In part two of The Buyer’s debate, in partnership with Raventós Codorníu and Raimat, the panel of leading buyers had the opportunity to taste through a selection of Cavas to examine the quality and the step changes at differences price points and to examine where they might sit in the UK market. It was also an opportunity to examine the sustainability steps being taken with Cava and how important sustainability now is in the buying decisions being made by the panel of buyers.
With such universal appeal the best days for Cava could still be in the years to come was the key summary from The Buyer’s Cava debate with Raventos Codorniu. You can read part one of our report here.
Our thanks go to our panel of buyers that included:
- Richard Bigg, founder of Camino, the specialist Spanish restaurant and tapas group
- Pierre Mansour, wine director, The Wine Society
- Harry Crowther, UK wine buyer for Good Pair Days
- Will Hill, head wine buyer at Humble Grape
- Charles Wharton, managing director, Ellis Wharton Wines
They were joined from Raventós Codorníu and Raimat by:
- Richard Peruji, Codorniu’s key account manager for UK and Ireland looking after its off-trade sales
- Russ Maddocks, Codorniu’s national account manager looking after the on-trade
- Joan Esteve, general manager Raimat winery
You can watch the full debate here
The Cava debate was also an opportunity for the Codorniu team to take the buyers through a different selection of Cavas from its range. Codorniu’s Richard Perugi was able to explain how all the wines in its UK range are moving over to organic production in the coming months so that it will have an organic exclusive range.
The four wines tasted included: Codorniu Brut Non-Vintage Cava (DPD £5.80); Codorniu Ecologica Brut Organic Non-Vintage Cava (DPD £7.28) ; Anna de Codorniu Brut Rosé Cava (£7.28); and Ars Collecta Blanc de Blancs Reserva Cava (£11).
There was also change to look at the 100% organic range from Raimat including: Raimat Saira Albarino (white) (DPD £6,80); Raimat Tempranillo (red); Raimat Ventada Garnacha Blanco (white); and Raimat Anima de Raimat Red (red.)
Russ Maddocks says the four Cavas selected where done to show the different levels of quality you get when you move from a non-vintage Brut, to an organic Brut, through to Rosado and Reserva when the price differences are only a couple of pounds each time.
Perugi says its Reserva wines are very much a key focus for Codorniu and working more with specialist retailers and premium on-trade. That is where the marketing and education push will come from. Cava being positioned as the Spanish Champagne.
“The standard quality across all four Cavas is very good,” says Pierre Mansour at the Wine Society. “What is really encouraging is that each style is reflecting exactly what it is telling the consumer on the bottle.”
The panel were particularly taken with the Arts Collecta Blanc de Blanc Cava but questioned why use Blanc de Blanc to describe it – or ‘Ars’ for the UK market. Equally using ‘rosé’ rather than Rosada.
Clean and fresh
Equally the Ecologica wine stood out to the panel as a great example of Cava can do. Richard Bigg at Camino found it a “very rich, rewarding wine with great structure” that be good as an aperitif. Will Hill at Humble Grape agrees: “Clean, fresh and perfect aperitif style. That was the start of the show for me.”
Harry Crowther at Good Pair Days says having organic and green credentials is also a good trigger for consumers.“Stylistically and commercially it works for me,” he adds.
The Raimat portfolio of still wines have all been produced to best reflect the purity of the fruit, its unique climate and to “be as fresh” as possible, says general manager, Joan Esteve. With up to 20 different grape varieties to work with.
Its Albarino was first planted some 25 years ago with six different clones and offer a different, more continental style to what is available in Rías Baixas. Where the grapes are picked later and there is more of a mineral, fresh fruit approach.
“I was interested in tasting the Albarino and the fact it comes from such a very well established vineyard,” says Bigg. “It’s a drier, style but is tasting very well, very fragrant, white blossom on the nose and thought it was very balanced wine.”
Charles Wharton at Ellis Wharton says he already has eight Albarinos on his list and certainly sees “plenty of scope” for others.
Focus on sustainability
(Click to watch Pierre Mansour on the Wine Society’s sustainability strategy and impact on buying)
Esteve says Codoruniu’s commitment to organic winemaking now dates back some 15 years, but sustainability as a whole has been part of what the Raimat winery has been about since it was first bought, as desert land, by Codorniu in 1914.
“That sustainable responsibility has been quite sensitive for us since the beginning of this project. We are more focused on sustainability than organics. We consider organics as a piece of our sustainability work,” explains Esteve, with projects and initiatives to improve its sustainability taking place all the time.
Raimat now stretches across 3,000 hectares of which at least 2,000 are covered in vines in an area that is also well known for the quality of lots of different fruits, including apples and cherries. It has has worked hard on the biodiversity of the region and, for example, has not used insecticides on its vines since 2000. There are now close to 40 different bird types on the estate. It has invested in a number of sustainability projects like how it has been able to channel water from the hills to now power much of the electricity needed on the estate.
Around half of its fruit – mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – goes into making Cava and the rest for Raimat’s own still wines. “The expression of the fruit at Raimiat is much more intense thanks to its proximity to the Mediterranean” he says.
It’s an approach that resonates well with the buyers. Mansour, for example, was able to share the steps the Wine Society is taking, including hiring its first sustainability director.
He says he sees “responsibility and sustainability” growing in importance in the coming years in terms of who it works with and will be rolling out “some new ethical standards and code of conduct” that it will expect its suppliers to meet that will assess how they behave “both environmentally and socially”.
“In terms of buying criteria it is not just quality and price, we see it as quality, price and responsibility. Sustainability is going to be one of a set of criteria for us. But we also recognise the wine industry operates globally and there are different sectors that are at different stages of their sustainability story and it is going to take time.”
The Wine Society can hopefully play its part in helping producers work and learn from each other, he adds.
He also agrees with Esteve that organics should be seen as being part of a producer’s total sustainability credentials that also takes in how they treat their land overall, but also the “social impact” they are having with their own people, their local community and their supply chain.
Richard Bigg says he has recently written to all the suppliers that Camino works with to ask them about the steps they are taking to be sustainable and has been “impressed” by the response he has had. “Everyone is on this. They feel the need to and is going to help them and help the planet,” he says.
He says the Camino team will go through the responses and then look at how it then conveys the right messages to its customers to show the steps all the food and drink prodders they are enjoying are taking.
“It’s also good for your staff to know. They want to work for a company that takes these things seriously, and rightly so, and our customer base.”
Sustainability is a big issue for Good Pair Days, says Crowther, and donates a percentage of its profits under its ‘No Planet. No Pinot’ initiative to give to winemakers that have been hit by climate change.
It is an area he is also personally interested in during his consultancy days worked with a restaurant group that saw a jump in sales in wine when it took out a tasting note description about the wine and replaced it with its sustainability measures.
“The pandemic pricked the conscious of the UK consumer,” he adds. Prior to Covid-19 only around 7 to 10% of consumers were looking for sustainable wines, now that is up to 50%, he claims.
Wharton says the quality of the wine has to be the number one priority, but if a wine has “good sustainability credentials” then it certainly increases the chances of it getting on its list. He has also seen a big increase in the number of producers that are pushing their wider sustainability credentials than just being organic. So much so that a “good three quarters” of its list comes from producers following strong sustainability practices.
“Sustainability in wine is exceptionally important to us,” says Will Hill at Humble Grape. It’s also “absolutely key” in how talks to all its producer partners about the work they are doing around winemaking, but also their overall business ethics and how they work with their staff. Being organic can be more of a box ticking exercise, he adds.
Sustainability means so much more than that, he adds. “Whether they are certified organic or not is not a big thing for us.”
“There are a million ways to be sustainable and we want to tell those producers stories to the public,” says Hill.