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Solomonic Solution for Cava

The Ministry of Agriculture decides to moderately expand the production of sparkling wine, encouraged by the rise of new winemakers outside Catalonia and against the will of the Regulatory Council

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Solomonic Solution for Cava

The Ministry of Agriculture will adopt, before 15th, decision to extend arable area of wine for cava within denomination of origin in about 170 hectares per year. It is an increase of about 0.5% of total extension (estimated at 34,000 hectares) and grows at a level similar to that of rest of wine area. But, as public and private sector sources confirm, it is a solution that will not satisfy anyone, especially when Catalan crisis makes it a politically explosive issue.

Cava is one of few appellations of origin that are not linked to a particular territory. Although production of sparkling wine has historically focused on Catalan regions around Sant Sadurní D'Anoia (Barcelona), since 1980s, 24 municipalities outside traditional region — 18 of which are in La Rioja — can bottle this A beverage that, in recent decades, has built an external market despite harsh competition of rival products such as champagne and Italian prosecco. Still, 95% of Spanish cava production comes from Catalonia.

This boom has led to production having surpassed a historical record of 300 million kilos of grape last year. Of Cavas have emerged 245 million bottles, of which 160 million have been exported (somewhat less than a third of that figure outside European Union). Agricultural associations from emerging regions such as Almendralejo (Badajoz) and Requena (Valencia) are seeing ir denominational cava production areas in heat of change in consumption trends; Only from town of Comenda — where re are half a dozen cavas — seven million bottles come out each year, so y seek to furr extend ir crops, now 1,400 hectares.

However, most traditional producers — mostly Catalans — who control Cava Regulatory Council (CRC), fear a sparkling bubble that throws prices down. Pressured by foreign competition and changing consumption habits, cava sales have fallen in Spain in last decade from 98 to 86 million bottles a year, and shipping figures to European Union have remained flat

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— around 110 million packaging — during last eight campaigns, with small seasonal-to-seasonal fluctuations. In addition, as many experts in sector point out, surpluses of Almendralejo and Requena usually end up in hands of Catalan wineries.

Extending vineyard surface or does not depend before anything on European Commission, which in order to contain wine production has established a ceiling for new crops of 1% per annum (on cultivated surface at 1 July each year) for Each one of Member States. These can furr limit this figure.

Spain, through Ministry of Agriculture, has contained it in last two years: 0.43% in 2016 and 0.52% in 2017. In turn, regulatory councils of appellations of origin may ask Ministry not to authorize more crops in ir regions if y believe that increase in harvesting can damage ir products.

What you are facing here are two ways to see industry. On one hand, traditional producers — Catalans in ir vast majority — with council chaired by Pedro Bonet at head, have as ir objective declared to protect Cava brand and defend future of sector. These winemakers bets today to limit white mark and to grow prices by guiding market towards premium sector for export.

In this strategy is framed denomination of "Cava de Paraje", introduced in 2016 and that qualifies sparkling wines produced in regions designated as special from a point of view of climate or soils. Or initiatives include participation in gastronomic competitions and international fairs.

Despite an unfavourable 2016, in what we have 2017 figures speak in favor of this strategy: in first half of year, while cava production in general grew by 5.6%, premium product increased by 19%. And more importantly: while Cava sales within Spain won a 2% park (compared to 7.5% outside country) main engine of Cavas boom Reserva and Gran Reserva is Spain itself, with an increase of 25% up to around eight million Botel The. The regulatory Council has asked to reduce new areas to legal minimum: 0.1 hectares, 1,000 square meters per year over next three years. The figure is, in practice, a freeze, given that EU prevents cultivation of new vineyards from being banned.

The new methods

On or side are new operators, both Catalan wineries — who have applied new methods of modernization and cost reduction — as harvesters of new production zones. These producers have put an end to oligopoly of historical wineries thanks to ir competitive prices and see in conservatism of Council an attempt to slow ir expansion, especially when premium market only represents 12% of Spanish production of Cava.

Especially active are winemakers of Requena or Almendralejo, who are most interested in continuing to gain market share. With 4,000 hectares, Valencian locality is already largest area dedicated to cava outside of Catalonia, with a score of wineries. On or hand, cultivators of La Rioja and Aragon prefer to maintain a moderate growth rate; The latter should not protest ministry's decision.

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