Strikes by winegrowers, economic crisis, arrival of foreign investors, calls for a consumer boycott in the face of the separatist threat … Cava began the year 2020 with the hope of finally leaving behind the shocks of some particularly turbulent years. But the coronavirus arrived. And the pandemic cut off, as in many other areas, all forecasts for this year of the sparkling wine par excellence in Spain. The limitations on meetings imposed by the Covid threaten to silence the corks fired into the air at Christmas parties as well, a season in which the sector invoices 30% of the whole year.
Last year 250 million bottles were sold, of which 70% were destined for the foreign market. So far, there has been a 10% decrease with respect to the 2019 turnover, and that thanks to the good performance of exports, which have managed to mitigate the fall in the national market. But the biggest challenge comes with Christmas.
The sector holds its breath in the face of what promise to be the most atypical celebrations in history: “We face them with uncertainty but also with moderate optimism in the face of the complex situation in the country,” admits Javier Pagés, president of the denomination of origin “Digging”. In addition to the health emergency, the economic and political crisis have also crossed the path of these wineries. The new challenge launched by ERC, which has conditioned its support for the Budgets to end “the tax haven that the right has set up in Madrid”, in the words of its spokesman Gabriel Rufián, has awakened the worst ghosts of 2017 among winemakers, when sales fell due to the rejection of consumers from other regions.
“So far we have not noticed any effect in this regard. But we must put in value that cava is a Spanish product and a very important part of the Spain brand. If there is a product that represents Spain, it is undoubtedly cava. Transferring political issues to products is a serious mistake that seriously injures the whole of the country “, remarks Pagés. In fact “Cava” is a designation of origin that encompasses seven autonomous communities, although with a clear leadership of Catalonia, which hosts 80% of the vineyard of the almost 38,000 hectares covered by the indication. However, Aragon, Valencian Community, Extremadura, La Rioja, Navarra and the Basque Country are also included. And it hosts about 6,600 winegrowers and a total of 357 wineries, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Beyond the political noise, the real stake comes from the limitations imposed on the hotel industry, which has practically closed one of the cava sales channels. “It is also one of the most special because it offers a very good experience for consumers”, laments Pagés. The hope of the sector is that although there are meetings with fewer people, more meetings are organized. But they are aware that the economy is not for parties and that it is very difficult to fill the hole.