Wine Profile: Cava
Cava is a traditional method sparkling wine from Spain. It is made in exactly the same way as Champagne, but with native Spanish grapes. And best of all, you can enjoy it at a fraction of the cost.
SPARKLING IS CENTER STAGE
Cava comes from the Catalonia region of Penedès Spain. Penedès is a relatively small region in Northeast Spain, but even so, it is home to a wide range of micro-climates. There the production of white wine far outnumber that of red, but it’s really Cava that is the star. By law, Cava can actually be made in any of six wine regions in Spain. However, 95% of all Cava, and really the best examples of it, is made in Penedès. Penedès is home to over 175 cava producers, including Freixenet and Codorníu. Which, are two of the largest sparkling wine producers, not just in Spain, but worldwide. In fact, this region of Spain produces more traditional method sparkling wine than any other region in the world.
BEST STICK WITH TRADITION
What do we mean when we say traditional method (or méthode traditionnelle) This is the method of producing sparkling wine that is used in Champagne France. You can read all about that method here. In essence, the process involves the secondary fermentation (the one that creates the bubbles) taking place in the bottle itself. It is widely regarded as the premier method to produce fine sparkling wine.
IT’S ALL IN THE BRANDING
Cava was first created in 1872 using imported winemaking equipment from Champagne and the same method of production. Actually, when it was first made it went by the name Champán or Xampany. Eventually, Penedès winemakers decided they didn’t want to be so closely associated with the famous sparkler. They thought their wine was different enough that it deserved its own name. So, they came up with Cava, Catalan for cave or cellar. In fact, Cava is distinctly different. Because even though it is made using the same method as Champagne, it contains native Spanish grapes.
A VARIETY OF VARIETALS
Cava is made from one or more of five different varieties: Parellada, Xarel-lo, Macabeo (aka Viura), Chardonnay, and Malvasia. Chardonnay is a relatively new addition to the blend and is the only grape that Cava has in common with Champagne. But, by far the most important 3 are Parellada, Xarel-lo, and Macabeo. From this blend Xarel-lo contributes a full, round body and decent acidity, Macabeo is highly fruity and very aromatic, and Parellada is the finest and most elegant of the three. In general, Cava tends to be a relatively simple wine, with notes of lemon, earth, and fruit. It is bright and full of zesty acidity with minerals on the finish and a uniquely savory note. It is typically a low alcohol wine with bright effervescence, though slightly fewer bubbles than Champagne.
DON’T FORGET THE FOOD
Even though Cava and Champagne are different, there is one thing that pretty much all sparkling wines have in common; they pair excellently with food. Seriously, when in doubt about a pairing it is usually hard to go wrong with bubbles. One of the classic pairings with Cava is the Catalonian Pan con Tomate, a ridiculously simple and rustic dish of toasted bread, garlic, and tomato purée. It is delicious with the fruity and acid-driven flavors of the wine. It is Spain, so it is best served with tapas. Anything from patatas bravas to serrano ham, to spicy shrimp are going to be excellent with Cava.
Outside of Spanish food, a sparkling wine like Cava goes great with fried foods or really anything with puff pastry or phyllo dough. Don’t be afraid to chance pairing with spicy foods too. Because the bubbles and acid in the Cava can definitely stand up to and provide an excellent counterbalance to the heat.
And let’s not forget, as with all bubbles, Cava is great all by itself! Its budget-friendly price makes it something you can pop, any day of the week.
WANNA TRY FOR YOURSELF?