What is Cava?

What is Cava?

Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine. Cava is the lesser-known little brother of Champagne and Prosecco. While they seem to get all of the attention, Cava is a real game-changer for those who enjoy sparkling wines. It is often less than $20 per bottle and it tastes great!

History of Cava

What is it about sparkling wine and rich history? We see this with France’s Champagne and Italy’s Prosecco. Arguably, Champagne was invented first (by accident…hello secondary fermentation) by France, who made it mainstream and took this otherwise known wine fault into a global phenomenon.

1872 is said to be the first production of Spanish Cava by Codorniu estate.  This estate is still visited today by thousands of people in the Cataluna region. Like the French, underground cellars were built for the production of sparkling wines.

Freixenet is another flagship cava estate that has reached millions globally. Hundreds of estates produce cava in the Penedes region near Barcelona. The close proximity to the city has made it possible for exporting and gaining attention early on.

Cava production also takes place in La Rioja, Aragon, Castille y Leon, Extremadura, and other places around Spain.

Here’s a list of some of the top Cava brands to try.

Grapes Used for Cava

Cava uses indigenous Spanish grape varietals. The three traditional grapes used are all white varietals: Macabeu (Macabeo), Parellada, and Xarel-lo.

How is Cava Made?

Cava is very similar to Champagne, although there are a couple of differences.

Similarities include how it is made. Both are made in a traditional sparkling wine method (called methode champenoise) and the wine goes through a second fermentation (the thing that makes the bubbles) naturally in the bottle. Only wines produced in the traditional method can be called Cava. Although winemakers produce Cava all over Spain, most of Spain’s Cava is produced in the Penedes region of Catalonia. 

One thing that is different between Cava and Champagne is the rose Cava cannot be blended. Meaning Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarel-lo (which are all white grapes) cannot be used. Only red grape varietals can be used. Garnacha (Grenache), Pinot Noir, Monastrell (Mourvedre) and Subirat grapes are commonly used for rose Cava and act as the base wine.

What does Cava taste like?

Cava tastes more similar to Champagne than Prosecco does. It may be because of the winemaking techniques and the grapes used. Cava is characterized by its simplicity. Light lemony flavors, almond nuances, and a slightly bitter finish.

Both Cava and Prosecco use native varietals that are otherwise unpopular around the world for their sparkling wine production. France, on the other hand, uses Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two very well-known grapes. This also makes these sparklers much more unique, as you can only get the flavor combinations from authentic Spanish or Italian grapes and winemaking.

Styles of Cava

Just like Champagne, Cava can come in a variety of styles.

Brut and Brut Nature (Extra Brut):

AKA dry and extra dry. These are the most common styles of Cava. They are nutty, full of citrus, acidic, and have a slightly bitter aftertaste.

You can also find some sweeter cava wines that will be labeled seco, semiseco, and dulce.

Rose Cava:

The pink stuff! Rose Cava is made with red grapes. This is also usually dry.

Aged Cava:

Real luxury is aged cava called Reserva Cava or Gran Reserva Cava. It is aged on the lees (pretty much dead yeast and particles from the winemaking process), which gives it great body and flavors of almond and baked apples.

Food Pairings

Keep in mind that Cava has less residual sugar and more acidity than other sparkling wines. Therefore a higher fat dish with no spiciness will be a great pairing choice.

Salmon, oysters, and other fish with a cheesy or creamy sauce is a classic for Cava pairings. Here is my favorite creamy salmon sauce recipe. 

Cava even goes well with Chicken Alfredo!

People usually think of sparkling wine as something only drunk on holidays and special occasion. However, sparkling wine is so versatile and is great everyday drinking wine. But what about the cost? Keep reading…you will be shocked at how affordable cava is compared to Champagne, Prosecco, and every other wine you love.

Where to Buy Cava and Price

France, Italy, and California seem to take up most of the space in the sparkling wine section of your local wine shop. What gives? Well, most people are only familiar with Champagne and Prosecco. Especially if it’s for a special occasion, people want what they know they will like. Many smaller wine or liquor shops don’t even carry cava.

Look in the international or Spain/Portugal section of the wine shop. If it is not there or in the sparkling wine section, then ask the clerk. If you are unable to find cava anywhere, ask the clerk if they are able to put in a special order for you. Seeing a demand for a product that they don’t carry will encourage them to put some on the shelf and see how it sells. The price point of cava will be a popular factor among people buying it and these wines usually move pretty fast.

Buy online. It’s always nice to support local businesses. However, they can’t have everything. Wine.com and other online wine shops deliver to tons of places around the United States and Canada and have thousands of options. You will find numerous types of cava from traditional to rose, from brut nature to dulce and everything in between.

A decent bottle of cava will cost you around $9. Yes….just $9 for a full-size bottle. Reserva and Gran Reserva cava usually costs around $15. That number is also correct. Need I say more? Go buy some cava!!!!

TIP: Authentic Cava is often much more affordable than Champagne or Prosecco. It makes a great choice for those wanting to buy sparkling wine in bulk for weddings, events, New Year’s, or for those simply looking for an affordable alternative. It also makes a great choice for mimosas.

Cheers, time to get your bubbly on!