Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine, mainly produced in the Penedes, the wine region southwest of Barcelona in Catalonia (Spain). San Sadurni de Noya is the most important production center of Cava and it is also produced on a smaller scale in Aragon and the Rioja. Although Cava is sometimes referred to as 'Spanish Champagne', this is formally incorrect because only wine from the Champagne region can be called champagne in accordance with the European Union Law. In 1970 winemakers adopted the term “Cava” (which means “cave” or “cellar” in Spanish) to differentiate themselves from French Champagne.
The lower acidity of Cava with its ease of pairing, accompanied by the effort to promote the wine sector abroad and nationally are resulting in the rise of confidence and appreciation of this wine. Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the United States and Japan are the largest consumers of Spanish Cava.
Cava is classified according to its sweetness which depends on the amount of sugar in the wine from the second fermentation. There are seven categories:
Brut nature: less than 3g of sugar per litre.
Extra brut: not more than 6 grams of sugar per litre
Brut: up to 12 grams per litre
Extra dry: 12 to 17 grams per litre
Dry: 17 to 32 grams per litre
Semi-dry: between 32 to 50 grams per litre
Sweet: more than 50 grams per liter.
The lack of added sugars makes Brut Nature and Extra Brut, more demanding in terms of quality, and their production is increasing while the production of semi-dry, and sweet varieties has decreased.
Another classification is according to the ageing period. ‘Cava’ must be aged in the cellar for at least nine months. For the ‘reserva' there is a minimum storage period of 15 months and for the 'gran reserva' a minimum of 30 months. Gran Reserva can only be used for the least sweet Cava's, brut nature, extra brut and brut. The gran reserve's label is the only one that mentions the year of harvest.
The main varieties of grapes used in the preparation of Cava are Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo.
Each one contributes to the Cava some characteristics that complement each other:
Macabeo brings sweetness and perfume,
Parellada brings finesse, freshness, and aroma,
Xarel-lo provides body and structure.
The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes are also widely used. There are other secondary varieties, such as Malvasia. The black varieties Garnacha (Grenache), Monastrell (Mourvèdre), and Trepat are also used for the rosé Cavas.
Cava is produced using the traditional method also known as the classic method which is suitable for the native varieties of the Penedes and the other Spanish production areas. It undergoes a secondary fermentation in bottle which produces carbon dioxide and the characteristic aromas. The annual production is about 18 million cases of 12 bottles, with Spain being the world's second producer of sparkling wine, after France (Champagne region). Its success in production is probably its great value for money.
Characteristics of Cava
Cava wines characteristics vary due to the different varieties
Colour: they are available in the white and rosé varieties.
Nose: the aroma is complex with many different notes. The longer Cava ages, the more aroma of toast and nuts you will find in the wine. Generally, you will notice the intense mix of aromas of citrus, tart apple, pear, brioche, almond skin, roasted hazelnuts or smoke.
Palate: Dominant flavours include citrus, with distinct chalky minerality. Cava wines are creamy, the bubbles are very fine, the texture feels smooth and nice in the mouth with lighter acids that do not reflect at the end giving it an elegant finish i.e little or no after taste.
Food pairings with Cava
Due to the reason that Cava is low in alcohol and acidity, it makes it an all rounder; it has the ability to complement so many foods. Cava can be drunk as an aperitif. Can be used to make Agua de Valencia, which is a cocktail made from Cava, freshly squeezed orange juice, vodka, and gin. It goes well with fried finger foods, spicy dishes, seafood, strong cheeses, barbeque, creamy desserts, rice, salads and of course tapas!
Serving temperature & style: It is essential to serve Cava at a cool temperature. For guaranteed enjoyment, Cavas should be served between 6°C and 8°C and Reserva and Gran Reserva should be served between 8°C and 10°C. To preserve the bubbles of Cava, a tulip wine glass or a flute should be used.