Cava, Great Value, Even Better Quality
Sparkling wine is more than wine, it’s a celebration. Popping a bottle of bubbles can turn any reunion into a party. There’s no doubt the fine streams of bubbles rolling up flute-shaped glasses evoke a sense of finesse and elegance.
Sparkling wine is also versatile on the table, with an ever-present acidic backbone, you can pair bubbly wine with just about anything. Cava comes in all sweetness levels and colors, and there’s one for every budget too.
It’s hard to argue that Champagne is not the most popular and acclaimed style of sparkling wine. Still, the category is much more than the French version that can go for several hundred dollars, there are plenty of good valued sparkling wines out there, and amongst them, there’s Cava.
All you wanted to know about Cava
Cava is the Spanish version of Champagne; it wasn’t long ago when people actually called it Champaña before the EU banned the use of the name. The term Cava was set in place instead.
Cava means cellar, and it is an appropriate name because the Spanish sparkling wine, like good Champagne, spends quite some time resting in dark underground cellars to gain the complexity of aromas and richness.
There are more similarities between Champagne and Cava; they’re both made with the traditional, time-consuming, and labor-intensive method called ‘methode champenoise’, ‘método clásico’ or ‘méthode traditionnelle.’
To make Cava, you must first ferment grape juice to create wine; then you bottle it and ferment it again under pressure to form natural carbonic gas. But it’s much harder than it sounds.
Grapes and time
Cava and Champagne might share similarities, but there are a few key differences. Wineries make Cava with the local Spanish varieties, grown in the country's northeastern Catalunya region: Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo. Each one bringing finesse, aromatics, and a fresh mouthfeel to the blend.
The last ingredient is time. Even the most inexpensive Cava is aged 'on the lees' (resting with dead yeast) for at least nine months, which gives the wine an unctuous feel and a rich palate.
Making Cava is an expensive proposition, and winemakers need, above all, patience. Sparkling wine made in the méthode traditionnelle is an art form, and their creators settle for nothing but the best.
Although you can find Cava in various sweetness levels, the finest ones, like in Champagne, are labeled Brut, with a perfect balance between acids and sugar of up to 12 g/l.
Take ‘Barcino’ Brut Cava, for example. Made by one of the largest Cava producers in the Pénedes region, the wine is crafted with the finest estate-grown grapes and aged for 12 months on the lees. The wine is bright, citrusy, and clean. A delightful palate is refreshing and crisp, and it’s reminiscent of green apples and fresh-cut herbs. They make only 5000 cases of this beauty.
Then we have the big wines labeled Reserva and Gran Reserva. A minimum of 15 months on the lees gives these wines a contemplative feel not dissimilar to the profile of more expensive Champagnes.
Roger Goulart Reserva Brut Cava is an excellent example of this category. This winery has been making wine since 1882 and has 0.6 miles of underground cellars, 100 feet below the ground, to mature their gorgeous Cavas. Apples and peaches permeate the wine’s nose, and rich flavors evocative of patisserie infuse the creamy palate. For the price, no other sparkling wine can compete with Goulart’s quality.
If you haven’t tried Cava sparkling wines yet, you’re missing out on a great value, but also some serious quality.
The world of Cava is immensely varied, and a pure joy to explore. The next time you feel like celebrating go with Cava, you won’t regret it.