When I was asked by Freixenet to spend a week in Barcelona (and surrounding Penedès) learning about Cava, I immediately started packing. My friends all know that I have a huge weakness for sparkling wine. When they are all ordering martinis or gt (gin and tonics, I am ordering Champagne, Prosecco or Cava – basically anything with bubbles.
Sure I know that Cava is a value sparkling wine, but that is just the start of the journey. This was the “Earth to Effervescence Trip in Penedès”.
The first day was a vineyard tour where I learned the best vineyards for Cava are protected by the Montserrat Mountains. These mountains are not extremely high, but do offer protection from the elements. Cava primarily utilizes the native Spanish grapes of Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada although they are now allowed some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The process for producing Cava is the same as Champagne. The grapes are picked by hand, pressed gently and then fermented into dry still wine. The wine is then bottled with the addition of yeast and wine which will start the second fermentation. The bottles are placed on their side for at least 9 months for Cava and 15 months for Reserva Cava. This slow second fermentation creates the CO2 or bubbles in the Cava as well as the subtle toasty aromas.
The yeast deposit is then “disgorged” or removed by freezing and ejecting out of the bottle. Next the dosage is added which will replace any lost liquid as well as add the sugar to establish the sweetness level of the Cava. Remember that “Brut” is very dry while “Extra Dry” has a bit of sweetness.
Cava producers can range from very small producers where the Cava is made entirely by hand to the very large producers utilizing robots to keep up with the millions of bottles produced each year. Regardless of the size of the production the end result is quality sparkling wine at an extremely good price.
The best part of the trip was an entire week of nothing but Cava. Cava with Tapas, Cava with fish, Cava with shellfish, Cava with Barcelona Canalones (Spanish Cannelloni), Cava with … well Cava with absolutely anything!
Cava is made to be enjoyed upon release and since over 10 million bottles are produced each year there is enough for everyone to have on a daily basis.
Brenda Audino, DWS, CWE