Cava DO: Quality Sparklers from Spain

Cava is the Spanish sparkling wine par excellence. Cava is a wine that comes from a number of regions but it’s home is in Catalonia. During the 19th century, Catalonia began making a name for itself as a producer of sparkling wines. Josep Raventos had visited Champagne in the 1860s and came back intent on creating something similar in Spain. He began making wines in the style he had seen in Champagne but it was still not labelled as Cava. That would happen almost 100 years later.

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The Cava DO was awarded in 1986 and is a 100% sparkling wine areas. The soils are calcareous with limestone and clay while the climate is mostly Mediterranean with some Continental influences. As mentioned earlier, the Raventos family is responsible for the beginning of the industry in this area. It was Raventos’s son, Manuel who made the first sparkling wine from Xarel.lo, Macabeo, and Parellada, a blend which continues to be used to this day. Those three varieties are equivalent to 82% of the plantings. Other grape varieties used in Cava include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Trepat, Garnacha Tinta, Monastrell, and Subirat Parent.

The word Cava though didn’t come into play until the 1950s and was first used not for the wines but for the caves where the wines were stored. I wrote this post on Cava some years ago after an amazing tasting. I also wrote this post about Cava after a tasting during one of the Society of Wine Educators conferences.

DO Cava includes 150 municipalities and is spread over seven autonomous regions: Catalonia, La Rioja, Comunidad Valenciana, Aragon, Navarra, Extremadura and Pais Vasco. Yet it’s true home basis remains Penedes. Infact, 95% of Cava is still produced in Penedes. There is also a Cava Rosado which calls for 25% red grapes but makes up only 8% of total production. Cava is a fully sparkling wine with 5-6 atm of pressure. It’s less acidic than Champagne and shows less yeasty notes than some of its sister sparkling wines. Much depends on the style and aging regime.

There are four Cava categories: Cava De Guarda which is released after 9 months, Cava De Guarda Riserva, released after 18 months and Cava De Guarda Superior Gran Riserva which is released after 30 months. The new category, Cava De Guarda Superior de Paraje Calificado has specific rules including minimum yields, hand harvesting, vines over 10 years of age, vinification on the estate, minimum aging 36 months, and precise traceability, among others.

I drink a lot of Cava and got some great samples to taste which I will be writing about this week. I also find Cava is great to pair with so many different and types of foods.

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