Cava, Spain’s champagne

'Young Wine' by batega on flickr. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

On a recent trip to Spain, while nibbling on tapas at Barcelona’s renowned eatery Tapas 24, I met and fell in love, with Cava, Spain’s Champagne. It was love at first crisp, bubbly sip, and as my boyfriend and I drank glass after heavenly glass from our eight euro (yes, eight euro) bottle, Champagne became a distant memory. I wondered, ‘Oh Cava, where have you been all of my life?’

Tapas 24, Barcelona, June 2011

Produced mainly in the Cataluña region of Spain, Cava is made from three indigenous Spanish grapes: Xarel-lo, Parellada, and Macabeo, using the same method in which champagne is produced. Only it’s not made with grapes from the Champagne region, which is why we don’t call it Champagne.

Like Champagne, Cava has a number of levels of sweetness:

Brut Nature – (no added sugar) up to 3 g per litre
Extra Brut – up to 6 g per litre
Brut – up to 15 g per litre
Extra seco – between 12 and 20 g per litre
Seco – between 17 and 35 g per litre
Semi-seco – between 33 and 50 g per litre
Dulce – more than 50 g per litre

In North America, while sparkling wine is considered to be the poor man’s Champagne, Cava  is tasty, exotic and sophisticated enough to offer as a holiday gift and even to ring in 2012 with. And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper. A bottle of good quality cava such as Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava mousseux (US $13.95), is one fifth of the price of a bottle of Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut Champagne, $69 US.

Before you rush out to the wine shop to stock up for holidays, take note of these quality brands – the first two are institutional in Spain: Freixenet, Codorniu and Segura Viudas. Cava is best served ice cold, so pop a bottle and champagne glasses in the freezer for half an hour before serving.

Have you tried cava? If so, how do think it compares in terms of taste to Champagne?

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