There’s nothing like a classic Rolls Royce to announce the arrival of another classic, this time it’s a new cava category initiative from DO Penedes, “Classic Penedes”. I had the opportunity to attend the press conference and the tasting afterwards, and it was an interesting opportunity to see how DO Penedes markets their products in conjunction with their member vineyards, especially under the circumstances of this announcement.
Classic Penedes represents a bit of a break from the regulatory board of DO Cava, based in Vilafranca. The intiative incorporates a longer bottle ageing spell of fifteen months, rather than just the nine months required by DO Cava, coupled with grapes produced in an ecological/organic manner. Fourteen vineyards have so far signed up for the initiative, including the following:
- AT Roca
- Mas Comptal
- Albet i Noya
- Torre del Veguer
- Can Gallego
- Finca Can Ramon
- Can Morral del Moli
- Mas Can Colome
- Puig Romeu
Prior to the move by Penedes, cava products were regulated by the cava regulatory board, whose headquarters is in Vilafranca, but has members from outside of Catalunya in Aragon, Basque Country, Castile and Leon, Extremadura, Navarra, Rioja, and Valencia. Now, DO Penedes seems to be making a move to create a distinctive cava product, considering the bulk of cava production is within its appellation.
The event, hosted at the site of the original St. Moritz brewery in downtown Barcelona, provided a perfect canvas of historical significance blended with modernity, reflecting the same ethos from the DO Penedes announcement. In a constantly competitive international sparkling wine market, how do you create differentiation from other markets, and other regions producing cava? DO Penedes may have hit on something by tapping into the organic movement, with many international consumers – especially in the US, UK, and Australia – continuing to look for more natural products. Plus the additional ageing also gives their members additional distinction from the DO Cava counterparts Spain-wide.
Speaking to Josep Albet, owner of Albet i Noya and the current president of DO Penedes, shed additional light on the initiative. He shared his thoughts on how a higher quality of cava has a way of creating higher quality conversations and wines. After all, cava shares its story with those who drink, and helps create another story once it has been enjoyed. He, and DO Penedes director Francesc Olivella (and the rest of the DO Penedes team), may have just initiated a brilliant marketing strategy to create a distinctive cava product from the top producing cava region in Spain.
Will this spawn a cava civil war between rival appellations? Will a break from DO Cava cause chaos in the ranks of cava? Or has DO Penedes become a trail blazer in anticipation of future political events which may cause additional friction between Catalunya and the regions of Spain? Time will tell.
In my mind, however, this is simply a story of an appellation who wanted to do something a little different than what the cava regulatory board would allow based on the current rules. Rather than lobby for additional rules or changes, DO Penedes took an opportunity to make their own mark on the sparkling wine category. Retrospectively, this may be judged by a different yardstick, and even Albet made a reference to the independence referendum on November 9th during his comments about Classic Penedes.
After the press conference came the sampling portion of the event, where I enjoyed several offerings from the eleven vineyards in attendance. Torre del Veguer was prominent for us, as we spent time with them for work on an upcoming video project. It was interesting to watch as they promoted their cava to the wine and gastronomy journalists, bloggers and VIPs attending the tasting after the press conference.
The other cavas of note were three from Albet i Noya, Brut 21, Pinot Noir Brut Rosat, and Brut Reserva. I also enjoyed one from Loxeral, their 109, representing the amount of months ageing in the bottle.
Michael joined Joaquin and I about two-thirds of the way through our time, and his timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Joaquin and Marta were able to glean for us an interview with Felipe Puig, the Catalunya government minister for Enterprise and Employment, who attended the event in support of the new initiative.
Puig downplayed the independence question we put forward to him, and in fact, he made some great historical points as far as the subject is concerned, making reference to a product boycott from seven years ago, where two years after, sales were 5% higher than before the boycott was announced. Puig touched on an important point of how the regions of Catalunya need to create their own distinctive marketing strategies, which identify what makes them special. Based upon his appearance, and also his comments, I can see how there is an appreciation for DO Penedes’ promotional strategies in Catalan government circles, which historically those strategies have translated into sales very, very well.
All in all, the press conference and launch by DO Penedes was an overwhelming success and a great opportunity for the cava producers of the regions to showcase their cava products to the media and the wine community at-large. It was also a great opportunity to see the DO Penedes marketing machine in action, and I came away impressed with how they operate.
My only regret?
I did not get a chance to sit in the gorgeous classic Rolls Royce which kicked off the event, in style.