As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love sparkling wines. Today is International #Cavaday so let’s drink and write about it. First of all, we need a little history. 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.
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. Other grape varieties used in Cava include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Trepat, Garnacha Tinta, and Monastrell. 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: Traditional Cava which is released after 9 months, Cava Riserva, released after 15 months and Cava Gran Riserva which is released after 30 months. The new category, Cava 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.
Tonight I am sipping something called BarCava which I bought at a local store to celebrate. Apparently it’s made for the US market by Josep Masachs, a renowned Cava producer in Penedes dating back to 1920.
Tasting note: Brillant straw yellow in color, this cheerful sparkler over delivers for the price under $15. Citrus, green apple, white flowers on the nose with a rich, plush mouthfeel and a refreshing zing of acidity. Great as an appetizer or with light fair such as the grilled flounder I paired it with, this one is a fun one for summer.