When does Cava go Old

I have heard this question being asked many times. But seldom, have I, myself, had cava bottles lying around for such a long time without opening. Our wine storing capacity has grown tenfold during the past three years. What we thought at first was a long terms solution (a capacity of 100 bottles is more than sufficient, right) ended up growing and growing. This year, I think we have around a thousand bottles in our cellars (yes, we have several). Who on earth is going to drink all of that? Unlike champagne, cava is not for keeps. Or it is to some extent, but it lacks the acidity for long terms storage and development. I don’t know that much about the topic, but looking at our cava reserves, I felt obliged to find out.My encounter asking this question from google was disappointing. Not much talk about the lifespan of Cava, a lot of talk about champagne; all too high level and nothing that I found to be scientifical enough to serve as an inspiration for this post. However, every article seemed to agree: the life of an unopened bottle of sparkling wine is from three to four years. High emphasis was put on storage conditions and preserving factors.

With the lack of a good explanation on sparkling wines storage, I though I would make some of my own conclusions.

  1. Champagne ages well as high acidity and carbon dioxide act as preservatives as it ages in the bottle prior to disgorgement. After disgorgement, Champagne will develop like a still wine. Cava is not as acidic, but the date of discorgement is nevertheless significant. So buy your cava freshly discorged in case you intend to keep it for a while. If the producer adds the date on their label, that tells you something about how serious they are.
  2. One large reason that Cava bottles give in after three to four years is that the cork fails. Cava is not an expensive wine, so the producers do not pay for high quality cork (or at least not most of them). Cava is not really meant to be stored, so the perception is that Cava does not require a cork that lasts for decades. We have also heard some worrying news about the cork market, that the quality is dropping due to low availability.
  3. Storage conditions matter. We store cava like we store champagne, but many people don’t. Cava as all wines like it cool, dark and humid. A stable temperature and generous humidity also impact how long the cork keeps its quality.
  4. Cava is grown in a very stable climate. I don’t really believe in Cava vintages, but of course there can be some years that are slightly warmer than others. So I would not rely that Cavas that have a vintage mentioned have the same ageing potential as vintage champagnes.
  5. The quality of the grapes matters. Poor quality is often swept under the carpet by adding a sugar liquor after discorgement, and I believe that poor quality grapes develop unwanted tastes when they age. I do not have science behind me here, but I would like to draw the conclusion from the fact that vintage champagnes have a high ageing potential. Vintage champagnes are always made from the best of the best grapes from the vineyard.

I don’t really know if my assumptions are the reason behind the three to four year storage rule. However, I do think that they have some truth behind them. Nevertheless, be kind to your Cava and store it as you would store any valuable bottle. You will be rewarded with a healthier bottles and less cork damage. I think my bottles still have a few years on them, however, I should  really do something about the amount of bottles. Perhaps a party is in order..

xx Soile

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In the chalk cellar before discorgement.

 

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