Tiny Bubbles: Spanish Cava


The holidays are here and what better way to get into the festive mood than with a bubbly beverage.  While most people go for champagne you will get more bang for your buck and more versatility with the Spanish bubbly, cava.  There is very little difference between the two. In fact, cava is the most champagne like of the all the bubbly wines.  But I would argue there is so much more to love about cava as cava rather than aspiring for champagne.  In Valencia for example, cava isn’t just for special occasions but more often than not is enjoyed as a starter with cheeses and other appetizers before a meal.  

And what exactly is the difference between champagne and cava?  Outside of name and grape choice nothing.  The process of making cava is exactly the same as champagne. The difference between cava and champagne is the type of grapes used and name. Champagne is a region and so only sparkling wines made from this specific area made in that specific way can be called champagne. In Spanish it is known as Méthode Champenoise or Método Tradicional.  The reason why the methods are the same has to do with the phylloxera plague (a nasty aphid like bug) that, in the early 19th century, destroyed all European vines starting with France. The plague drove many French wine producers into Spain. 

People familiar with cava know that it comes from Catalonia specifically Penedes.  Cava also comes from Extremadura, Rioja, Ribera del Guadiana, Cariñena and Utiel-Requena.  I am currently obsessed with organic cavas from Utiel-Requena such as Vega Medien and Vegalfaro Brut Nature Reserva 2013.  Utiel-Requena was the second D.O. (Denominación de Origen aka wine region) to get permission to make cava.  

The traditional cava grapes are Viura (aka Macabeo), Xarel.lo, and Parellada.  There are cavas that are all three, or just two, and in some cases just a single grape variety.  As of late you will find other varieties, most notably garnacha which makes a lovely dusty pink rose cava or bobal which creates a vibrant fluorescent pink cava.

Cava, like champagne, is classified by the amount of sugar added per litre.  Brut Nature has about 3g of naturally occurring sugar. Extra Brut has up to 6g added in the form of licor de expedition which as mixture of sugar, a liquor and wine. Brut has up to 12g of added sugar, Extra Seco between 12-17g of added sugar, Seco between 17-32 g of added sugar, Semi-seco between 32-50 g of added sugar and finally Dulce which has more than 50g of sugar. Brut Nature is the most versatile, it is best for pairing with all kinds of savory foods from cheeses, to seafoods to mushrooms or rice dishes and is especially nice with foie.

Cavas can be white, rose and red and are an ideal wine choice because they are suitable for most all foods.  Go to cava to add a bit more pizzaz to your holiday but even after, cava will be there to make any meal or event an occasion worth celebrating.

I will be sampling a selection of cavas on Saturday, 17 December at V. Manneken from 18:30 to 20.  Swing by for cava and delicious cava cocktail before heading out into a night of holiday festivities.  Sign up here.