Not be confused with that other beloved bubbly, Prosecco, Cava is the name of a type of sparkling wine of Denominación de Origen (D.O) status from Spain and is actually much closer in structure to Champagne (though without the luxury price-tag). The word ‘cava’ refers to cellar, as in the early days of production cellars were used for preservation and ageing and though there are very well regarded vintage Cavas, it is much more of an early drinking wine in general.
About 95% of the grapes used to make Cava are grown in Penedès, not far from Barcelona and the traditional varieties used to make Cava are Macabeo (aka Viura), Parellada and Xarel-lo. More recently Chardonnay, Malvasia, Garnacha and even Pinot Noir, has found its way into blends, making for a more accessible style worldwide. The wines may be white or rosé in style and have an aromatic, lemony, almond and floral nature.
Cava is made using the traditional method (metodo tradicional in Spain), where second fermentation takes place inside the bottle in which the wine will be sold. The base wine is bottled with a measured amount of sugar and yeast. The second fermentation will give just the right amount of fizz whilst raising the alcohol level an extra 1-1.5%. It also leaves a sediment of dead yeast cells which is the key to those complex, savoury flavours. They are removed before release to market by a method known as disgorgement.
Image: Castell d’Or Cava Brut Reserve Imperial; © Castell d’Or.