When looking at alcoholic beverages, and with the possible exception of craft beer, Prosecco has been the clear winner of the 2010’s so far. The Italian sparkling wine has benefitted greatly from the surge of interest in sweet flavor profile drinks, seen elsewhere in the rise of fruit ciders, and from the gradual decreasing in influence of traditional gender roles, making Prosecco a more appealing  tipple for men.

The scope of drinking occasions for Prosecco has played a large part in its success; consumers can add a glass of Prosecco to their long lunch for a touch of indulgence, aided by the relatively low alcohol of the drink; Millennials can choose from a wide variety of Prosecco based cocktails at most bars; and a bottle can be bought for at-home consumption at the lower end of the wine pricing ladder.

Cava, Spain’s national sparkling wine, on the other hand has had a rough deal in recent years. The bubbly wine began to fall out of fashion in the late 90s as part of a wider decline in the fortunes of wine, and by the mid 2000’s had become marginal despite the resurgence of wine. With labels seen as old fashioned, wild variances in price with little quality indicators (as opposed to the relatively simple quality certifications for Prosecco) and an overall lack of knowledge of the wider global range of sparkling wine amongst consumers.

However, Cava does have a number of tricks up its sleeve in order to gain an advantage over Prosecco;

Complexity – Prosecco is a favorite particularly amongst new wine drinkers seeking an easy, refreshing beverage. Eventually some of these consumers will seek to dig deeper into the world of wine and look for style with more complexity and character. Prosecco is made through a process of tank fermentation, a process which enables mass production of sparkling wine, at the cost of a loss of body and complexity. Cava on the other hand uses méthode traditionnelle, a complex and hugely time consuming process which is best known for its use in Champagne production. This gives the wine greater body and complexity.

Premium credentials – With méthode traditionnelle comes bona fide premium credentials. Cava is able to be aged, and can be vintage rather than being limited to non-vintage as Prosecco largely is. With premiumization being one of the defining trends in the consumer packaged goods industry at current, Cava is well placed to capitalize on these aspects.

With Prosecco still surging, Cava has its work cut out to gain a foothold but has the attributes to launch a major challenge and position itself as the trade up from Prosecco. An overhaul of labelling and quality ratings, which has already begun to some extent, to bring it into line with current fashions and trends will go a long way to positioning Cava back in the mainstream view. Prosecco will continue to dominate in the short term, but Cava is one to look out for in the future.

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Spanish Story, a Cava recently brought to the market gives a good indicator of the type of innovation needed to combat Prosecco. It is up to other producers to follow suit.