divendres, 28 de juny de 2013

La manca de prestigi del cava i les reflexions de Pepe Raventós, a The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal acaba de dedicar un article a Raventós i Blanc parlant de les "esperances" per canviar la percepció sobre l'escumós penedesenc a través dels productes que elabora la firma del Roure de Can Codorniu i que ha comercialitzat a partir d'enguany sota el nom de Conca del Riu Anoia després d'abondonar la DO Cava. Es pregunta com és que el xampany és admirat i fins i tot els lambrusco han adquirit un cert caràcter 'trendy' i, en canvi, el cava, que és presentat com l'sparkling d'Espanya, és considerat merament com a "senzill" o com una "diversió"? Així mateix, es pregunten com és que el cava ni és un producte de culte ni ha aconseguit, com a mínim, una mica més de respecte. Per l'article també desfilen caves de Freixenet, Segura Viudas, Montsarra, Parés Baltà, Avinyó, Castellroig, el Perles Roses Cuvée Antonia de Naveran o Gramona. Què en penseu?

Cava Seeks to Make a New Name for Itself

The Spanish sparkling wine is dismissed as merely simple and fun, but one producer hopes to change its image by changing its name, to Conca del Riu Anoia

Columnist's name

OFF THE CHEAP | Pepe Raventós, in New York, sees big possibilities for a rebranded Cava.
PROSECCO IS POPULAR, Champagne is admired and even Lambrusco has acquired a certain trendy allure. But Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain, is considered merely simple and fun. Why hasn't Cava earned a cult following, or at least a bit more respect?
One Cava producer doesn't even want to try to answer that question. Josep "Pepe" Raventós of Raventós i Blanc decided that, given Cava's less-than-glorious reputation, he wasn't going to call his wines "Cava" anymore but "Conca del Riu Anoia," or simply "Conca" for short. The name is derived from the place in the Penedès region where his wines—and those of many other Cava producers—are made. Though it's not an officially recognized region (the name translates to "Valley of the River Anoia" in Catalan), Mr. Raventós hopes that it will be one day. Right now he hopes to make "Conca" a brand.
F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal

Ironically, it was the 39-year-old Mr. Raventós's great-great-great-grandfather, Josep Raventós Fatjos of Codorníu winery, who "invented" Cava in 1872 at the Raventós i Blanc estate. The elder Mr. Raventós was the first man to apply the Champagne method to sparkling wine in Spain, using the native Xarel·lo grape. Part of the Raventós family (though not Pepe Raventós himself) still owns Codorníu, one of the two largest Cava producers in Spain; the other is Freixenet.
Mr. Raventós the younger doesn't see any irony in his semantic departure, but rather a kind of continuation of his forebear's idea. "I think that we share the same vision," he said, citing the fact that his ancestor used only Xarel·lo to create that first Cava.
The exclusive use of native Catalan varietals like Xarel·lo, Parellada and Macabeo is one of Mr. Raventós's criteria for producers who wish to use the Conca name for sparkling wines. (Many Cava producers also employ Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.) In addition, 80% of their fruit must be their own, not purchased; they must produce only vintage sparkling wines, no nonvintage; and they must age their wines for at least 18 months (current Cava law requires a minimum of just nine months of aging).
Would-be Conca producers must also observe both biodynamic and organic practices, said Mr. Raventós. It seemed like a pretty rigorous set of criteria to me. How many Cava producers could actually qualify? "Not more than 10 would be eligible," Mr. Raventós replied. And have any of those 10 expressed an interest in adopting the name? Not as yet, said Mr. Raventós with a laugh. "I think they're waiting to see if I shrink or survive." (According to María Eugènia Puig, the secretary-general of the Consejo Regulador del Cava, or the consortium of Cava producers, only three of the 253 Cava producers in the consortium no longer use the Cava name.)
Will the name 'Conca del Riu Anoia' gain Spain's sparkler more respect?
It's clearly quite daring to exchange a famous name for four words that few people know. But Mr. Raventós, who moved his family to New York last year to better understand the American market, doesn't lack for confidence. He attributes the move to Manhattan as a big factor in his decision to stop using the Cava name, saying New York gave him a perspective that he might not have had if he'd remained in the small village of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, where his friends and extended family live.
Located in the heart of the Penedès region, close to the city of Barcelona, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia is home to a good many Cava producers, including Codorníu and Freixenet. But it's not the only place where the wines can be made: Cava can be produced in several other Spanish regions as well, including Extremadura and Rioja. This is something else that Mr. Raventós laments; he believes that Cava should be a wine of a particular place—like Champagne.
At least one Champagne producer has been eager to avoid too close an association with Cava. In 2010, Champagne Louis Roederer filed a lawsuit in Minnesota against Cava producer Jaume Serra, charging that the label of the latter's wine Cristalino looked a bit too much like that of Roederer's famous tête du cuvée Cristal. The label, which once was gold and bore just the name Cristalino, now is white and features the name Jaume Serra as well. "Defending the integrity of our brand—its name and artwork in particular—is very important to us," said a Louis Roederer spokesman.
Still, it's not likely that Cava drinkers are confusing a sub-$10 wine with a $200 luxury Champagne. And most Cava drinkers are buying such inexpensive varieties, according to Lorena Ascencios, wine buyer at Astor Wine & Spirits in New York. Astor sells a great deal of Cava, said Ms. Ascencios, though she said she was happy to note that Champagne is outselling Cava at her store this year to date.
Cavas priced at $10 or less make up about 95% of Cava sales at Weimax Wines & Spirits in Burlingame, Calif., according to proprietor Gerald Weisl, who had an interesting Cava-related encounter recently: A group of students studying in a Wine & Spirits Education Trust program showed up at his store looking for Cavas with "rubbery aromas" for a blind tasting.

More in Off Duty

 Linda Pugliese for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Jamie Kimm, Prop Styling by Liz Adler
Mr. Weisl explained that he didn't stock such Cavas and considered "rubbery" a flaw. He later wrote to the Wine & Spirits Education Trust in London and asked why it instructed students to search for rubbery Cavas. The response came back that WSET students were taught that that was a characteristic aroma of Cava, probably because "most Cava sold in the U.K. is cheap, whereas better-quality Cava is sold in the States." I'm not sure whether that's true, but a quick look through wine-searcher.com's U.K. listings revealed that the Cavas sold there are quite different from the fairly wide range of Cavas sold in the U.S.
The 17 Cavas that I purchased for my tasting ran the price gamut from cheap ($7) to very high-end ($40.) The wines, a mix of vintage and nonvintage (and a few rosés) included well-known names such as Freixenet and Gramona, as well as more obscure producers such as Parés Baltà and Montsarra.
I invited a few Cava drinkers to my house and found that everyone had a well-formed opinion of the wines before they even began tasting. (While theirs was a mostly positive impression, I did notice that the word "cheap" was mentioned many times.)
In fact, the cheapest Cavas were the least popular wines of the tasting—with one exception (the Segura Viudas Brut, $8). Most were dismissed as neutral and simple (Montsarra) or simply industrial (Freixenet). But the wines that cost $14 to $20 a bottle performed fairly well, with a number of favorites in that range, most notably the lively Avinyó Brut Reserva ($19), the creamy 2009 Gramona Gran Cuvée Vintage Brut ($14) and the soft and slightly fruity Castellroig Brut ($14). The elegant and understated 2010 Raventós i Blanc L'Hereu ($18) was also a favorite, though of course it's no longer called "Cava" at all.
On the upper end, the 2010 Naveran Perles Roses Cuvée Antonia ($35) was a great favorite—a lively, juicy, utterly delicious rosé that happened to be beautifully packaged as well. But when I announced the price to my friends, not a single one said they would pay that sort of money "for a Cava!" as they exclaimed. And if it were Champagne and not Cava? Well, that would be different, they said. At least one ex-Cava producer is hoping they'll feel that way, too, if the label says "Conca" instead.
See wine videos and more from Off Duty at youtube.com/wsj.com. Email Lettie at wine@wsj.com.

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