Cava makers in the Spanish region of Catalonia are bracing themselves for a bleak Christmas.

They are forecasting that sales will plunge as rising anti-Catalan sentiment spoils sales of the region's quintessential spirit.

"It's obvious that this year boycott is going to be worse than last," Ignacio Alvarez, general manager for Leon-based cava distributor Iseca told just-drinks.

Anti-Catalan sentiment has spread across Spain after the region's government approved a reform of the so-called Catalan Estatut, which governs its relations with Madrid. Catalonia says the reform is aimed at enhancing the region's self-governing powers - not at achieving independence. However, Madrid's okay to debate the project has infuriated many nationalist advocates who say the reform will herald the creation of separate Catalan nation and disunite Spain.

Gustau Garcia Guillamet, president of cava-industry lobby Consejo Regulador del Cava, reportedly expects sales to fall more than last year when they rose by only 2.3% because of a predictably stronger boycott campaign.

Last year's boycott was prompted by Catalan politicians' criticism against Madrid's Olympic bid.

Top Catalan cava maker Freixenet recently blamed a 4% fall in 2004 sales to the boycotts. Echoing other cava purveyors' defense spin, he said the industry is not linked to politics and that "Catalonia's cava is just as Spanish as it is Catalan."