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September 11, 2008

Wine 101 - Cc is for Cava

reserva-heredad-bottle.jpgDEFINITION Sparkling wine from Spain; made in the champagne method, which means that secondary fermentation occurs in each bottle versus in one large tank.

HISTORY
During the 1860s, the head of Cordoniu (which up to this point made only still wines) made a sales trip through Europe. While in France he traveled to Champagne and fell in love with both the region and its signature wine. He returned home to Spain with Champagne equipment and the knowledge to make Spanish sparklers with indigenous grapes.

gelida.jpgGEOGRAPHY
By law, Cava can be made in any of the six main wine regions of Spain. However at least 95% of it is produced in the Penedes which is in the Catalonia region of north east Spain.

SCIENCE
Regulations also dictate which grapes may be used for production. Cava must be made from one or more of the following five varietals: parellada, xarel-lo, macabeo, malvasia and chardonnay. It is most commonly made with the first three, but there are increasingly more producers experimenting with chardonnay as it adds a fuller, richer component that one finds in new world bubblies as well as in French sparking wines.

montsarra.jpgECONOMICS
This is the really exciting part. Cavas are quite inexpensive! So you don't have to wait for a special occasion to enjoy a little bubbly. You can find really good Cavas in the $8 - $20 range and great ones for under $30. Though if you're going to drink it every day, I say stick to the $8 - $15 bottles.

SOCIAL STUDIES
Recently my favorite subject... You certainly can substitute Cava for Champagne, but they are stylistically quite different. Because it is made with a combination of red and white grapes, Champagnes tend to be richer and more complex. HOWEVER, and I do mean a BIG however, who says you need to drink complex bubbly every day? The Spanish really get this right. They make a crisp, fruity, easy to drink sparkler that is really meant to enjoyed every day with every-day food. This is not a champagne and caviar mentality. Rather, it is a Cava with fried chicken (really, you must try it), or Cava with bruschetta, or Cava with sushi, or Cava with just about anything way of life.

HOMEWORK
Cristalino Cava Brut NV $9
The color of pale golden sunshine; soft and fruity with lots of bright pear and apple notes.
Montsarra Cava Brut NV $15
Light and zippy with subtle fruit and bright citrus crispness.
Marques de Gelida Brut 2003 $20
Soft yet crisp, Chardonnay adds a layer of depth to this estate-bottled stunner.
Segura Viudas Cava Reserva Brut $23
Rivals any top French bubbly; rich and toasty with lots of creamy vanilla and soft pear.

Read More in: Champagne and Sparkling | Wine Advice

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Posted by Noël Wallace at September 11, 2008 10:50 PM
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