Today we talk about Cava, the famous spanish sparkling wine which for one reason or another gets covered pretty often in the news.
After Colacino this is the second interview I realize just by myself for this blog. It is always great to have these chats because when I go “independent” I can touch topics that I would probably avoid in other settings.
Many thanks to Covides Export Area Manager Maria Serret Jovells that allowed me some of her time and answered to all my questions.
Can you start by introducing your winery, its philosophy of winemaking?
Sure. Covides is a winery located in the Penedès, in the DO Cava region, in San Sadurnì d’Anoia, so 45 km more or less from Barcelona.
We were born in 1963 and we are a cooperative of 600 members. Actually we harvest about 20 million kilos of grapes, but they all come from our members, so year after year we can keep the stability and the quality of the product, for both still wine and Cava. We have strict controls, for example the IFS [International Food Standard] certification, that allows us to have full traceability from the plot to the final bottling.
We have a full range of still wines and Cava. We have different grape varieties, but especially white grapes and we are actually present in more than 45 Countries worldwide, so we export around 65% of our production especially in the US, Belgium and Japan.
Cava sometimes has a bad image in foreign markets, it is seen as a basic quality sparkling wine. Do you think that this is going to change?
Honestly I think that when we started to export Cava worldwide we made some mistakes because Cava is made in the champenois method, with second fermentation inside the bottle and minimum 9 months of [lees] ageing. So it is like Champagne, but you can see that Champagne is seen as top quality worldwide and also some Prosecco is seen as higher quality in the eyes of international customers. However Cava is always behind and it should not be this way. I think that we were afraid or we did not do it the best way the first time the wineries started to export Cava so we did not value the product as we should have. Now it is difficult for us to build a new image.
What is the image of Cava in the Japanese market specifically? Is it the same, seen as a basic wine?
With the agreement signed between the European Union and Japan that came into effect in February this year our winery has experienced an increase in sales.
So you are feeling that there is a difference?
Exactly. And also the Japanese customers are familiar with Cava, their food can pair very well with it and they like the bubbles, the sparkling wines. So it is well accepted by the Japanese people, it is getting more and more popular and it is liked also by the people who like bubbles, but do no want to spend money for a Champagne.
Last year there have been a lot of talk and news about Catalunian independence. Did you feel any effect in wine exports?
I am specialized mainly in the export markets of Asia and some parts of Europe and I can say that I did not appreciate any change in the sales of Cava.
There is a new organization called Corpinnat, kind of “rebel wineries” exiting the Cava appellation to make sparkling wines in Catalunia on their own. Do you think it is necessary to make a new organization? Or do you think that you can improve inside the Cava appellation?
Well Corpinnat is a group wineries specialized in the elaboration of sparkling wine from San Sadurnì d’Anoia and their main purpose is to make wines of top quality that until now would have been called Cava. I think that they want to separate from Cava because of its lower image compared to Champagne, while we should be at the same level. However their production volume is very small.
So you think that they will not have a big influence?
On the contrary I think that if they will have an influence it will be a good one because if they manage to improve the image of Spanish sparkling wine, Cava producers will benefit as well.
A final question: your Cava name is Anyal, which you told me it is the Catalan word for “annual”. Why this name?
Yes, anyal means annual. We choose this name because our Cava takes 12 months to make from the second fermentation in the bottle.