Cava – The ‘Champagne’ From Spain
Okay, so we know that champagne can only be called by this name if it is made from grapes grown within the Champagne region of France, and adheres to strict production methods. However, this doesn’t prevent other countries from also using the same wine making methods – and one of the best of these is the drink known as Cava, made in Spain.
The word ‘cava’ is Spanish for cave – and refers to the early days of wine production in the country when wines were stored in caves whilst aging. It was in the 1970s that Spanish wine producers officially took the term and named their sparkling wine cava, in order that it be distinguished from champagne.
A Catalan Tradition
Although it’s believed that Spanish wines with some effervescence were being produced as far back as the 1500s, it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that serious efforts began to be made to produce a wine that was similar to French champagne.
In common with a large region of mainland Europe, the vineyards of Spain were decimated during the Phylloxera crisis. But this actually proved to be a positive occurrence for cava production, as the mainly red grape vines were replanted with white – and became cava vines. In fact, the first ‘official’ bottle of cava as we know it today was produced in 1872 by Josep Raventós. His travels had made him aware of champagne, and he was keen to return to his native country and create a Spanish version.
The Catalonia region of northern Spain is where most of the 200 million bottle of cava produced each year come from. And, similarly to champagne, the country has laws that mean only sparkling wine produced in official regions is allowed to be marketed as cava.
- The Basque Country
- Castile and Leon
- Valencian Community
By far the most cava is produced in the Catalan region, especially in an area known as Penedes – just south of Barcelona.
Cava Vino – White or rose, the choice is yours
Once again, in a parallel to champagne, cava can be found in both white and rose versions. It also comes in varying degrees of dryness – from ‘brut nature,’ the driest with no added sugar, right up to ‘dulce,’ which is the sweetest.
Different varieties of grapes are used to produce cava. The most common is the xarel-lo, but others are also utilised. These include;
- Pinot noir
To produce rose cava, the producers simply add small amounts of red wine – usually garnacha, monastrell or cabernet sauvignon.
The popularity of cava
Cava is enjoyed the world over, and many champagne aficionados also enjoy the Spanish equivalent. In Spain, it’s rare for a toast to anything to not include the obligatory glass of fizz. This is never so true as at midnight on the 31st January. Spaniards countrywide follow their tradition of eating 12 grapes in time with the chimes of the clock, all washed down with a glass of their national drink.
About Champagne ExpertWe are four people working on this blog: Jacki (England), LeChamp' (France) and Sophie & Marc (Germany)... and we love Champagne and all sparklers out there. We just started this website, we still learn, we will drink a lot of Champagne.
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> July 25th: Charles Lafitte 1834 Blanc de Blancs 12%. Nice nose, but far too sweet. The bubbles are great. 5.5/10
> July 19th: Billecart Salmon Brut. Rather balanced, not enough bubbles for my taste, a good pre-dinner Champagne, a bit too flat 6.5/10
> July 14th: Henri Giraud Cuvée Argonne 2002. Gentle fine bubbles: 9/10
> June 29th: Val de Cune Prosecco Treviso Brut. Very nice: 8/10
> June 25th: Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Brut Réserve: No bubbles, sour, flat.. 4/10
> June 20th: Champagne Beauvalet Brut Cote Des Bar Urville: 7/10
> June 18th: Piper Heidsieck Standard: very nice Champagne, that's a 8/10
> June 16th: Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut (Cava) .. stuff is too sweet 4.5/10
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