Cava’s reputation as a quality sparkler could soon overtake that of Prosecco after the launch of a new premium classification, according to the regulatory council president. 

Catalonia’s leading producers were in London to launch the first releases of Cava de Paraje Calificado, a new category for single estate cava that must adhere to strict criteria and get past an expert tasting.

The wines must be made from grapes grown on sites that are at least 10 years old and the grapes must be hand-harvested from vineyards with a maximum output of 8,000 kg per ha. Fermentation must be carried out at the estate and have a maximum yield of 48hl per ha. The initial base wine must be certified as “being of sufficient quality” before being aged in bottle for a minimum 36 months.

Pedro Bonet, president of the Consejo Regulador del Cava, told DRN: “London is the wine capital of the world and we thought it should be the first place to promote Cava de Paraje. It has many wine professionals, writers, sommeliers, Masters of Wine, the WSET, the magazines, and the Brits have been the discoverers of great wines of the world: Bordeaux, port, sherry, Champagne.

“It took three years to get to this stage with the new classification. In a few years it’s possible that cava will overtake Prosecco in terms of image.

“Right now, Prosecco has a better image, but with this new category and all the improvements at a premium level, the image of cava will be better than Prosecco because of the quality. It’s all traditional method.

“We need to sell more at premium prices. We really have to reposition and get more listings and restaurants and quality, specialist wine shops. Then the image will improve.”

Twelve sites were awarded the classification in the first wave and Bonet hopes it will encourage others to up their standards in a bid to join the elite.

The wines produced under the Cava de Paraje classification have an average price of €70 and are targeted at independents and the on-trade.

“We want it to be aspirational to the rest of the producers so they increase their quality,” Bonet said. “It is 300,000 bottles now. It might grow to perhaps 2 million bottles but that’s it. That would take 10 years.

“We need to be really strict. It’s the top stamp of quality and we are proud of the results.

“There are cellars producing excellent quality and our job has to be to show this quality through the new classification. It’s a unique category produced from plots with unique conditions meeting many strict criteria in the vineyards and the wineries.

“Lots of producers have the ambition to become Cava de Paraje so they will invest in their wineries and vineyards and that’s really important for the future.

He added: “We made 29 million bottles of premium cava [reserva and gran reserva] last year, and it is increasing every year.

“We are lucky because all the big companies want to promote premium cava in the UK market. We all want to set cava as a premium quality product. The key is improving the quality and the price and then we can progress.”