Cava is a sparkling wine made in closely the same way as Champagne. Cava is an exceptionally suitable alternative to French champagne and, for many, much better value for money. Like champagne, cava comes in different degrees of sweetness. At present, Cava is second only to Champagne in world sales of sparkling wines, and is widely known as the “Spanish champagne.”
The champagne discovery in the eighteenth century, followed by the flourishing Catalan viticulture in the nineteenth century, facilitated the creation of the first Cava wine during the end of the 1800s. The fermentation process that Louis Pasteur developed was adopted as part of the second fermentation in the bottle, while the discovery of cork preserved the bubbles made during this stage. In 1872 Josep Raventós i Fatjó, from the legendary house Codorniu, produced 3,000 bottles of Cava following the traditional method of second fermentation in the bottle, with the unique phase that wine bottles were taken to caves or “cava” during the 2nd fermentation. Don Manuel Raventós i Domenech, his son, expanded and consolidated the cava wine business. Other wine makers produced Cava wine also, and soon, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia became the historical capital of Cava. The three waves of wine business expansion in 1920s, 1960s, and 1980s, established the Cava wine industry. At the present, Catalan vitiviniculture is one of the most successful wine sectors, producing 200,000,000 bottles per year for customers around the world.
The areas manufacturing Cava is integrated by 160 municipalities in 7 Autochthonous Communities. The majority of these municipalities are situated in the Catalan vine growing zone of the following regions: Barcelona (67), Tarragona (52), Lleida (12) and Girona (5).
Harvest of the grapes used to make cava starts at the end of August and lasts until the end of October. Harvest is normally done manually and the grapes are transported to the cellars in boxes, which contain 25-30 kgs of grapes, or in stainless steel trailers, when vineyards are close to the cellars. The maximum authorized output is 1 hl must from 150 kg grapes. A mild first pressing provides must flower (”most flor”), which once clarified, is brought to the fermentation vats.
After collecting the base wine from grapes, the process of fermentation in the second bottle takes place. The first stage is “tirage,” wherein the bottle is filled with the base wine, wine yeast, sugar, and saccharose or grape must. The yeast distills the sugar and causes the second fermentation. The second stage is “remotion” or moving of the bottles, and where the yeast sediments settle in the bottle. The bottles are taken into caves and left there in a horizontal position for nine months. The third stage is “disgorging,” or the removal of the cork to eliminate the yeast sediments, with minimum loss of sparkling wine. The fourth stage is corking, followed by labeling, packing, and consumption of the bottle, which comes all the way from “tirage.”
Spanish Cava is produced with a variety of degrees of sweetness. These are the basic categories of cava, though the terms seco and semi-seco can differ from one wine maker to another:
• Brut Nature - (no added sugar) up to 3 g per litre
• Extra Brut - up to 6 g per litre
• Brut - up to 15 g per litre
• Extra seco - between 12 and 20 g per litre
• Seco - between 17 and 35 g per litre
• Semi-seco - between 33 and 50 g per litre
• Dulce - more than 50 g per litre
Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada are the main prized varieties of white grape, followed by Chardonnay and Subirat Parent or Malvasia Riojana. Garnatxa and Monastrell are the two varieties of red wine. Pinot Noir and Trepat are two red varieties, which are authorized to make Cava rosés.References Consejo Regulador del cava. (2008). Cava. Retrieved December 11, 2008, from http://www.crcava.es/index_e.html Ross, J.G. (no date). Cava - The Spanish Champagne. Retrieved December 11, 2008, from http://spainforvisitors.com/archive/features/cava.htm Wines from Spain. D.O. Cava. Retrieved December 11, 2008, from http://www.winesfromspain.com/icex/cda/controller/pageGen/0,3346,1549487_4946338_4944445_1052_0,00.html