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Cava or Corpinnat?

Not so long ago we wrote an article about the different sparkling wines you can find around the world these days. Things are moving ‘at the rate of knots’ in the world of sparkling wines, and within Spain there has been ‘a rising swell’…especially in the Cava region. Many things have changed in an incredibly short time so the consumer can be forgiven for being somewhat confused by the whole situation. I thought it would be worth talking about here, to clarify a few things, so that you can make sense of it all.

Three glasses of Cava in a wine bar by Niels Baars

First, let me remind you that the Cava D.O. (Denominación de Origen) is a multi-geographical appellation.

Therefore, a sparkling wine created in places like The Basque Country, Valencia, Rioja, Extremadura, and of course Catalonia, can all be called Cava. This means approximately 370 wineries belonging to the Cava D.O.

The Cava D.O. has been ruled and represented by some of the biggest economical monsters of the Spanish wine industry, and by focusing on quantity and a cheap product; they have conquered most of the supermarket shelves around the globe. We all know about those golden labels, and the black or frosted bottles...mentioning no names of course.

Some of the producers in the Cava D.O., especially those focusing on the production of good quality sparkling wines, weren't very happy with the reputation that Cava was associated with. But, at various D.O. Cava gatherings, their word was so small that they were never listened to. And so, the situation remained like this for many years. Gradually, some of the larger producers began to realise it was necessary to increase the level of quality, in order to improve the reputation of Spanish sparkling wines. Yet still, nothing actually happened. Finally, in 2017, a group of wineries that included iconic sparkling wine makers such as Gramona and Llopart, began to break away from the Cava D.O. to create their own set of rules and standards. This is when Corpinnat was born.

The rules of the game at Corpinnat are clear. Quality above all else, and only 100% organic grapes are allowed in the production process. All of the grapes must be picked by hand, must come from the producer’s own crops, and all of the processing and winemaking must occur in the producer’s own winery, much like in a French Château. As well as all of the above, the minimum aging time for any sparkling wine has been increased, and is sometimes doubled (from a minimum of 9 months to 18 months for just the basic wines).

By taking a step back and looking at what makes a great wine (as well as respecting their land and their traditions), the game players at Corpinnat have been very clever in their approach and, in my humble opinion, done the right thing.

Close up of the top of a bottle of Cava, with the cork

They did gamble on a number of things, one of them not being able to use the term ‘Cava’ anymore, but they have betted on the future of what they believe to be a great winemaking region, and on leaving a great legacy for the next generation.

In an effort to raise quality levels, the Cava D.O. has also come up with a new set of rules, in relation to the creation of higher quality Cava. The denomination of Classic Penedes recognises similar standards to those of Corpinnat, for instance, organic, longer aging times and only using grapes from the Penedes region. Personally, I think this is too little, too late. The international reputation of Cava is still relatively untouched and the Corpinnat group have now been well accepted in most countries.

The rest of Spain has also seen an increase in the production of sparkling wine, aided by the popularity of Ancestral or Pet-Net.

Most D.O.s in Spain don't recognise these wines as it is quite a new trend and their rules don't change quickly enough, but slowly and surely, the production of bubbles is gradually becoming accepted in many regions.

This means you can now enjoy a lovely, crisp sparkling Albariño, Verdejo or Garnacha, or even a local Prensal, or Callet here in Mallorca.

There are now so many more options for popping those corks and sipping a fresh sparkling wine this summer.


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