Cava | Spain's National Bubbly
Spain’s national bubbly is an elegant wine that complements everything from a simple meal to a grand occasion. Like the flirtatious elegance of a flamenco dancer, there is more to Cava than meets the eye.
Cava originated in Spain’s Catalonia region in the late 19th century. Josep Raventós, fascinated and inspired by the success of Champagne in France, experimented with the méthode champenoiseand Spain’s indigenous white grapes. When tragedy struck the Spanish vineyards in the form of phylloxera, the Spanish vintners followed the lead of Raventós and replanted their vineyards with the golden grapes of Macabeo, Parellada and Pansa Blanca (also known as Xarel-lo, pronounced cha-rel-lo).
Early versions of the Spanish bubbly were called champán or xampany after champagne, a practice that ended in 1970 when the European Union awarded Champagne Protected Geographical Status. Winemakers adopted the name Cava after the Catalan word for cellar. Traditionally, the wine was kept in caves or underground cellars during fermentation and ageing – a practice that ensured the cool temperatures rarely fluctuated and allowed for steady development.
Now, with advanced technology, winemakers can maintain control of every aspect of the wine’s development – from sugar balance to fermentation – giving rise to Spain’s reputation for high quality sparkling wine.
Cava is produced from a combination of white grape varieties using the méthode champenoise – the process of instigating a second fermentation in the bottle. From harvest to shipment, the production follows a distinct pattern.
Grapes are harvested earlier in the year, with a short period of time between harvest and pressing, in order to retain as much must as possible. The must is extracted with a gentle pressing to ensure the highest quality.
Once complete, the must is clarified and the fermentation process begins. Yeast is added, temperatures are controlled and the wines are vinified separately. After vinification, the winemaker determines the proportion of each base wine to include in the blend. Different varieties complement each other to produce a Cava with its own personality.
Bubbles & Crowns
Yeast is the key to the delicate bubbles that make Cava so extraordinary. It is the catalyst that provokes the secondary fermentation in the bottle, which is marked with a crown cap at this stage. The yeast also turns the creation of Cava into an art, transforming the winemaker, who must determine the perfect amount of yeast to balance the sugar and obtain the right degree of fermentation, into an artist.
Completing the Masterpiece
At the end of the aging period, the bottles are clarified and disgorged, a process that removes all sediment and yeast. The bottles are rotated and inclined so that the sediment migrates to the neck; then the yeast is removed. As a general rule, the neck of the bottle is frozen and, when the crown cap is removed, the frozen yeasts are expelled by the pressure in the bottle.
The bottle is then refilled and topped off with expedition liquor (which determines the degree of sweetness in the final product). Finally, the bottle is stopped with the traditional cork stopper and wire mesh, washed and labeled.
Cava should be cooled for several hours in the refrigerator or 30 minutes in water and ice. The freezer should be avoided, as a sudden change in temperature can impair the properties of such a carefully produced product.
The glass must allow for the enjoyment of the colour, subtle aroma and size of the bead. Choose a fine, transparent glass, tulip or flute shaped, avoiding wide glasses that will release the aromas too quickly.
When opening, uncork the Cava gently to avoid any loss of wine and froth. As you pour, hold the bottle slightly tilted, letting the liquid slide down the wall of the glass. The glass should never be filled more than two-thirds to prevent the wine from losing its ideal temperature.
Always an ideal apéritif or celebratory glass, Cava also complements any appetizer – especially charcuterie, pâté, smoked salmon or trout and certainly Spanish tapas. Pasta and rice dishes, specifically a rich risotto or Spanish Paella, are ideal matches, as are cold or warm salads, most seafood and sushi.
For dessert, try with a sumptuous chocolate dish and any fruit based pastry or tart.
Order our delicious cavas from Cellar 284 until May 3, 2021