Sparkling wine tips – Prosecco and Cava

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The other day when browsing through my local Vinmonopolet, I came across quite a few people hanging around in the sparkling wine aisles not sure what to buy, resulting in a few interesting discussions, which inspired me to make this quick guide.

“Cava – it´s the same as Prosecco – and Champagne isn´t it?”

No, absolutely no! Not that Prosecco can´t be good, but it is as far away from Champagne on the sparkling wine spectrum as you can get – like comparing sausages with Parma ham!

Prosecco is made with a quite simple grape called Glera which gives a fruity pear-like character. The winemaking process is much more simple resulting in bigger bubbles and a light-hearted style, and in general made to be drunk immediately. There is a huge variation in the quality of Prosecco due to the large area of production in the Veneto region of Italy. To seek out the best Prosecco´s look for DOCG Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore on the label rather than more simple DOC.

Cava on the other hand is made in the same way as Champagne, just that they use native Spanish grapes such as Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada rather than the grapes we are familiar with in Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier)

Changing the perceptions of Cava

There are some wonderful Cava´s from Spain out there. In fact, Cava is often very competitively priced and can offer very good value for money. Unfortunately, the bottom end of the market was flooded by cheap Cava´s which for some time damaged the reputation of Cava, however, I am pleased to see this is no longer the case and the category is growing.

Cava is made in the same way as Champagne using the “Traditional method” in which the wine after bottling goes through a second fermentation and maturation to develop more complex toasty aromas from agin on lees (dead yeast cells) and a fine mousse (the bubbles). Depending on the quality of the grapes, the wines may be aged either for a minimum of 9 months or enjoy extended aging well-beyond 30 months.  Longer aging on the lees during the second fermentation allows the wine to develop complex tertiary aromas.

 

DO Cava labelling laws

visit DO Cava to learn more

visit DO Cava to learn more

The youngest Cava´s have 9 months of this type of aging, whilst Reserva´s and Gran Reservas have 15 months and 30 months respectively, and there are a lot more Cava´s beyond this to explore too. The native grapes Parellada, Xarel.lo and Macabeu are the main grapes used and tolerate the heat in Spain, but other grapes including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir can also be added to the blend. Young Cava´s often have quite grassy aromas, whilst Reserva´s start to develop more fruity and toast aromas. Gran Reserva´s can be very elegant and complex with lovely toasty, dried fruits, nuts and hints of toffee even. Find out more about Cava here

 

photoa curtesy of DO Cava

photoa curtesy of DO Cava

Two of my favourite Cava producers:

Castelo de Pedregosa

Castelo de Pedregosa is a relatively new producer (est. 1993) in the heart of the orginal area for Cava Sant Sadurní d´Anoia.  Family-owned and organically farmed since 1997, Pedregosa led by winemaker Ruben Pedregosa Castelo, has quickly become a symbol of modern fresh high-quality Cava at an accessible price.

Gramona

Known as one of Spain´s leading Cava producers, they have been producing sparkling wines now for 100 years.  Now run but the 5th and 6th generation of the family. In 2019, Gramon left the DO Cava to form Corpinnat as a new EU-registered certification of terroir in Penedès with stricter quality standards than DO Cava. Organic since 2014, they now also employ biodynamic farming techniques.  With a philosophy similar to Champagne, their style focussed on long aging on lees – anywhere from 30 to 160 months! Additionally their wines are noted for their creaminess and volume on the palate.

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