food & drink

The cava dream team

What was known for many years in Spain as The Cava Wars took the form of a long confrontation between the two largest producers, Freixenet and Codorniu, for market share. Dirty tricks were the order of the day, and deliberately-planted false rumours such as that one or other of the producers was illegally using grapes bought in from other regions, etc, were common. That war, with no clear winner, is over, but the new one will be even more drawn-out.

As any cava aficionado will know, although the wine was developed in Catalonia, the regulations allow it to be produced in any wine region. In fact there are cavas made in the sherry zone, in Rioja and in Extremadura.

Some of these are very good, but understandably the original Catalan wineries in Penedés want to keep cava exclusively to themselves. So in 2015 nine bodegas left the controlling organisation, the Consejo Regulador, and formed their own club, Corpinnat.

Praiseworthily their rules were, and are, that only specific grapes from the region can be used, and these must be organic and hand-picked. Now, nearly five years later, the regulating council wants the rebels back in the fold, and has developed an unusual tactic to achieve this. It wants to re-launch cava as a prestigious brand backed by quality and uniqueness (partly to differentiate it from Prosecco).

To do this it has put together a dream team of the greats of the cava and champagne world, each highly qualified to take on the job, starting with Sarah Jane Evans MW, one of the top experts on Spanish wine, vice-president of the Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino, and of Decanter World Wine Awards.

Pedro Ballesteros MW is another, as is Tom Stevenson, authority in cava and winner of 33 scholarly prizes including the Wine Literary Award. Ferran Centelles, sommelier, writer and collaborator of Jancis Robinson; Richard Juhlin, champagne expert; Fernando Mora MW, oenologist and writer.... and so the list goes.

What it has cost to get all these influential experts on board I hate to think, but if the end-result is the reunification of the cava world for the benefit of consumers, then it must be positive.