Catalonia’s top region, Penedes, is famous throughout the world for Cava, which can be an outstanding sparkling wine. Although its classic blend of Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo are not exactly household name grapes, cava’s appeal can be universal. In fact, cava represents about 10 percent of Spain’s quality wine production, and more than half is exported.
Cava is Spain’s traditional method sparkling wine. Almost all cava comes from the Penedes region in northeastern Spain, about thirty miles from Barcelona. As with champagne, cava that is non-vintage comes from a blend of different vintages, whereas a vintage-dated cava is made of wine from that specific year only. Cava also uses the same terminology as champagne to describe the level of sweetness in the wine, such as brut, extra-dry, etc., with most cava being made in the brut style.
Cava has a fresh, simple citrus fruit flavor profile and pairs well with a variety of foods. Restaurants in Barcelona often serve a glass of the house cava after you place your food order (think local tapas bar menu for pairing ideas). Usually consumed young, non-vintage cava is refreshing, earthy, and easy to drink (sometimes a little too easy). Vintage-dated cava, not un-like vintage champagne, speaks to a wine of a special year’s harvest and of a higher quality overall, with a more complex flavor profile.
An excellent example of this would be the Marques de Monistrol, winemakers select, vintage 2009 Cava. Both vintage and non-vintage cava is less foamy than champagne or sparkling wine from California, and usually costs less than half the price – a tremendous value.