Cava, from Spain, is the world’s best selling sparkling wine [Yes, French wine makers will dispute that!]. Spain actually has more land devoted to grape cultivation than any other country, but its yields are lower so that Spain only ranks third in terms of volume of wine production. Most Cava producers are established in Northeast Spain near Barcelona in the region of Catalonia, where 95% of all Cava is made.
The variety and quality from Spain’s 10,000 wineries is wonderful. I do enjoy Spanish wine but Cava is certainly Brian’s favorite. As a base for sparkling wine cocktails, Cava supplies a pure, sweet flavor that blends so very well with fruits and other spirits. Spanish warmth, plus the Spanish varietals, can only be expected to produce sparkling wines that differ from their French and Italian counterparts.
“Cava” means cellar in Spanish and Cava is carefully crafted with traditional Champagne techniques. The two great producers of Cava are Codorniu — founded in 1551 — and Freixenet. The two began Cava production in 1872 and 1889. These two firms have clashed in court over approaches to wine making and their opinions of their competition. In the 1990s there were charges of wine making heresy: using unauthorized grapes! Purely made Cava is based on three Spanish varietals: Parellada, Macebeo, and Xarel-lo. Since joining the EU, these two Cava firms, and all other Spanish wineries, are working through the network of regulations and requirements. Fortunately, Spanish wine quality has not suffered in the process. In fact, before 1970 Spanish sparkling wine was called Champagna but apparently that clashed with another country’s view of the world. Champagna out, Cava in.
As you might expect for a sparkling wine, there is range of prices for Cava. There are excellent, truly excellent bottles out there for under $10. We drink it with appetizers, with entrees and with chocolate for dessert. And, of course, Cava is an excellent choice for some hours spent on tapas. Cava is a natural match for the widest range of food flavors. On your next passage down the aisles of your wine store, do meander in the Spanish sparkling section. Sample a few brands and you’re like to find a new favorite.