Cava producer Codorníu has flagged higher prices in the UK market, amid duty changes and difficult harvests.

Speaking to Drinks Retailing at this year’s Prowein, Europe and Asia sales director Matteo D’Imporzano said turnover in the UK had grown around 30% year-on-year, with “more or less the same volumes”.

He said the company was able to implement price increases by “working on the degree of alcohol”.

“We always work around 11.5% abv, slightly below, so we moved to 11% abv,” he said. “So, there is an advantage in duty for the customer.”

The new duty regime – which taxes alcohol according to strength – was first introduced on August 1 2023. At the moment, wine between 11.5% and 14.5% abv is taxed at an assumed strength of 12.5% abv, which has caused some producers to look below this bracket.

Codorníu’s chief winemaker and operations officer Diageo Pinilla said that the Cava brand is usually around 11.2%/11.3% abv or sometimes 10.9% abv, “so we are able to label at 11%”.

“Cava, when we pick, we want to be about 10% potential alcohol and then after secondary fermentation, that will increase by about 1-1.2%,” explained Pinilla. “So, we are always around 11 and now we focus on being always around 11%, rather than 11.5% abv.”

The team also highlighted recent droughts and smaller harvests.

“We’ve had two bad years, and last year was terrible,” explained Pinilla, who said the harvest in the Penedès area was down 30-40% in 2023. “So, our costs went up significantly. That’s why we’ve worked with our customers to find a way to digest the price increase.”

Pinilla talked about inflation and dry goods costs, with a “huge increase” in the price of bottles, for example.

“The problem with drought is that now stocks are very low. Even if next vintage we have a normal harvest, the prices will still be high because there is a lack of wines right now, in the region.” He said it would take until harvest 2025 to recover normal production levels.

The team emphasised that all of this presents an opportunity to push Cava as a more premium product, adding that classification changes now also allow them to champion the region.

“50% of our production comes from our own estates and 50% from producers in Penedès,” explained Pinilla. “So, for us, it’s always been something we produce in the Barcelona area. The classification, Comtats de Barcelona, is something good. To be able to say this is 100% Cava made in Catalunya has no impact on our philosophy but now we can say it on the label.”

D’Imporzano said this also helps with the premium proposition.

“Talking with buyers, you have Champagne and you have Prosecco and Cava and there is a gap in between,” said D’Imporzano. “Some of that gap is taken by crémant, which we think is consumers downgrading from Champagne, but there is an opportunity for premium Cava.”