Codorníu is among those fearing a boycott, as Barnaby Eales reports

Wine producers in Catalonia are distancing themselves from the escalating political tension in Spain over their government’s plans to hold an independence referendum

This has prompted fears of a new boycott of Catalonia’s wines and the state’s flagship sparkling wine, Cava. This happened from 2005 after consumer groups across Spain, fearing the rise of Catalan nationalism, severely dented domestic Cava sales.

Cava can be made anywhere in Spain but 95 per cent of it is made in Catalonia, including such major producers as Freixenet and Codorníu (which between them account for about 80 per cent of the 240m bottles made), and the ultra-premium Gramona.

The Spanish government’s refusal to recognise the legitimacy of the referendum – which is scheduled for 1 October – has led to the arrest of 14 Catalan government officials, the seizure of Catalonia’s finances and confiscation of 9 million referendum leaflets and electoral cards.

Miguel Torres, the new chairman of Spain’s Wine Federation, the FEV, and owner of the huge wine group Torres in Penedès, said he was confident there would be no new boycott of Catalan wines. “There will always be some client who will do this, but we are not too worried. It will be solved.”

Clashes in Barcelona

But amid extraordinary scenes in Barcelona of police clashing with the hundreds of angry protestors who took to the streets to protest the clampdown on the referendum, the FEV today voiced support for Codorníu Group, which has been threatened with a boycott in Spain.

Codorníu has denied any link with Catalonia’s independence movement and with Unipost, Spain’s largest private delivery company, which Spanish police raided yesterday in search of ballot boxes and leaflets and electoral cards.

“The fact that some of our minority shareholders, individually, have shares in Unipost, does not mean that Codorníu Group is directly or indirectly involved in Uniport’s decision-making,” Codorníu said in a statement.

“Ironic” benefits of boycott

Some producers in Catalonia fear their Cava and wine could be once again face a boycott from other parts of Spain. Others, like Vallformosa, have said they ironically benefitted from the previous boycott which, together with the economic crisis, forced them to focus on exports.

“We don’t want to try and sell our wines to other parts of Spain which are already not interested in buying them,” said Dani Santacreu, export manager for Catalan producer Clos Mont Blanc in Barberà de la Conca.

“The situation has escalated and it takes too much time and effort to sell in Spain, so we have been concentrating on exporting as well as selling our wines in our own country [Catalonia],” he said. Eighty per cent of their wines are now exported worldwide, he added.

Meanwhile, a source at Codorníu in the UK played down concerns over a new boycott of Catalan wines. “Our Cava is being served at the Madrid Fashion Show this week and in London at the Spanish embassy on 12 October to celebrate Spain’s national day, so we see no problem,” he told World Travel Guide.


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