When the occasion calls for a little sparkle, most of us think Champagne from France, sparkling wines from California, and Prosecco from Italy.
By Lou Campoli
When the occasion calls for a little sparkle, most of us think Champagne from France, sparkling wines from California, and Prosecco from Italy. One sparkling wine that doesn’t get as much attention, and is equally as wonderful, is Cava from Spain.
Most Cavas are produced in Penedès, in the region of Catalonia. They are made using the traditional method, the same method as in Champagne. While the first sparkling Champagne was produced in the early 1700s, it is believed that the first Cava was produced in the mid-1800s by Codorniu.
Most Cavas are white and are made predominantly from three local white grape varieties: macabeo, parellada, and xarel-lo. With recent changes in Spanish wine laws, tiny amounts of chardonnay and subirat are now allowed to be used. We are seeing more Rosé Cavas on the market. They are produced by adding in tiny amounts of non-sparkling red wine made from pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, garnacha (Grenache), or monastrell (mourvèdre).
Cavas come in many styles: sweet (dulce), semi-sweet/off-dry (extra dry), dry (brut), and very dry (nature). There is a Cava for every palate.
Because of their crisp acidity, they are great food wines. White Cavas usually exhibit citrus, apple, and peach flavors with a touch of breadiness that adds to the fullness of taste. The Rosés are typically dry, with fruit notes of strawberries and cherries.
As with Champagne and Prosecco, Cava is a wine that should not be used merely for celebration. Its crispness and acidity enable it to be enjoyed with every dish and year-round. Lighter-bodied Cavas are excellent as an aperitif and with appetizers, especially paté, cured ham, anchovies, sardines, nuts and olives. They also match well with seafood, shellfish, and poultry dishes. Fuller-bodied ones pair well with heavier-sauced seafood and white meats, as well as with red meats, game, and sausages. Also, try Cava with Manchego cheese, before or after dinner. Its hint of sweetness complements spicy, hot-peppered dishes.
For a zesty finish to a meal, put a pint of softened lemon ice cream or sorbet in a blender. Add a 750-ml bottle of Cava, a little at a time, and blend until creamy and frothy. Pour into fluted glasses and enjoy. If you want an extra oomph, add a touch of Spanish brandy to your glass.
While there are many Cava producers, we recommend looking for the following.
Codorniu makes a wide variety. Look for Original Brut, Pinot Noir Brut and Anna de Cordorniu Brut and Rosé. Prices range from about $10-19.
Segura Viuras produces excellent Brut Reserva and Brut Rosé Reserva. Its top of the line is the remarkable Reserva Heredad. These Cavas can be found from $8 to $26.
Llopart is not as widely known or available, but it produces outstanding Cavas. Llopart Brut Reserva, Brut Gran Reserva and Rosé Brut Reserva. The prices range from about $18-30.
In the new year, try a new adventure. Cavas are wonderful to explore.