Spanish government transfers vine planting decisions

Unrest among Catalonia's Cava producers has seen the Spanish government take the unusual step of transferring decisions about new vine plantings to the Cava DO. Barnaby Eales reports.

Photo by Sylvie on Unsplash
Photo by Sylvie on Unsplash

The Spanish government has transferred all decision making about new vine plantings to the regulatory council of the Cava Denominación de Origen.

This historic move, adopted on September 20th, has been seen in Spain as an attempt to quell growing tensions over the Cava crisis.

It comes in the wake of demands from the Cava DO and Catalonia’s producers and growers to restrict the growth of the planting area. Since 2015, the Cava DO’s production area has grown by 6,000 ha from 33,000 ha to 39,000 ha.

But as exports stagnate and domestic Cava sales fall, the expansion of the growing area has fuelled discontent in Catalonia.

In September, the major Cava producers dramatically cut prices paid to growers, blaming the decision on excess stock and an increase in production costs. On September 5th, grape growers launched a general strike action. That same day, the breakaway producer associations, Corpinnat and Classic Penedès, announced that they had joined forces to create the world’s first organic sparkling wine DO in the Penedès.

In contrast to the Cava DO, which covers production of Cava in seven Spanish regions, the new rival DO would focus on the production of sparkling wine made only in the Penedès. The creation of this new rival DO could lead to more producers and growers in Catalonia leaving the Cava DO.

Javier Pagés, the Chairman of the Cava DO and former MD of Codorniu, welcomed the Spanish government’s decision, which he said had met the Cava DO’s long-held demands. “We will now be able to plan plantings in relation to the reality of the sector,” he told Barcelona newspaper, La Vanguardia. 

In a statement, the Spanish government said it had adopted its new policy in order to “provide more stability in the wine sector and to ensure legal certainty in aspects of its legislation.” 

While welcomed in the Cava DO, the new policy has, however, sparked anger in Extremadura and Valencia, whose producers have seen a rise in demand for Cava made outside Catalonia. 

Barnaby Eales

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