When the Spanish rider Jorge Lorenzo sprayed Cava on the podium in Valencia, after winning the last race of the 2015 #MotoGP season and thus claiming his third career MotoGP world title, that sparkling #Wine must have left a very sour taste in the mouth of the Italian contender Valentino Rossi. Indeed, after leading the championship for almost the entire season, the “Doctor” – as Rossi is known worldwide – lost it in the final race. He finished only fourth, after a painful back-of-the-grid start due to a penalty issued against him for triggering a clash with bitter rival Marc Marquez in the previous race. The episode sparked a row between Rossi and Marquez, with the Italian claiming that “the Spaniard” had caused the clash on purpose in order to ensure that his fellow countryman, Lorenzo, won the championship.

Starting in Qatar on the 20th of March, the 2016 MotoGP promises to be very hard-fought. “We expect an enduring duel between Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi,” says Riccardo Tafà, Managing Director at RTR Sports Marketing in London, commenting the rivalry between the Italian and the Spaniard. “It will not be easy for Valentino Rossi to repeat a season like 2015, continuously in the lead up to the last race. However, he is still extremely focused, very talented in managing the races and a real perfectionist. This year, Jorge Lorenzo is the man to beat and, unsurprisingly, the fastest on final day of MotoGP test in Qatar 2 weeks ago. It will be interesting to watch them at Silverstone for the British MotoGP.”

Competition between Italy and Spain stretches from clothing (with the Italian Benetton and Calzedonia challenging the Spanish trademarks Mango and Zara in all major European high-streets, to name but a few) to footwear brands (for instance, Geox versus Camper), from food dishes (spaghetti alla bolognese versus paella valenciana) to liqueurs (Naples’ limoncello vs. Ibiza’s palo).

Wine deserves a separate chapter. For a long time, Spanish wine trailed behind Italian wines in global sales, but Spanish exports have boomed in recent years. In 2015, Spain was the leading wine exporter, setting a new record (24 million hectolitres). However, with 2.6 billion euros in revenues, Spain is still a long way from the 8 and 5 billion euros earned in 2015 by France and Italy, respectively (Source: OEMV).

The reason is that on average, Spanish wine costs less. What about the quality? “Northern Spain produces some of the finest wine value on earth,” says Jancis Robinson, a leading British wine critic. “Less well-known denominations, such as Alicante, Arlanza, Calatayud, Empordà, Méntrida, Montsant, Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras are producing some extraordinary wines at reasonable prices. And quality in the classic regions of Penedès, Ribera del Duero and Rioja is no doubt at an all-time high.”

An interesting challenge between the two countries concerns sparkling wines: on one side, Prosecco, produced in Veneto, and on the other, Cava, the Catalonianbubbly”. Prosecco is made with Glera grape and by using the Charmat method of production, with a second fermentation of the wine in a steel tank. Cava originates from the Macabeu, Parellada and Xarello grapes and is produced using the traditional method, with fermentation in the bottle.

In recent years, global sales of Prosecco have slightly outgrown those of Cava. However, sales of Cava are increasing significantly in Spain and the Consortium of Cava Producers is planning to introduce a new top-tier wine made from a single vineyard to boost the Cava brand even further.

Unsurprisingly, since 2003 Freixenet Cordon Negro is the Cava sprayed (and enjoyed) by all the winners of the MotoGP races. In spite of any quarrel among riders, the podium celebration has to be the moment for a reconciling toast...#Libiamo!