A glass of Cava

What is Cava? Learn about this Catalan sparkling wine


Cava is a high-quality sparkling wine characterised by its bubbles and bright-golden colour. The name comes from the old underground stores in which the wine was originally stored, also known as cavas.

So, what are sparkling wines? These are wines that contain dissolved gas. This gas is the result of a second fermentation in the bottle (carbon dioxide is generated but cannot escape, and so ends up being dissolved). In other words, it’s a wine produced from another ‘base’ wine that has gone through an initial fermentation in stainless-steel vats. After this, yeast and sugar are added and the wine is ready for its second fermentation.This double fermentation is a typical stage for wines produced via the technique known as the Méthode Champenoise, the same used to make French champagne and Italian spumante wines. In Spain, this procedure is known as the Traditional Method, and the sparkling wines produced there using this method are known as ‘Cavas’ (protected under the Denomination of Origin label). While the three aforementioned sparkling wines are created in a very similar fashion, the grapes from which they are made tend to produce different results.

Bottles of Cava maturing on wooden racks

Cavas are classified according to the amount of sugar they contain per litre, measured in grams, (a whole range of Cavas is available, containing anything from three grams of sugar – known as Brut Nature – to 50 grams, as found in Semi Seco) and depending on the time they have spent maturing in the bottle.The Cava is left to sit for a minimum of nine months, as the longer the maturing period, the richer the range of nuances, aromas and flavours. Cavas are divided into three categories according to the time they have spent fermenting in the bottle. Those that sit for less time are lighter and fruitier, while those that mature for the longest are more complex and aromatic (as they’ve had more time to absorb the grapes’ properties). More precisely, they are classified as follows: Cava de Guarda (9 to 17 months), Cava Reserva (18 to 30 months), Cava de Gran Reserva (over 30 months) and Cava de Paraje Calificado (over 36 months).

Glasses of different types of white and rosé Cava

Cava is made in various different provinces in Spain: Tarragona, Girona, Lleida, Zaragoza, Badajoz, Navarra, Valencia, La Rioja and Álava, among others. However, almost all of this sparkling wine’s production is concentrated in Catalonia, particularly the area around Sant Sadurní de Noia in the Barcelona district of Penedès. This region was one of the pioneers of this drink, and its sparkling wines are of the very highest quality found in the country. Spain produces such a huge amount of Cava that the country has managed to position itself as the world’s second largest producer of sparkling wines (beaten only by France and its renowned Champagne).There are a few tips you may find useful when drinking your Cava. For example, Cava should be served chilled. To do so, you can place the bottle in a bucket of ice water, but it should never be stored in the fridge or served with ice. Another interesting fact is that Cava goes very nicely with practically all types of food; Cava Brut can even be used as a cooking ingredient. Or, for example, Cava Semi Seco is ideal as a dessert wine.

View of a vineyard with the mountain of Montserrat in the background in the Penedès region, Barcelona

To sum up, Cava is a very traditional sparkling wine from Catalonia. Light and refreshing, it is served in clear glasses that allow you to appreciate its bubbling golden glow – an essential on the tables of any important celebration.

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