Do you need a reason to drink bubbly? Some save it for birthdays and special occasions, but not in Barcelona. In Catalunya, cava is king, and as the locals say, it "goes with everything." Don't know much about this affordable, delicious beverage? Read up on the basics of cava!
Overview of Cava and Cava Production
What IS cava? Cava is, in the simplest terms, the sparkling wine of Spain, and the name "cava" is designated to wineries that follow specific vineyard and wine making protocols. These protocols are regulated by the government to ensure quality.
Cava is typically made from macabeu, parellada, and xarel-lo. (You could possibly spot some grapes you are more familiar with in cava, like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but typically the three listed reign supreme.)
Where do the bubbles come from? Cava is made by the champenoise traditional method, which is also the method for making champagne. With this process, fermented wine, yeast, and a small amount of sugar (acting as food for the yeast) are placed inside the bottle. As the yeast "eat" the sugar, a second fermentation occurs, producing the CO2 bubbles.
Styles of Cava
As with champagne, cava is produced a sparkling white wine or as a rosé. Rosé wine gets its color from the skins of red grapes (in this region, it is typically Garnacha, Monastrell, or Cabernet Sauvignon). The wine takes on a lovely pink color after a few hours of contact.
What does cava taste like? Cava ranges from very dry to very sweet, and a quick read of the label will indicate the sweetness level of a bottle of cava. Starting with the driest, Cava can be the following:
It is also important to note that cava is always aged. As with the level of sweetness, a simple label check will tell you how long the cava has been aged. Aged wines will have more mellow bubbles and more complex flavors, while lesser aged wines will have brighter notes and more active bubbles.
Cava: minimum nine months aging
Cava Reserva: minimum 15 months aging
Cava Gran Reserva: minimum 30 months aging
Pairing your cava with food is quite simple. Start first with the level of sweetness in the wine: a sweeter cava will pair well with foods that sweet or dessert wines typically pair with (think cream-based desserts or bleu cheeses) while a dry cava will go well with seafood or dishes with more fat in them, like pork.
Visiting a Cava House
Cava is mainly produced in the region of Penedes, which is in Catalonia. The most popular city for cava tours is Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, which is accessible by train from the Placa Catalunya station in Barcelona. The train ride is roughly an hour. Make sure to book your tours in advance for places like Freixenet, which is just across from the train station, and keep in mind that the entire town