Now, you might be wondering what type of wine is Cava. Well, Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine, mainly produced in the Penedes region of Catalonia. For reference, Barcelona is Catalonia’s capital city. Most Cava production, about 95%, is centered around the town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia where the first Cava was made by José Raventós in 1872. He was inspired by a trip to France and brought Champagne-style wine making to Spain.
To be called Cava, the wine must come from the Cava Denominación de Origen (DO) area and must be carbonated with a secondary fermentation in bottle, using the traditional method (méthode traditionnelle or méthode champenoise), among other appellation rules. The Cava DO is not a continuous region. There are 4 Cava zones spread out throughout Spain.
You can find this Spanish wine in two versions: white or rosé (rosado). It is generally made using three main types of grapes: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello, the most important being Macabeo. The wine has a light to medium body and generally a dry profile. Among the dominant flavors you can find are citrus and fruit aromas: lime, Meyer lemon, quince, yellow apple, or tart apple. However, given that the minimum aging requirement (9 or more months) and he way the wines are aged (on lees), you’re likely to find a bready and nutty aromas: brioche, almond, toasted hazelnut or smoke.
Cava is made using the traditional method (método tradicional). The process is often referred to as méthode champenoise in France. As you guessed it correctly, Champagne is made the same way. However, Cava producers cannot refer to the process they follow as méthode champenoise as the European Union has afforded special protection to the wines produced in the Champagne region of France.
Grapes are harvested early to allow them to maintain high levels of acidity, essential for a high quality Cava.
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Grapes are then separated by varietal and gently pressed.
The first fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels producing the still wine which will serve as the base for the Cava wines.
The juices of the different varietals are blended in specific proportions.
The blended wine is then bottled with different levels of sugar added, along with the yeast. This starts the second fermentation in the bottle. At this stage, the bottle is sealed with a crown cap to facilitate the disgorgement process later on.
After the second fermentation has started, the bottles are placed in cellars, where the second fermentation takes place. As a result, CO2 is produced, which is trapped in the bottle and produces the famous bubbles. The bottles are left ‘’sur lie’’ (on the lees, i.e. with the spent yeast cells inside them), which allows the wine to develop more complex flavors (toasty notes appear). Depending on the quality of the wine, it can be left to settle from 9 months to several years.
During this stage, the bottles are positioned in special racks, with the neck of the bottle pointing downwards at 45 degree angle and rotated a quarter turn (riddled) so that the lees settle in the neck of the bottle. Riddling can last between 6 and 8 weeks. Some producers still do this by hand, paying homage to tradition, but many producers have adopted the use of a riddling machine (or gyropalette) that rotates the rack a quarter turn and with it all of the bottles are turned a quarter.
During disgorgement, the dead yeast and sediment settled in the neck of the bottle is expelled from the bottle. There are two types of disgorgement:
The bottles are topped up with still wine mixed with sugar. The amount of sugar defines the type of wine that will be achieved (we will talk about this in detail further on in the article).
Lastly, the bottle is corked and labeled and left to rest for at least 9 months to allow for the wine to further develop. Only once the wine is deemed ready, the wine is released and ready to be shipped, and arrive at your table.
Although they are both sparkling wines, made in the exact same way, Cava and Champagne, differ in many ways.
There are 4 quality levels for Cava between Cava de Guarda and Cava de Guarda Superior.
Cava de Guarda includes only one category:
Cava de Guarda Superior includes the following three categories:
Depending on the amount of sugar added, different types of Cava wine are obtained:
Do you want to enter the world of Cava wines? Here we will tell you about two sustainable Spanish Cava brands: Azimut and Suriol! Both produce Cava wines that willl surely make you fall in love with this Spanish wine.
Azimut is a wine producer in Panedés producing sustainable and ecological wines. All their wines are made with certified organic grapes, purchased from local farmers. The wines are easy to drink and ultra delicious. This, added to their low ABV level, makes them a great introductory way to the wonderful world of Cava.
Azimut has two varieties of Cava wine:
Another very interesting aspect is that it has a really nice texture on the palate, with zero sugar or dosage. This is achieved because this wine is exposed to a small amount of oxygen before its second fermentation. This makes it a much more interesting Cava.
Finally, this wine has another very remarkable aspect: its price! It is very difficult to find a 100% organic wine, with such a careful production process (for example the grapes are disgorged by hand) and natural bubbles that are also very affordable!
This wine has persistent but not invasive bubbles, which makes it ideal for cleansing the palate when eating seafood, especially oysters (which pair very well with the acidity of this wine).
Suriol, is a wine producer in Panedés, with a rich 400 year history, located in the hills of Alt Penedés. Assis Suriol, one of the best cava winemakers, is at the helm of the eponymous brand. He is the 17th generation in the family to continue the family tradition of producing wine.
In their centuries-old cellars, wines are made following the tradition of natural winemaking: using indigenous yeasts that provide unique flavor notes and a production method for grapes focused on sustainability and yield limitation, reflecting the particular characteristics of every terroir.
Suriol has two varieties of Cava wine:
This wine perfectly reflects Suriol’s production style: the grapes used are native varieties (40% Macabeo from the La Plana vineyard, 30% Xarel-lo from the L’Hort vineyard and 30% Parellada from the Les Carbasses vineyard) from 3 different plots, and each plot is fermented individually, with native yeasts.
Fermentation is carried out in concrete tanks during the winter. Then the wine rests for more than two years on its lees. This, together with the grape varieties, gives the wine its characteristic notes of baker’s yeast, honey and citrus.
The wine is then fermented using the same methodology as the Cava Blanco Reserva, and aged for a year in wooden barrels, which gives this fantastic exponent subtle notes of chestnut. Finally, it is fermented in the bottle for two years with its lees, before being racked entirely by hand.
This process results in an aromatic and sweet wine, with notes of raspberry, blueberry, white chocolate and subtle chestnut.
Cava is a fantastic and in many ways under-appreciated sparkling wine. The wines are very similar to Champagne but generally cheaper. In addition, the combination of the climatic conditions in which the grapes for both wines develop, added to the type of grapes used in each wine, will end up giving a different flavor profile, although both will have a strong citrus presence in flavor and aroma.
Despite the differences, both wines are a great option to enjoy sparkling wines, with great presence of bubbles, and combining them with a delicious meal. In the particular case of Cava wines, they pair very well with Iberian ham. You can even try them with delicious Spanish tapas, with which they make a particularly good pairing!
One last advice: if you want to create your own Cava brand that is engaging and stands out from the rest, then our Guide to Creating your own Wine Brand will help you through the first steps, and our article about How to Develop your Authentic Brand Story will help you to open your heart with your customers, and tell them what really drives your passion to make great Cava wines.