In reality, in addition to France (producing 550 million bottles), we have choices that include Italy (prosecco – producing 660 +/- bottles), Germany (producing 350 billion bottles), Spain (Cava. +/- producing 260 million bottles) and in the United States (production of 162 million bottles) (forbes.com). We realized that sparkling wine is great when we’re happy, wonderful when we’re sad, necessary when we’ve been laid off, and just what we need when we test positive for an Omicron test.
The universal appeal of sparkling wine has increased production by 57% since 2002 and global production accounts for 2.5 billion bottles, just under 8% of total global wine production of 32.5 billion bottles . The demand and production of sparkling wines is slowly increasing in Australia, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Portugal.
Sparkling wine in Spanish? IT’S OKAY
CAVA means ‘cellar’ or ‘cellar’ where, at the start of cava production, the sparkling wine was made and aged or preserved. Spanish winemakers officially used the term in 1970 to separate the Spanish product from French champagne. A cava is always produced with the second fermentation in the bottle and with at least 9 months of aging in the bottle on the lees.
Don Josep Raventos, a descendant of Don Juame Codorniu (founder of Cordorniu – one of Spain’s largest cava producers), made the first recorded bottle of cava in the Penedes region of northeast Spain. Spain. At the time, phylloxera (lice-like insects that were destroying coveted red-grape vineyards in Penedes) left the region with only white grape varieties. At that time, white grape varieties were not commercially viable when made into good still wines. Learning of the success of French champagne, Raventos studied the process, adapting it to create the Spanish version of champagne using the champenoise method from the available Spanish grape varieties Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada – giving rise to Cava.
Ten years later, Manuel Raventos launches a marketing campaign throughout Europe for his Cava. In 1888 Cordorniu Cavas won the first of many gold medals and awards, establishing the reputation of Spanish cava outside of Spain.
Spain is the third largest exporter of sparkling wine, slightly behind France, with exports mainly going to the United States, Germany and Belgium. As Spain’s signature sparkling wine, Cava is made using the traditional French Champagne method. It is largely produced in the northeast sector of the country (Penedes region of Catalonia), with the village of Sant Sdaurni d’Anoia home to several of the biggest Catalan production houses. However, producers are scattered in other parts of the country, especially where cava production is part of the Denominacion de Origen (DO). It can be white (blanco) or rosé (rosado). The most popular grape varieties are Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo; however, only wines produced according to the traditional method can be labeled CAVA. If the wines are produced by another process, they must be called “sparkling wine” (vinos espumosos).
To make rose cava, mixing is a NO NO.
The wine must be produced using the Saignée method, using Garnacha, Pinot Noir, Trepat or Monastrell. Besides Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel-lo, cava can also include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Subirat grapes.
Cava is produced in different levels of sweetness, ranging from dry (brut nature) to brut, brut reserve, seco, semisco, to dulce (the sweetest). Most cavas are not vintage as they are a blend of different vintages.
Cava Marketing Challenges
Why does the word Champagne flow so naturally from our lips, and Cava may not be in our wine lexicon? Sparkling wine from Spain is positioned on a saturated sparkling wine market, and suffers from an insufficient marketing budget. Italians have spent billions of dollars and euros to make Prosecco part of our everyday lingo, and France has been promoting Champagne since 1693 (when Dom Pérignon “invented” Champagne,
Informed consumers appreciate the inherent qualities of Cava: manual harvesting, gentle pressing of whole bunches in small, large-scale presses; prolonged bottle aging on the lees; manual disgorging for premium cuvées; and faithfully following the practices of the traditional method. While the wine groupie knows and appreciates the details, others who “just like wine” perceive a sparkling wine that is
Storekeepers also put Cava at a disadvantage, frequently pushing it with cheap wines or cheap spirits. Premium cuvées (Reserve, Gran Reserva and Cava del Paraje) do not occupy a place in the brains of wine buyers, or, if they do, it may be in the section of the brain called “budget”, forcing Cava to compete with English sparkling wine and even inexpensive champagne brands.
Cava is growing in popularity and new rules have come into force to maintain and increase quality by creating the CAVA Protected Designation of Origin Regulatory Council. Since 2018, Javier Pages has been leading the organization while also being president of Barcelona Wine Week (Spanish international wine fair).
What will the regulations be used for? The rules will expand the quality characteristics of cava and include all winemakers and makers of the Denomination of Origin (DO), increasing maximum origin and quality.
If the Cava is older than 18 months, it will be called Cava de Guarda Superior, and made with grapes from vineyards registered in the specific Registry of Guara Superior of the Regulatory Board, and must meet the following requirement:
a. The vines must be at least 10 years old
b. The vines must be organic (5 years of transition)
vs. Maximum yield of 4.9 tonnes/acre, separate production (separate traceability from vineyard to bottle)
D. Proof of vintage and organic – on the label
1. Production of Cavas de Guarda Superior (includes Cavas Reserve with a minimum of 18 months ageing; Gran Reserva with a minimum of 30 months ageing) and Cavas d Paraje Calificado – from a special plot with a minimum of 36 months of aging – must be 100% organic by 2025.
2. New zoning of the DO Cava: County of Barcela, Ebro Valley and Levante.
3. Voluntary creation of an “Integral Producer” label for cellars that press and vinify 100% of their products.
4. New zoning and segmentation by Cava DO will appear on the labels of the first bottles in January 2022.
Corpinat. The vineyards fight for freedom
Some Spanish wineries have left their DO, creating a unipersonal appellation: Conca del Rui Anoia because they are unhappy with the historical indifference of the Dos to quality which devalues the brand. Corpinnat is a new name among high-quality sparkling Spanish wines, and the founders have presented a plan to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture for certification. Once/if approved, it will be a radical overhaul of the Cava brand.
In 2019, nine wineries left Cava DO to form Corpinnat for fine sparkling wines. The wineries wanted to include Corpinnat in the DO but the regulatory board refused – so they left. Winemakers are interested in creating a wine focused on the terroir. Unlike France, Spain does not have a terroir-based classification system, and small producers of quality wines throughout Spain have been asking for a change for years. Bulk growers who buy grapes from anyone and anywhere in their very large geographically defined area are generating large quantities of cheap, headache-inducing industrial product, labeling it with the same DO, this which makes it nearly impossible for small, terroir-driven estates to differentiate themselves.
Cava does not undergo the same rigorous testing as champagne.
This translates into the reality that large cava producers are able to produce large quantities of poor quality wine with the same classification by smearing small producers of good quality wine with the same mediocre brush. The lack of quality control has caused the once world-famous title of Cava to lose its prestige as the global sparkling wine market booms. Cava has lost market share to prosecco, whose charmat method makes it inherently cheaper to produce.
During a recent wine event in New York, sponsored by the European Union (Quality Wines from the Heart of Europe), I had the opportunity to discover some cavas. Of the sparkling wines available, the following were my favorites:
1. Anna de Codorniu. White of whites. DO Cava-Penedes. 70% Chardonnay, 15% Parellada, 7.5% Macabeo, 7.5% Xarel.lo
Who was Anna and why put her name on a Cava? Anna de Codorniu is known as the woman who changed the history of the winery thanks to her mastery and elegance, she was the pioneer in the addition of the Chardonnay grape variety in the Cava blend.
To the eye, Anna presents a bright and energetic blonde hue with green reflections that make it pleasant to look at because the bubbles are fine, persistent, vigorous and continuous. The nose is happy with a discovery of wet rocks, orange citrus and tropical fruits linked to aromas of aging (think toast and brioche). The palate benefits from creamy, light acidity and long-lasting excitement leading to a long, sweet finish. Perfect as an aperitif, or with sautéed vegetables, fish, seafood and grilled meats; stands solidly on its own or paired with desserts.
2. Paul Gran Reserva Brut Nature. Maset. 30% Xarello, 25% Parellada, 20% Chardonnay.
Paul Massan (1777) is commemorated in L’avi Pau Cava, as the first of the family line. The old vines (20-40 years old) are planted in low density at an altitude of 200-400 m above sea level. The wine ages in cellars 5 m underground with a minimum aging of 36 months.
The eye finds golden nuances and well-integrated bubbles while the nose is rewarded with very ripe fruit, citrus, brioche and almonds. The mouth discovers a dry and creamy adventure that leads to a long and persistent finish with a sweetness reminiscent of honey and crabapples. Serve with shrimp and hot peppers or pour over oysters.
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This is a series focused on wines from Spain:
Rread part 1 here: Spain is upping its wine game: much more than sangria
Rread part 2 here: Wines of Spain: Taste the difference now
© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyrighted article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.