A couple years ago we came upon a perfectly lovely sparkling wine out of Spain which quickly disappeared after the holidays. You see, it was priced at twenty-five dollars a bottle, roughly twice the going rate for Cava. More recently I read a WSJ article by Lettie Teague on the subject and she opined that Cava Reservas really were something special compared to other similarly priced sparklers. So maybe we ought to shift our focus from France to Spain for our bubbly.
Maybe we should also start at the beginning for this discussion.
Cava is Spanish sparkling wine. Most of it comes from the Catalonia region in eastern Spain where the beverage was created in 1872 by the Raventos family of Codorniu fame. The three main grapes of Cava are Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada, hardly household names. Of the three, Xarel-lo is the most important. Over time Malvasia, Garnacha Tinto, Monastrell and Trepat have been added and more recently the international varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were also allowed. Some of the best Cavas, however, are still made solely with Xarel-lo grapes.
The name "Cava" has only been around since the 1950's and its legal appellation, its D.O. (Denominacione de Origen), was granted in 1986 with admission into the European Union. The D.O. declares three quality levels of Cava: Basic Cava must be aged on the lees for nine months; Cava Reserva, fifteen months; and Gran Reserva, thirty months. Eighty-eight percent of Cava produced is basic Cava; ten percent is Reserva, and two percent is Gran Reserva. All Cavas must be made like Champagne using the secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Prior to the E. U., ninety percent of Cava was consumed in Spain. Now two-thirds is exported, mostly to supermarkets around the world. Eighty-five percent of all Cava sells for under twenty dollars. A year ago in January of 2018, Spain introduced a new super premium category of Cava and that's what we'll talk about here next time.
Please join us here next Thursday after 5pm when Dustin Whiten presents a tasting of wines from Italy and Chile. Then one week later on the 14th, Adam Bess joins us for a tasting of red wines from Opolo of Paso Robles along with an especially nice Italian white. Please join us for the tastings.