Cava is a white or pink sparkling Spanish wine, which is mainly produced in the Penedes region in Catalonia, about 25 miles south west of Barcelona. Around 95 percent of all Cava is produced in Penedes. One of the most popular sparkling wines in the United States is Freixenet, which is actually a Spanish Cava.

Cava was created in 1872 by Josep Raventós. In that year, most of the vineyards of the Penedes region were devastated by a plague and the red vines were being replaced by white grapes. Josep Raventós was aware of the success of the French Champagne wines and decided to develop a white sparkling wine, which we nowadays know as Cava. In Penedes regionthe past, the dry sparkling wine was called Spanish Champagne, but that's no longer permitted under the current laws of the European Union. Winemakers from Catalonia decided to name the wine 'Cava', after the Catalan word for cellar, where the wines are traditionally stored. So you could say that Cava is the Spanish alternative for Champagne.

Cava can be found in various levels of dryness, which are:

  • Brut Nature
  • Extra Brut
  • Brut
  • Extra seco
  • Seco
  • Semi-seco
  • Dulce

According to the Spanish Denominación de Origen laws, Cava can only be produced in six wine regions (Navarra, Rioja, Andalucia, Valencia, Extremadura and Penedes), must use a selection of the Macabeu-, Parellada-, Xarello-, Chardonnay-, Pinot noir-, or Subirat-grape and must be produced according to the Traditional Method of the French sparkling wine Champagne. The second fermentation in this method takes places in the bottle instead of a large closed tank. Wines produced with other processes may not be called Cava, but may only be called vinos espumosos, which is Spanish for sparkling wines.

The grapes and the fermentation-method make Cava a light and fruity wine and a very good alternative to French Champagne, often also more affordable than the French sparkling wine. There is is also a rosé Cava available, which is produced in small quantities.

Cava is not the only sparkling wine produced in Spain and the consumer can get confused easily. However, a real Cava you can distinguish by the cork. The cork of a Cava-bottle should be marked with a four-pointed star.

Cava BottleCava does not improve with being kept. After buying the Cava, store it in an upright, cool place, for as little time as possible. Preferably drink it in the week that you purchase this Spanish sparkling wine. Also keep in mind that the sweeter the cava is, the cooler it needs to be served. That means that a semi-seco or a dulce should be well chilled.

Cava plays an important role in the Catalan and Spanish traditions and is traditionally being served at important family happenings like for instance weddings, baptisms and family dinners.
Enjoy your Spanish alternative for Champagne: Cheers! Or like the Spanish say: Salud!

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