We love sparkling wine. Whether that’s Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, Franciacorta, a Crémant de Bordeaux, Burgundy or Loire – whatever! The Champagne bucket, the sound of popping corks, the sight and fizzle of fine bubbles, the tingling acidity on the tongue: What’s not to like?
Well, the price tag for one. Champagne is great, but it’s not cheap. Seriously. By comparison, Cava prices are considerably lower. This can seem curious, as in a lot of ways good Champagne and good Cava can seem very similar indeed. So, how do we explain the difference between Cava prices and Champagne prices?
Champagne vs. Cava prices: What’s the difference?
Prices will obviously vary from one Cava to another and between different Champagne labels. There is no fixed price for a bottle of Champagne or Cava in a restaurant or online, but there are guidelines for you to be aware of.
You can get a hold of a bottle of basic Cava for around €4 or €5, easily. The sweet spot is probably around €8 – €20, where you’re all but guaranteed a great bottle. At the higher end, Cava prices can reach the hundreds of euro, and these are very special bottles indeed.
Our cheapest Cava is Conde De Caralt Brut Nature, which comes in at just €3.90.
Mid-range Cava prices vary widely, but you rarely have to spend more than €20 to get a very good bottle. Llopart Imperial 2011, at just €15.95, is seriously well-priced when pit against Champagnes of a similar quality.
A seriously high-end bottle of Cava can cost just as much as Champagne. Our top example is Recaredo Reserva Particular 2000, which we’ve got at €300.
And how does Champagne fare, then?
It’s no secret that Champagne is more expensive than Cava. The cheapest Champagne you’re likely to find will still set you back at least €25-€30. For the most part these will non-vintage wines from lesser known names. For €50-€100 you can get non-vintage Champagnes from most of the top houses, as well as some vintage Champagnes and other special bottlings. From there, the sky’s the limit: You could easily spend hundreds, if not thousands, on a prestige cuvée from a leading Champagne house.
“Low price Champagne” is a relative concept, as it is still very expensive when compared to Cava prices. However, we’ve got a very respectable 91-point non-vintage Champagne, Baron Fuente Grande Reserve, for just €25.95!
There’s a wide range here, but you’ve got a lot of high-quality options. At €63.95, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs is a super bottle and illustrates the 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs style at a (relatively) affordable price.
Here’s where things can get expensive, and fast. It all depends on your budget and your taste, really. It’s all relative here. €150 for Dom Pérignon 2006 might seem like a lot or a little, depending on who you ask. That’s got to seem positively cheap when compared with Louis Roederer Cristal 2000 for €350, which is in turn dwarfed by Krug Clos de Mesnil 1996 and its €1,995 price tag!
Bottom line: Cava prices are a whole lot cheaper than Champagne! Why’s that, exactly?
Why are Cava prices lower than Champagne prices?
There are a few important factors to keep in mind that can make all the difference when it comes to picking a Champagne or a Cava, and surprisingly “quality” isn’t as big a difference as you might think!
Cost of growing grapes
Both Champagne and Cava come from grapes, and in some cases they come from the same grapes. So why the lower Cava prices? Essentially, it costs a lot more to grow grapes for Champagne than for Cava. For a start, the cost of land within the prestigious Champagne appellation is higher than ever.
To buy a hectare of land in the prestigious Côte des Blancs region will cost you around €1.8 million. In addition, there’s less land to go around as the region is in such high demand. The cost of growing grapes, before even making the wine, is a serious factor influencing Champagne prices.
Difficult growing conditions in the Champagne region, when compared to the Cava D.O., are also a factor affecting overall yield of the grape crop.
Cost of making wine
While some Champagne growers do make their own wine, most sell their grapes to big Champagne houses, such as Moët & Chandon, that will actually produce and sell the wine. Making Champagne is an expensive and time-consuming process, involving a lot of labour and extended ageing.
Both Champagne and Cava are produced using the “traditional method”, or “methode Champenoise”, where the wine undergoes its secondary fermentation – and becomes sparkling – in the bottle. This is a marked difference from the cheaper “tank method” used in Prosecco.
Cava prices can stay lower in spite of this because the raw materials are cheaper, more processes are automated and there may be less expensive ageing techniques employed.
Demand and luxury status
There’s no doubt about it: Champagne is a luxury product. A legendary vintage Champagne such as Krug Clos du Mesnil 1990 will fetch huge prices because of how rare it is, and the demand that exists for luxury Champagnes for those seeking the finest things in life, status and all that comes with it. The very word “Champagne” exudes class and luxury.
Cava does not carry this sort of caché, and as a result its pricing is generally more grounded. Even the finest of Cavas, such as Recaredo Turo D’en Mota 1999, sells for a mere fraction of Krug. Cava prices are considerably lower when it comes to non-vintage sparkling wines, too.
Want to know more about sparkling wines? Download our free ebook, The Sparkling Wines Guide!