Cava deserves some more time in the spotlight and I’m here to tell you all about this wonderful Spanish fizz and why you need to be drinking more it.
Sparkling wine from Spain can only be called Cava if it produced in a specific approved region called a D.O (Designation of Origin) and the main winemaking area for Cava is a region called Penedés.
Cava is made using the ‘Traditional Method’ which means secondary fermentation happens in the bottle (creating the fizz). This is the same way that Champagne is made but different to Prosecco- where secondary fermentation usually takes place in a steel tank.
Even though Cava and Champagne are made in the same way, the region where Cava is produced is much warmer and a wider variety of grapes are used to produce many different styles which means there is something to suit everyone’s taste 😉.
There are different types of Cava according to how much sugar has been added to it (dosage) and different categories of Cava according to how long it has been aged for. I will talk about this a bit more detail further down.
Pictured above is a bottle of Anna Cordiniu Blanc de Blanc which is a blend of 70% Chardonnay, 15% Parellada, 8% Xarel·lo, 7% Macabeo.
Having been aged for 15 months it comes under the youngest style of Cava where the minimum ageing 9 months and goes up to 18 months.
Delightfully crisp, bursting with citrus, apple and peach flavours as well as tropical and floral notes. Honey, pastry and brioche aromas add a lovely richness and depth to it. For around £13 a bottle this is an excellent value alternative to Champagne.
Cava Grape Varieties
The bottle pictured above is Pere Ventura Gran Reserva is made from a blend of Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada grapes- although it is made in the same way as Champagne, it is the use of these indigenous grapes that gives this and other Cava’s its own identity.
There are quite a few local grape varieties permitted in the use of Cava production and also in more recent years Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, but it is these three varieties that are essential.
Macabeo contributes floral and fresh aromas to the wine, whereas Xarel-lo has naturally high acidities which helps with structure and finesse and then we have Parellada, giving Cava its delicious aromatic notes. So when blended together, you have all the hallmarks of a great sparkling wine.
The Pera Ventura Tresor is rich is intense with flavours of ripe pear and apples, citrus and blossom with notes of toasted almonds and brioche.
This award winning wine is at a fabulous price tag of £11 available from online Vinello.
Cava Ageing Categories & Dosage
When looking to pick out a bottle of Cava, like all wines there are clues on the bottle label that can help you choose which style you might like the most.
One of the things to keep a look out for is the terminology for the different ageing categories of Cava as this affects its final flavour style.
Cava de Guarda: Has to be aged for at least 9 months, making it the youngest Cava category with a distinctively fresh and fruity flavour profile, plus lively bubbles.
Cava de Guarda Superior: there are three subcategories within this:
- Reserva: min 18m bottle ageing. Blossom and stone fruit notes are complemented by hints of spice and toast.
- Gran Reserva: min 30m bottle ageing. Layers of complex notes such as dried apricot, hazelnut, baked apple, smoke, and buttered brioche
- Cava de Paraje Calificado: min 36 months bottle ageing. As you can imagine this last category of Cava is going to be rich and complex, distinctive, nuanced tertiary notes of dried fruit and toasted nuts, plus truffle and aromatic herbs. Creamy mouthfeel with ultra-fine bubbles.
Disgorgement is the term for the process which removes the final sediment from the bottle of the sparkling wine. Once this is done the bottle will need a little top up before sealing it and completing the process. This little top up is called licor de expedición (expedition liqueur)– and is made up of wine and sugar. How much sugar added also contributes to the final style of Cava and can be found on the label, another little clue to help you pick out the right bottle.
The image below shows the range from dry (no sugar to very tiny amounts added) to sweeter categories of Cava according to the sugar that is added in the final stage. The terms along the top are the ones to look out for on the wine label
The bottle in this next photograph is Vins el Cep MiM Natura, Reserva 2016
So using the information about the different ageing categories and style of Cava according to the dosage we know this is Reserva wine which will have been aged for 18 months and it is a Brut Nature which is the driest style, which happens to be one of my favourites.
Cava & Food Pairing
Having evolved in the Mediterranean region for centuries, Cava’s indigenous grapes and flavour profiles can pair with a vast array of dishes, and each brings its own personality to the table. The three main grape varieties in Cava blends or varietal wines are Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada.
Dry and younger styles of Cava are great as an aperitif, with salted snacks like crisps and nuts or with seafood, a great match with the prawns and squid.
Older styles such as Reserva or Gran Reserva is great for pairing with cheeses like Manchego or an aged cheddar as well as charcuteries and jamon.
If you’re looking for something to pair with puddings or some fizz for an afternoon tea look for a Seco or Semi-Seco Cava, the extra sugar in this style will work well with sweet treats.
The bottle of Freixenet Cava is one I’m sure you have all seen in the Supermarket on many an occasion, having won many awards this is a great value fizz at around £10. It falls into the youngest Cava de Guarda category so you expect something fresh, fruity and lively.
The Vallformosa Gran Baron Cava is soft fruity and rounded with nutty almond notes sure to be a crowd pleaser it also £10 from Amazon.
So in summary, if you are looking to find the perfect bottle of Cava have a look on the label for:
- The Grape Varietes
- The Category: Cava de Guarda, Reserva, Gran Reserva…
- The Style according to dosage: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Seco, Semi Seco
If you would like to read or learn more about Cava have a read head to the official D.O Cava website.