Cava is my favorite drink! Yes, my favorite! Don’t let the amount of Champagne I talk about deceive you, Cava is my favorite. There is way too much prestige going around with Champagne that I think distracts people from evaluating the drink just as it is. If I try to strip myself from all of the layers of expectations, Cava I feel is better value for money. I have contemplated this same issue with talking about expensive Champagnes (like the Selosse and Krug) and whether it is proportionally in line in quality vs price.
Anyway, with the start of sales closing in (it’s finally happening!) I wanted to tell you a few great things about Cava that I think everyone (who is into sparkling wines) should know.
1. Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine, produced with the same method as Champagne, ‘Method Champegnoise’. In the past Cava was called the Champagne of Spain, however they lost the right to call their sparkling wines Champagne when Spain entered the EU in 1986 (as the name Champagne has a Protected Geographical Status).
2. About 95% of the worlds Cava is produced in Penedès, Catalonia. Many of the large (and small) Cava houses are in the village of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia which is a short train-ride away from Barcelona. If you want to get there, you can just take a train from Barcelona-Sants station.
3. The most common grapes used in Cava are Xarello, Parellada and Macabeo. Recently Producers have started using more varieties, like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Trepat (for the Rosados), Garnacha and Monastrell. Macabeo is the most common of the grapes, It has faint floral aroma and a lemony flavor with a slightly bitter finish. Xarello on the other hand, is much more aromatic with rich floral aromas and pear or melon-like notes. The last grape, Paralleda, is blended in for its ripping high acidity and zesty citrus flavors. Together the three Spanish grapes create a balanced fruity sparkling wine that’s less sweet than Prosecco but not as nutty as Vintage Champagne.
4. One of the factors which make it possible for quality wine to be produced in the Penedès is the climate (and soil). There is warm weather along the coast and cooler temperatures through the hills up to plateaus of more than 2,000 ft (610 m) above sea level. The weather from year to year is very similar making it possible to produce stable quality. This is also why you do not see “vintage” Cavas that often, as the weather does not have such a high influence on the grape-quality during a specific year as for example in Champagne. The area has a diversity of soil types, mostly calcareous sediments mixed with alluvium and clay. Some of the most acclaimed vineyards in the region are found on some of the scattered limestone deposits in the area. This contributes to the dry, minerally tastes you often find in Cavas.
5. There are different levels in the ageing of Cava. You need to age the sparkling wine in the bottle for at least 9 months for it to to be able to be called a Cava. Cavas aged for 18 months or more can be called Reservas and 30 months or more Grand Reservas. The bottles are labelled with a round sticker to distinguish between these three: white for the entry level Cava, green for Reserva and black for Gran Reserva.
So after reading this you are on your way to discovering Cava. But the best way to become an expert is of course to taste as many as you can (wink wink). The Monopoly carries a weak selection of Reservas and Grand Reservas on the shelf, but there are a few more in the special order selection. What I can say is that Cava is becoming more popular and you can expect to see new bottles coming out both via the Monopoly and also internet based wine shops, like the Winecurious.