SPAIN’S MOST REMARKABLE CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD OF TOP QUALITY WINE
It is one of the most underrated sparkling wines, and it is said that the best cavas can compete with champagne and other top sparkling wines. Fresh and lively at a young age, increasing in complexity with age. Originally, cava was named after its French brother and referred to as Champán or Xampán. However, when Spain joined the European Union in 1986, France insisted on changing the name of the product. Henceforth it was simply called cava after the cellars in which it matures. Cava D.O. although not a protected designation of origin, has only 270 wineries in 159 locations in Spain which are permitted to produce the sparkling wine.
Most of the production facilities are located in Penedès, Catalonia, with the cava capital Sant Sadurní d ́Anoia. “Cava” does not refer to the area of origin, but refers to the production method: The Spanish verb cavar means “dig”. In contrast to the Spanish bodega wines (bodega denotes a building on the ground floor), which are stored above ground, a cava lies underground on the yeast. The cool temperatures support the maturation process of the sparkling wines particularly well.
Spain’s answer to champagne is just as elaborately made in bottle fermentation, but is made from three predominantly Catalonian grape varieties. As with champagne, the bubbly secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle, but outside the French region the method cannot be called méthode champenoise, but is instead referred to as el método tradicional. However, since it doesn’t sit on the yeast for that long, cava is lighter in style than longer matured champagnes. Cava convinces with balanced citrus fruits, melon, pear and a pleasant acidity.
Over 95% of the cava comes from the Penedès region with a total of nine grape varieties permitted for production: Xarello, Macabeo, Parellada, Chardonnay and Malvasia as well as the red grape varieties Garnatxa, Monastrell, Trepat and Pinot Noir. While the process of making cava is almost identical to that of champagne, its shorter aging time, the mechanized process of filling, rotating and tilting the bottles during secondary fermentation all help to reduce production costs which makes it more affordable.
For the finished cava, there is an alcohol content of at least 10.8% and a maximum of 12.8% and an acidity of at least 5.5 grams per liter. In addition, there must be at least 3.5 bar pressure on the bottle at 20°C. Even the simplest cava ages on the shelfs for nine months. Cava is a perfect combination with Spanish tapas, all kinds of fish, seafood and summer salads or just on its own.
This article was first published in Issue 15