied rather exasperatedly: “That is something we need to take in!”

Cava will be under the spotlight in the January issue of Drinks International