Cava: another great sparkling wine
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Cava: another great sparkling wine

Without a doubt, when we talk about sparkling wine, our main reference is Champagne, in France. Therefore, there are others sparkling wines that we cannot help but mention, such as the ones that come from Penedès region in Catalonia, Spain, which are great in quality and production volume, being one of the leaders in the category´s worldwide commercialization. The story of Cava brings us back to the 19th Century, but its denomination is much more recent. It has started in 1959, when the word Cava was used for the first time to name products of that type.

The region delimitated to produce Cava is formed by towns from different regions, such as Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida, Girona, La Rioja, Álava, Zaragoza, Navarra, Valencia and Badajoz. The city of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is the main one. We could say it is the capital of Cava, where over 90% of the total of these sparkling wines are made.

The adopted production method is the traditional one. In other words, that in which the second fermentation or foam is produced in the bottle, just as the method used in Champagne. Amongst the grapes allowed for the production of such wines are the white Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel.lo. Chardonnay and Malvasia are also used. Among the red grapes are Trepat, Garnacha, Monastrell and Pinot Noir, many times used for producing pink sparkling wines [rosé], which have in the past years increased its consumption levels.

Let"s talk a little about the characteristics of the most typical varieties. Macabeo produces a light wine, with balanced acidity, and delicate aroma. Parellada produces a light, fresh wine, with moderate alcohol content, floral and subtle aromas. Xarel.lo produces a full-bodied, good acidity wine. These three varieties appear together in the production of many sparkling wines, resulting in a fresh, smooth, elegant and pleasant wine, making it a versatile drink, which can be consumed in different situations.

One of the Cava"s classifications is based on the time of maturation or aging in the bottle in contact with the yeast responsible for the alcoholic fermentation. After these microorganisms that produce more alcohol and carbon dioxide die, the aging and autolysis period is initiated, during which the sparkling wine acquires more aromas, complexity, structure and other characteristics that form its profile. There are three categories when it comes to maturing:

Young: 9 months minimum
Reservoir: 15 months minimum
Gran Reservoir: 30 months minimum

Another classification is in accordance to the sugar content in the sparkling wine, added to the expedition liquor in the final phase of the elaboration process. This liquor can be composed by the same wine, or some kind of brandy plus an addition of sugar, which originates the brut, demi-sec, and others.

When it comes to harmonizing sparkling wines with food, they are in general quite versatile due to their acidity, bubbles and other characteristics. Cava can be drunk in different situations, not only as a festive drink. It can compose a complete meal. For example, a young brut Cava, as well as being excellent as an appetizer, can also be served with seafood and cold appetizers. A reservoir or gran reservoir, by its structure and complexity, goes well with main dishes, such as fish in general, poultry and other special meals. Lastly, the demi-sec or dulce varieties, with higher amounts of sugar, harmonize well with fruits or even sweeter desserts.

Mario R. Leonardi

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