If you love bubbly wine and are looking for an alternative to Champagne, then Cava is it. It can be either white or rosé. Here is everything you need to know. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, New Year’s Eve, varied celebrations and everything in between bring plenty of opportunities to break out the bubbly. And a great wine to fill the glass for a bubbly toast is almost always a cava wine. But exactly what is a cava wine?
Cava is the popular Spanish sparkling wine, and one of Spain’s most famous wines. The name cava comes from the Spanish word for “cave,” referring to the cellars where the wines age. Spanish sparkling wine was called “Spanish Champagne” until the 1970s when Spanish winemakers renamed their wine cava to differentiate themselves from French Champagne.
Cava is made using the “Traditional Method” (also known as the “Méthode Champenoise” or “Méthode Classique”). This is exactly same way that Champagne is made in France.
Most Cava is made in Catalonia (the north-east of Spain) with 95% of total production being produced in the Penedès region. Cava holds “Denominación de Origen” (DO) status in Spain, meaning it must be produced following specific guidelines (and within a specific geographic border) to bear the name “Cava” on the label.
It comes in white or rosé, and the main cava wine grapes used are Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo.
Macabeo is the primary grape used in all Cava production. Despite its importance, Macabeo tastes somewhat simple. It has faint floral aromatics, a lemony flavour with a slightly bitter finish that tastes similar to green almonds.
Xarel·lo on the other hand, is much more aromatic with rich floral aromas and pear/melon-like notes. The Parellada grape is blended for its ripping high acidity and zesty citrus flavours. Together these Spanish grapes create a fruity sparkling wine.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were more recently added to the permitted grape varieties of the appellation and many producers have found that these varieties can add extra levels of fruit and acidity.
Cava rosé wine, which is pink in colour, is not nearly as popular as its white counterparts but is still widely produced in Spain. This often uses pinot noir, garnacha or monastrell grapes.
The distinctive flavours that the grapes impart, the climate and terrain in most cava regions in Spain give as a result a light, smooth, and less acidic wine. Cava starts out like most Spanish wines: in giant stainless steel vats full of freshly-squeezed grape juice. Each type of mosto, or grape juice, undergoes one fermentation in these large vats, where natural sugars convert into alcohol.
After this initial fermentation, the wine is strategically mixed, with each winemaker creating their specific blend. They then bottle the mixed wine and cap it with a bottle cap.
Winemakers add just the right amount of sugar and yeast into the bottle depending on how long they plan to age it. The wine then undergoes a second fermentation inside the bottle. This is where the bubbles come in.
After at least nine months of bubble making, the yeast’s job is finished. Winemakers very carefully remove the yeast, add in more sugars (except in the brut nature variety, which contains no added sugars), pop in a cork, and the wine is ready!
Cava is a light to medium bodied, typically dry, sparkling wine – with zesty citrus flavours, a distinct minerality and racy acidity. The bubbles are very fine and produce a lovely mousse which contributes to a smooth and creamy mouth feel. Dominant flavours typically include lemon/lime, quince, almond, and tart apple.
Is cava dry or sweet?
There are seven different sweetness levels of cava, depending on how much extra sugar is added. Brut nature, extra brut, and brut cavas are the driest, and dulce, semi-seco, and seco cavas are the sweetest. Semi-seco cava falls in the middle of the spectrum.
Contrary to what you may think, cava is one of the most unfussy, unpretentious sparkling wines out there. Its excellent quality to price ratio makes it perfect to enjoy whenever.
Last but not least, in addition to being delicious on its own, cava makes an excellent addition to cocktails or mixed drinks, Christmas holidays, weddings, birthdays celebrations and any special occasions.