In the 1800s, Spain began producing sparkling wines to mimic their French neighbor's Champagne and they called it Champaña. But in the 1970s, French regulations were put into place such that only sparkling wine produce in the Champagne region of France could rightfully be called Champagne. So, the Spanish re-named their sparkling wine for the caves or cellars where the sparkling wine was kept for aging. Hence the name Cava.
Cava, mostly produced in Penedes near Barcelona, is traditionally produced from three regional grapes: Macabeo (~50%), Xarel-lo and Paralleda. But, Chardonnay and Pinot are sometimes used in smaller quantities. And Cava rosé gets it color from Granacha (Grenache), Monaastrell (Mouvedre) or Pinot Noir. Cava is produced in the traditional French method, where secondary fermentation is done in the bottle. All Cava must be at least 10% alcohol by volume but no greater than 13%.
There are three types of Cava and multiple styles. Of the three types, Cava is aged for 9 months, Reserva for 15 months and Gran Reserva for at least 30 months. And like Champagne, there are many styles, reflecting the amount of residual sugar:
- Brut Nature: 0-3 gm/liter
- Extra Brut: 0-6 gm/liter
- Brut: 0-12 gm/liter
- Extra Seco: 12-17 gm/liter
- Seco: 17-32 gm/liter
- Semi-Seco: 32-50 gm/liter
- Dulce: Greater than 50 gm/liter
Cava is a sparkling wine worth trying. It can be a bit more 'earthy' than Champagne, but nice bottles can be found in the $20 range. The Spanish don't relegate their consumption of Cava to special occasions and neither should you. Cheers!