SPANISH CAVA SPARKLING WINE "SPANISH CHAMPAGNE"
The Spanish make
oodles of sparkling wine and those of particular interest are fermented in
bottle, along the lines of French Champagnes.
Most Spanish sparklers will have, somewhere on the label, the term
"Cava." This is a fairly recent designation and it first came to
light in 1959. In 1969 the Spanish government required wines called Cava
to be bottle fermented.
This was more formally decreed in 1972 when an entire bureaucracy was created to
regulate these products.
Over the years, the rules and regs have become more formalized and slightly
easier for consumers to determine, at least, some helpful information on the
For example, if we recall correctly, one could not say for certain if a bottle
of Spanish bubbly was made using the traditional method of bottle fermentation
or if it had been made by the Charmat, bulk process. This may have been
revealed only when you removed the cork from the bottle and there was some sort
of notation of "stars" on the cork letting you know your wine was, in
fact, bottle fermented.
Today, you can determine that by looking at the label.
Spanish sparklers with the Cava designation must be made from Macabeo
(Viura), Xarel.lo, Parellada, Malvasía (it's sometimes called "Subirat
Parent" by the kids in Catalonia) and Chardonnay for the white
varieties. For the red grapes, you might find Garnacha tinta, Monastrell,
Pinot Noir and Trepat. This latter grape is used to make pink or Cava
Rosado wines. We actually have a really good one in the shop.
Even though Cava may incorporate red grapes, typically the wines rely upon
Macabeo (also known as Viura), Xarel.lo and/or Parellada. Now, some
producers are planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in an attempt to make their
wines more of a copy of Champagne...good luck with that. Spain doesn't
have the same terroir or quite the same climate!
And isn't it a pity to change a wine that has been unique and particular to
Spain to make a copy of someone else's wine?
Cava producers actually have some analytical requirements to
These cover the amount of alcohol, acidity and such in the base
Then there are some aging requirements. Cava, at the very least, must
spend 9 months in the bottle.
If it's a Reserva, it needs 15 months and a Gran Reserva must spend, at least,
30 months in the bottle.
CAVA DESIGNATIONS & SUGAR
||Up to 3 grams of sugar/liter
without an added "dosage"
||Up to 6 grams/liter
||Up to 15 grams/liter
||Between 12 - 20 grams/liter
||Between 17-35 grams/liter
||Between 33-50 grams/liter
||More than 50 grams/liter
There are some other rules...
On a Gran Reserva Cava, you won't see a wine that's Dulce or Semi Seco. In
fact, Gran Reserva must be solely Brut Nature, Extra Brut or Brut.
Production of Cava was close to 200,000 bottles in 1900 and it doubled by
1910. In 1960 they were making 10,500,000 bottles, escalating to 47
million by 1970. During the 1970s the Freixenet brand made its grand debut
here and sales really took off. By 1980, Cava sales tallied to 82 million
bottles and by 1990 it production amounted to nearly 140 million! Sales
figures for 2008 show production at 228 million bottles. That's a lot of
bubbles. In 2013: 241 million bottles...
The Spanish prefer the drier versions of Cava as
79% of what they drink are Brut (and drier) bottlings. Meanwhile, the
export market tends to purchase minuscule amounts of the very driest Cavas and
more than half of what is exported is in the sweeter "Seco" and
"Semi Seco" categories.
Germany is Spain's most important Cava customer, followed by the United
Kingdom. The US is third on the list, buying about 48% of Germany's total
and about 60% of Britain's!
France has been a good customer, but sales have dwindled to 5.7 million bottles
as of the latest figures.
The Cavas of Spain may strike some palates as being
"Champagne-like." In our experience, sparkling wine is one of
the most difficult types of wine to assess.
If you drink lots of sparkling wine, you will find your palate can perceive
various differences and subtleties.
If you're a fairly casual sipper of sparklers, you're less likely to be able to
detect the various nuances (if there are any) in certain wines. As a
result, many relatively modest quality bubblies (not necessarily Cava) make for
perfectly acceptable stand-ins for Champagne.
We have good, well-made, really drinkable Cava for small money and, of course,
there are some more deluxe bottlings available.
Have a look.
RAVENTOS i BLANC
Raventos family has owned property in the Penedes region since a few years
after Columbus sailed the ocean blue...and they still cultivate grapes
and, these days, make some remarkable wines.
In the 1870s, one of the family decided to try his hand at making
sparkling wines, hoping to copy, to some degree, the wines of France's
And the Raventos family had a say in setting up the rules and regulations
for the "Cava" designation in Spain. But having seen and
tasted some of the really marginal, low quality bottlings which bear the
once-proud "Cava" designation, the Raventos family withdrew its
membership in the Cava association.
They've drawn up a new designation for their sparkling wine: Conca
del Riu Anoia is the appellation. Unlike the rules for Cava, this
designates a particular and small region in Spain for sparkling wine
production. The rules also call for a minimum price for grapes,
nearly 5 times the minimum pricing for Cava grapes.
The Conca del Riu Anoia rules allow solely for traditional, indigenous
varieties...no Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. The vineyards must be
farmed organically and the vines have to be at least ten years of age.
The regulations also insist on the sparkling wine spending at least 9 to
18 months on the spent yeast as a minimum, depending upon the designation
of the wine.
This bottling is 45% Macabeo, 35% Xarel.lo and 20% Parellada. Vine
age ranges from 20 to 50 years and the grapes are farmed
biodynamically. It's matured for about a year and a half on the
spent yeast and the dosage is fairly minimal, so it tastes nice and
We liked its elegance and found it to be a good alternative to California
Currently in stock: RAVENTOS i BLANC L'HEREU BRUT
Caves Blancher make this particular bottling of Cava.
It's a smallish producer that's now run by the third generation of the
The founder of the company, Antonio Capdevila Pujol long ago had the idea
that the quality of their wine was determined by the quality of their
grapes. Most of the fruit for this wine, then, is actually grown by
the Carbo family (the current owners Ramon and Enric Carbo).
It's made of traditional indigenous varieties...Macabeo, Xarel.lo and
Parellada. The wine spends at least 20 months on the spent yeast and
we would not be surprised if the actual time is a bit longer since the
wine is mildly toasty and yeasty.
The dosage is very low and so the wine has maybe 4 grams of sugar per
liter...so it's actually drier than most of our Brut
Another nice feature of this wine, apart from it tastes good, is the
price. This is a really nice bottle of bubbly and it's
Currently in stock: CAPDEVILA PUJOL Brut Natural
JUVE y CAMPS
old-time brand of bubbly traces its history back to the late 1700s.
We're not sure what they were producing back then or during the time of
Jefferson or Abe Lincoln. In fact, it was only around FDR's era that
business really made some progress.
But the 1920s saw some bottles of wine being sold, wines made by Señor
Juvé and his wife, Teresa Camps Farré. In addition to their wines,
they produced two sons. The boys came on board into the wine
business and ran things through the 1960s and 1970s.
company has embraced organic viticulture. As of 2015 they received
certification of their organic farming practices.
We're fans of their "Reserva de la Família" which spends close
to three years on the spent yeast. It's bottle-fermented, of course
and is a blend of three varieties coming from three different estates.
If you're a fan of statistics and want to bore the hell out of your guests
at dinner, make a note that this is 35% Macabeo, 55% Xarel-lo and 10%
Parellada. It's rather dry and mildly toasty, so you'll find
it to be a good and price-worthy alternative to more costly French
Champagnes and California sparklers...
In fact, the wine is designated as a Brut Nature which is remarkable since
they produce a large quantity of this wine.
But unlike many big wineries, they haven't catered to the market, which
always seems to prefer a wine that has some sweetness.
Currently in stock: JUVE y CAMPS Reserva de la
Familia (List $20) SALE $16.99
Gramona family has been making wine and bubbly in Spain's Penedes region for
several generations. Its bubblies are amongst the most prestigious of
Spain and worthy of comparison with Champagnes.
The family motto is "Viti, Vini, Vitae" which are three pretty good
"v's" to align yourself with. They have three vineyard sites La
Plana, Mas Escorp and El Serralet. There they are growing Xarel.lo,
Macabeu, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Gramona's wines have not been in our market very long, but I noticed them in a
distributor's catalogue and bought a bottle to taste. We were most
pleasantly surprised, finding the "Imperial" bottling of Cava to be
wonderfully yeasty and as dry and elegant as a good French Champagne.
Currently in the shop is the 2006 "Imperial," a bottle-fermented
bubbly which spends about 30 months on the spent yeast. The base wine is
Xarel.lo, Macabeu and Chardonnay. We like elegance and refinement of this
wine and while it's not cheap, it is certainly a premium bottle of bubbly.
Currently in stock: GRAMONA
fond of the Cava from the Bodegas Pinord, an old Spanish producer with
vineyards and wineries in a number of regions.
Of course, this comes from the Penedes region. It's a traditional
blend of local grape varieties...Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo.
No Chardonnay. No Pinot Noir.
- They say the Xarel-lo contributes structure and complexity to the blend,
while the Macabeo brings a fruity element. The Parellada tends to provide
a measure of backbone as it's typically acidic.
Each grape is vinified separately and then they make their master
blend. The wine spends about two years on the yeast, so it has a
nicely "bready" sort of fragrance. The dosage is small, so
the wine comes across the palate as quite dry.
And then there's the price. It's a mere ten bucks! This is
serious bubbly at a not-so-serious price.
Currently in stock: DIBON BRUT RESERVE CAVA SALE
Mireia Tetas and her Pop, Juan Jose
CONQUILLA BRUT ROSÉ
were not expecting much when a sales rep brought in this pink Cava.
So many low-priced bottlings are made by cutting corners, for one
thing. For another, they tend to be wines produced at the direction
of some marketing genius who routinely demands sweet wine which will
appeal to people who don't drink wine.
What's the point of making a product for people who are not at all
Here's a Spanish Cava that is a private label brand for an importer that
seems to have a clue about quality wines.
They certainly have some great vintners from around the world in their
portfolio and they represent some really top growers in France's Champagne
It's made by a winery called Emendis. They seem to practice
sustainable viticulture for one thing. The vineyards are close to
the cellar and each crate of hand-harvested grapes are chilled before
processing. They are placed on a sorting table where a rigorous
selection takes place.
We're told the wine is made from Pinot Noir.
Unlike to sparkling pink wines, this is not based on white grapes and then
given color by adding some red wine.
The Pinot Noir spends a number of hours with skin contact to get the
desired color and then it's vinified and turned into bubbly.
It turns out this Conquilla (Spanish for shell) Rosé is remarkable!
We're told it's made entirely of Pinot Noir.
It's seriously good, with a fine dark cherry fragrance. That fruit
character shines on the palate and the wine is totally charming.
And it's well-priced, too.
Currently in stock: CONQUILLA CAVA "BRUT ROSÉ"
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