Cava. Now here is an understated, unappreciated and usually over looked sparkling wine. It’s more or less the Prosecco of Spain because Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) is also highly overlooked as everyone always seems to focus on Champagnes. Yet surprisingly Cava is usually very easily found in most major grocery stores which makes it accessible and very budget friendly.
*As a matter of fact, if you’re interested in sparkling wines and how most sparkling wines are mistakenly referenced as “champagne”, you might want to check out a previous post of mine called “Pass the Bubbly Baby!” which differentiates between the popular bubblies of the world.
While most of us understand why Champagne gets all of the attention due to it’s vast popularity (and let’s face it – nothing makes you feel more elegant than a glass of champs) it is certainly not the only player in the game.
While I was in Barcelona I drank quite a bit of Cava. The sad thing is that this was so long ago that I wasn’t as “in-the-know” as I am now so I didn’t make note of the producers, but what I did know was that it was GOOOOOD. All of it. I knew very little about Spanish wines while I was there, and I kept ordering Malbec (which is actually Argentinean but the relations between Argentina and Spain is a whole other set of geekery). It wasn’t until I tried to order Champagne one night that my lovely server brought me Cava with my order of paella and said “Try this. Trust me.” Bingo! Probably the best meal I had the entire time I was in Spain and by far still the best Cava I’ve ever had. I could kick myself for not remembering the label!
Cava, while produced all over Spain, comes most dominantly from the area of Penedès, Catalonia which is west of Barcelona. The grapes used to make Cava are macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo. While some Chardonnay grapes are finding their way into Cava production, the first three grapes listed are the most dominant.
Cava is produced using the same method as Champagne and even comes in similar types including:
• Extra Brut: super dry at 0-6 grams of sugar per liter (the driest)
• Brut: 0-15 grams of sugar per liter (dry)
• Extra Seco: 12-20 grams of sugar per liter (sweetish)
• Seco: 17-35 grams of sugar per liter (sweet)
• Semi-Seco: 33-50 grams of sugar per liter (even sweeter)
• Dulce: More than 50 grams of sugar per liter (the sweetest)
While older vintages of Cava can be in the $50+ realm, most of what you’ll find at a grocery store is going to be more along the lines of under $20. You can even buy a split (1/2 sized bottle) of Cava for under $5 if you live near a Cost Plus World Market. That way you can try it without investing too much dinero.
Cava is crisp, citrusy and light on acid which makes it gentle to drink. Serve it extra cold (around 45 degrees). An even better option would be to chill your wine flutes in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to serving so your Cava stays colder, longer.
So the next time you’re serving Spanish food or are at a Spanish restaurant, be adventurous and order a glass. Not only will they probably love the fact that you’re ordering an authentic Spanish bubbly, but in my personal opinion – nothing pairs with food better than a wine indigenous to that same region.