We start the week with bubbles! Mr Barrel will show us the different types of Cavas and the grapes we use to produce them.
Cava is not only good for celebrations, it´s also a great accompaniment for any meal and of course it´s delicious with desserts.
It´s good for any occasion!!
10 Fun Facts About Spanish Cava
- CAVA IS MADE IN SEVERAL REGIONS ACROSS SPAIN, BUT APPROXIMATELY 95 % OF IT COMES FROM THE PENEDÈS REGION OF CATALONIA.
- A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT GRAPES ARE ALLOWED TO MAKE CAVA. HOWEVER, THE THREE MOST TRADITIONAL ARE XAREL-LO, MACABEO AND PARELLADA.
- MANY VINTNERS ALSO USE CHARDONNAY AND PINOT NOIR TO MAKE CAVA — TWO GRAPES THAT ARE ALSO USED FOR CHAMPAGNE.
- CAVA THAT IS MADE FROM LOCAL GRAPES TENDS TO HAVE EARTHY AROMAS.
- FREIXENET, MAKERS OF THE WORLD-FAMOUS CORDON NEGRO IN ITS SIGNATURE BLACK BOTTLE, IS ALSO THE WORLD’S LARGEST PRODUCER OF SPARKLING WINES.
- UP UNTIL 1970, CAVA WAS CALLED “SPANISH CHAMPAGNE.” BUT DUE TO E.U. REGULATIONS, NO AREA OUTSIDE OF CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE CAN USE THAT TERM — REQUIRING SPAIN TO CHANGE THE NAME TO CAVA.
- THE WORD CAVA IS CATALAN FOR “CELLAR.”
- DESPITE MOST CAVA BEING RELATIVELY INEXPENSIVE, IT IS MADE THROUGH THE TRADITIONAL METHOD WHERE THE SECONDARY FERMENTATION PROCESS TAKES PLACE IN THE BOTTLE INSTEAD OF IN TANKS, WHICH IS USUALLY THE CASE FOR LOWER-PRICED SPARKLING WINES.
- AFTER REMOVING THE YEASTS FROM EACH BOTTLE, A SWEETENED RESERVE WINE IS ADDED TO CAVA. THE AMOUNT ADDED WILL DETERMINE WHETHER IT IS DRY (BRUT) OR SWEET (DEMI-SEC OR SEMI-SECO).
- ROSÉ CAVA IS USUALLY THE RESULT OF ADDING CABERNET SAUVIGNON, GARNACHA OR MONASTRELL GRAPES TO THE BLEND.
What’s the Difference among Cava, Sparkling Wine and Champagne?
Terminology in wine can be confusing, and sparkling wine is no exception. There are many different types of sparkling wine with names that often indicate in what part of the world the wine is grown.
Sparkling wine is the broadest term for bubbly. You can find sparkling wines from Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the United States, Australia and even Africa. Sparkling wines include Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, and Sekt, among others.
There is a common tendency to use the word “champagne” to refer to any type of bubbly, but the truth is that only sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France can carry this name.
Cava is sparkling wine from Spain made with native grapes like Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. This Spanish bubbly undergoes the méthode champenoise, a complex process where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, deep within the cool, underground caves that give cava its name (check out our section on How Freixenet is Made for more details on this process). All Freixenet Cavas are made in the méthode champenoise and it can take up to three years from the time we pick the grapes until the wine is ready for your glass!
The beautiful terroir of Penedès, the generous Catalan climate, and painstaking attention to detail both in the vineyard and the winery allow us to produce charming and elegant Freixenet Cavas that rival many of the best Champagnes.
Spanish Cava Grape Varieties
The main types of grapes used in the production of cava are the macabeo, the parellada and the xarel·lo – all of which bring their own unique characteristics to the sparkling wine.
- Macabeo – brings sweetness and perfume to the cava
- Parellada – brings subtlety, freshness and scent to the cava
- Xarel·lo – brings body and structure to the cava
Other varieties such as chardonnay and pinot noir are often used to produce copies of Champagne. There are also secondary varieties which are used such as subirat parent which is also called malvasía. In order to make rosé cavas, they use red varieties such as garnacha, monastrell and trepat.
How Spanish Cava been made?
These grape varieties are therefore used to create the basic still wine, which is then used to make the sparkling wine after the second fermentation. The winemaking process to make this base wine is the same as normal, with a soft pressing of grape musts, then a purifying stage to get rid of the must sediment. Finally the wine is fermented in large tanks. Once the base wine is produced, the wine makings then make the necessary mixtures for the next process.
Following the cava making tradition, the next stage is the tirage, which is when the base wine is bottled. To this wine, licor de tirage is then added – a mixture of white wine, sugar and yeast – which produces carbon dioxide and a characteristic smell once allowed to ferment.
The bottles are then left to settle in a horizontal position in a dark location with a constant temperature of 15°C. Bottles are left to age for at least 9 months. After this time, a large amount of sediment can be seen in the bottle which needs to be removed. In the early stages of cava production, this process was done by hand. An overseer would have to swirl the wine around so that the sediment moved towards the bottle’s cork. Nowadays, this process is done by the gyropalette – a machine in which several bottles of wine are placed, cork down, and then moved in a similar motion. Thanks to this machine, cava production has become significantly faster and cheaper.
In the traditional fashion, the bottle is then held completely upside down and then uncorked, allowing some of the foam and the sediment to escape. Today, this process occurs during the freezing of the neck of the bottle. When the cork is removed, a block of ice from the neck is removed which contains the sediment within it.
Any lost liquid can be replaced by topping the bottle up with ‘licor de expedición’. The amount of sugar added at this point is what determines what type of cava the bottle is. Finally, the corking process in carried out which involves the application of a cork made from natural cork wood, as well as the cover which can be a wire cage or a metal clip.
How Many Types of Spanish Cava?
The types of Cava may be classified by the amount of sugar added to them, leading to the following classes:
- Brut Nature – up to 3 grams of sugar, not added sugar
- Extra Brut – up to 6 grams of sugar per litre
- Brut – up to 12 grams of sugar per litre
- Extra Seco (extra dry) – between 12 and 17 grams of sugar per litre
- Seco (dry) – between 17 and 32 grams of sugar per litre
- Semiseco (semi-dry) – between 32 and 50 grams of sugar per litre
- Dulce (sweet) – more than 50 grams of sugar per litre
In the cases of Brut Nature and Extra Brut, where no added sugar is added, only wine, has changed the production of cava. These types of cava have become much more popular and tend to be extremely high quality which has led to an increase in their production. However this has also resulted in a decrease in the output of Semiseco cava, and the sweet variety has almost stopped being made altogether.
Spanish cava may also be classified according to the time the wine has spent ageing:
- Joven – from 9 to 15 months
- Reserva – from 15 to 30 months
- Gran Reserva – more than 30 months (subject to a tasting and analysis by the Consejo Regulador del Cava)
Food Pairings with Cava
Here are some examples for food Pairings with Cava
- Choosing the correct drink at an informal dinner of different snacks can be a nightmare. However, if from the beginning you go for a cava, not only it simplifies you job, but is a it’ll be a hit. Seafood, oysters, ham, croquettes, canapés, tempura or cheeses, can match perfectly a Brut or Brut Nature Cava.
- Salads: Salads with fruit (especially grapes, apples and pears) or nuts make Cava an ideal choice. Pairing suggestion will go from a Brut Nature up to a Brut and our tip; go for young Cavas. What we are looking for here is a fruity Cava, with a touch of acidity and freshness. There no need here to spend too much money with a more complex cava. Rosé Cavas are recommended due to their affinity with the bitterness of green leaves.
- Pasta: The neutral taste of pasta combines extremely well from a Brut Nature up to a Brut. For instances: Pasta with sea food will pair perfectly with a Brut Nature or Brute Nature Rosé and that will make also our dish visually more appealing. Pasta with a Bolognese sauce with a Brut Nature or Brute Nature Rosé as cava will lover the acidity of the tomato. Cava can be a great mach also with more spicy Asian noodles, as the fruit forward quality in sparkling wine provides an ideal foil for spicy foods.
The combination is endless, you just have to choose your favorite condiments and dressing and with cava it will be a perfect match. The further you go in the complexity and stronger the taste the further you’ll go with the aging of the Cava.
- Rice: A Brut Nature Cava goes particularly well with paellas and risottos. Likewise, Cava Brut Nature Rosé combines surprisingly great with a fideuá (a type of paella made with noodles and sea food) also visually.
Seafood:Cava helps to enhance the flavour intensity of seafood and shellfish as their natural saltiness is balanced out by the acidity of dry varieties. The pairing suggestion will be for more complex and aged Cavas such as Brut Nature Reserva or Gran Reserva.
- Fish: A particularly good combination with blue or fatty fish, as the effect of the carbon dioxide balances the greasy sensation in the mouth. ‘Meatier’ fish such as tuna also goes very well with Cava. Pairing suggestion go from simple Cava Brut Nature or Brut, to a more complex Cava Reserva Brut Nature Brut, depending on how the fish will be cooked.
- Meat: Cava goes fantastically with poultry and white meats. It’s also a tasty accompaniment to lamb, stews and carpaccio. Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut Nature, Brut Nature Reserva. The Roses can also be a great choice giving colour to the dish and making it a bit different and daring. Another great combination is rabbit with Brut Nature Reserva or Gran Reserva Cava, as this is a more intense meat, so it will require a more intense cava. Foie Gras combines marvelously with a Brut Reserva or Gran Reserva or even a sweet Cava which will help to offset all the fat. Cava is also ideal with BBQ’s in Spring and Summer, with chill Brut Nature Rose, it’ll be excellent.
- Desserts: Light, sweet desserts and acidic red fruit flavours match nicely with Cavas that are drier and sweet Cavas are a pleasant accompaniment to custard-based or creamy dishes. For red fruit tarts we particularly recommend a Brut Rosé Cava.
- Cheese: Although cheeses have always been associated with red wine, there are ideal cheeses for combining with Cava. There are several similarities between cheese and Cava: the use of yeasts, ageing time, acidity, fineness … All this allows Cava to have the virtue of rounding off and increasing the heightened refreshing sensation in the mouth by strengthening the agreeable effect of the cheese and the Cava itself. Sheep’s milk cheese and the fattier cheeses are perfect companions for a Rosé Brut or Reserva Cava thanks to its effervescent and degreasing effects. Cow’s or goat’s milk cheeses harmonize particularly well with a Brut Reserva Cava or on the other hand with Semi Dry or Sweet Cava. Blue cheeses such as Cabrales or Roquefort combine very well with the sweeter Cavas and their effervescence will help to clean the palate.
Here were just some tips, but what Cava to buy?
Best Spanish Cava to Buy
There are quite many nice cava at effortable price, check out the article below: