CAVA Spain’s Effervescent Treasure a review of Cava & other Sparkling Wines

11th September 2018


Several years of investigation, visits to more than ninety sparkling wine producers, meetings with authorities of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Catalan Institute of Vines and Wines, the Regulatory Boards of the Cava, Requena and Rioja Denominations of Origin and the Cava Institute, and observations in numerous commercial outlets and restaurants have culminated in the publication of what can well be considered as the most complete and objective book in English about Cava and many of the other quality sparkling wines produced in Spain.

CAVA, Spain’s Effervescent Treasure, is intended to be a factual and complete study of these wines, but yet at the same time easily readable and hopefully entertaining. Starting with the “real” history of Cava, several years before the commonly accepted period, the early 1870s, the book describes the results of investigations by several Catalonian scientists and engineers into the Champagne Method of producing sparkling wines. Another pioneer was the founder of Mont Ferrant, Agustí Vilaret, who had thousands of bottles of his sparkling wine in commercialization in the 1860s.

Cava is a unique wine, probably the only wine that is produced in a geographic distribution all over Spain in regions separated by hundreds of miles from one another. This geographic distribution is significant in that the particular geological and climatic conditions differ from region to region, but the specific grape varieties authorized for Cava grow well and give the Cavas produced in these areas subtle to pronounced particular characteristics.

Cava is often referred to as a less expensive alternative to Champagne. However, because of the geographic separation between the Champagne region in northern France and the diverse regions where Cava is produced in Spain, nearly 1,000 miles between Epernay and Almendralejo for example, Cava and Champagne may be considered as alike as grapes and grapefruit. But above all the principal difference resides in the grape varieties used for both – Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (both dark grapes) and the Chardonnay white grape, for Champagne, and Macabeo, Xarello, Parellada and Chardonnay (all white grapes) as well as some Pinot Noir and Trepat red grapes for blanc de noir (white from red) or rosé types.

This book contains specific information heretofore rarely seen in other works on Spanish and other sparkling wines published in diverse languages; Spanish, Catalan, English or French, for example, Kosher sparkling wines and low alcohol content wines. Some one million bottles of Kosher Cava are produced yearly, mostly destined for export to several countries including the United States, Great Britain, France and Israel amongst others. Several wineries produce low alcohol content sparkling wines, often called Frizante.

Although nearly 90% of Cava is produced in Catalonia, regulated Cava is also produced in nearly thirty wineries in Valencia, La Rioja, Navarra, Extremadura, Aragón and even by one in the region of Castilla & Leon. Also, there are more than a dozen wineries in the Penedés region of Catalonia producing what is known as Clàssic Penedés which is practically identical to Cava except for the denomination and some minor yet specific differences. There are more than eighty wineries spread all over the country that produce sparkling wines from a vast variety of grapes, some utilizing the Cava varieties – Macabeo, Xarello, Parellada and Chardonnay, while others use there respective local varieties such as Albariño in Galicia, Airen in Castilla La Mancha, Palomino in Andalucía or Moll in Mallorca and Listan in the Canary Islands. Many of these sparkling wines are up to the quality of many good Cavas.

Cava can be enjoyed at nearly any time, day or night, and should not be limited to baptisms, birthdays and weddings. One particular tasting and pairing session held during the research for the book was in a chocolate factory in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, in which eight different Cavas, from Brut Nature through Brut to Sweet were paired with a wide range of chocolates from nearly pure dark through fruit and nut variations. The results were somewhat curious but extremely gratifying.

CAVA, Spain’s Effervescent Treasure will be available from mid-October, 2018.

George H. Potter, the author of this book is an American-born wine writer living in Spain. He has been a collaborator with several Spanish wine and cuisine magazines and has been a member of the jury in the Finest Glass of Bubbly Awards.

Shared by George Potter

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