Unlike Champagne, prosecco and even lambrusco, cava, the sparkling wine of Spain, has yet to earn a cult following, or command more respect. Cava is typically dismissed as simple and fun; it’s also thought of as cheap, or something that should be cheap.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, that’s why cava producer Josep “Pepe” Raventós of Raventós i Blanc decided he wasn’t going to call his wines “cava” anymore but “Conca del Riu Anoia,” or “conca” for short. The name, which translates to “Valley of the River Anoia” in Catalan, 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.
Raventós has stringent criteria for producers who want to use the conca name for sparkling wines: They must exclusively use native Catalan varietals like xarel·lo, parellada and macabeo (many cava producers also use pinot noir and chardonnay); 80% of their fruit must be their own, not purchased and they must produce only vintage sparkling wines–no nonvintage
What’s more, conca producers must age their wines for at least 18 months (current cava law requires a minimum of just nine months of aging) and they must observe both biodynamic and organic practices. No more than 10 cava producers could currently qualify to use the conca name, Raventós admitted, and so far none of those 10 have expressed an interest in adopting the name.
It’s risky to exchange a famous name for four words that few people know, the author and Journal wine writer Lettie Teague pointed out. But cava’s image does need an upgrade: At a tasting of 17 cavas Teague held, participants said they wouldn’t spend $35 for a cava, even one–a 2010 Naveran Perles Roses Cuvée Antonia—that was “utterly delicious” and beautifully packaged.
Read the full Wall St. Journal article.