Cava is a drink that is not lacking in any celebration. It is the sparkling wine par excellence in Spain, of Catalan origin and often confused with the famous French champagne.
It is one of the best pairings for Jamón Ibérico Bellota (ham). If you like Cava as much as we do, we will explain a little about its history, its typology and why it should not be considered as Catalan Champagne, but give it its own well deserved space within the great drinks.
Sparkling and cold
The word “cava” implies what is known as Denomination of Origin. In this specific case a Spanish D.O. of sparkling wines that have been produced by a traditional method.
This D.O. known as Región del Cava covers the Catalan region of Penedés, where San Sadurní de Noia is the most important production area. Despite this, this drink is also produced in other parts of Spain and the Cava Regulatory Council determines the approved areas within this region.
There are 159 municipalities in the provinces of Barcelona (63), Tarragona (52), La Rioja (18), Lleida (12), Girona (5), Álava (3), Zaragoza (2), Navarra (2), Badajoz (1) and Valencia (1).
A little bit of history
As for its history, we know that it was during the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when it became popular. Especially in the English and French courts, a new sparkling drink from the Champagne region in northwest France.
Subsequently, in 1868, researchers Francesc Gil Borrás and Domènec Soberano presented the first cava during the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Several years later, in 1887, a plague forced the producers of the famous wine to introduce new autochthonous vines and replace the traditional black variety with a white one. Subsequently, the production of Catalan cava with its own characteristics began.
In Spain there are different produced types of cava. These types are distinguished according to the amount of sugar used in its preparation (added in the expedition liqueur) or the type of upbringing that has the drink already prepared. Then, depending on the amount of sugar we have:
- Brut Nature up to 3 g, without addition
- Extra Brut up to 6 g sugar per litre
- Brut up to 12 g sugar per litre
- Extra Dry between 12 and 17 g per litre
- Dry between 17 and 32 g per litre
- Semi-dry between 32 and 50 g per litre
- Sweet More than 50 g per litre
From this group of cavas we can distinguish the types brut nature and extra brut, in which no expedition liqueur is used. Therefore, only wine is added and this absence of added sugars makes the quality of the cava superior.
With the passage of time and thanks to the demand for high quality products, the production of semi-dry and sweet types has decreased.
Now, according to the aging process, we find three types of cava:
- Young: Aged from 9 to 15 months.
- Reserva: Aged from 15 to 30 months.
- Gran reserva: Aged for more than 30 months.
Differences between Cava and Champagne
As we have already explained, although they share a similar concept, there are clear differences between these two beverages that make their comparison impossible.
We can highlight four main differences:
- Origin: Champagne is a French product, whereas cava is Spanish, and its production is regulated and limited by a Designation of Origin (DO) that only includes Spanish territories.
- Grapes: Champagne requires the use of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties, whereas in the original production of cava, three grape varieties are used, each contributing different nuances to the beverage. These varieties are Macabeo (perfume and sweetness), Parellada (aroma, freshness, and finesse), and Xarel·lo (body and structure).
- Composition: French champagne is made by blending wines from different harvests, while cava is always produced using wines from the same vintage.
- Aging: Champagne requires a minimum of 5 years of aging, while cava reaches its optimal consumption stage within 2 to 4 years, depending on the type.
As we have already mentioned, the pairing of cava and Iberian ham is spectacular, so don't hesitate to continue your celebration with one of these bottles served well chilled, while the centerpiece of the table features a charcuterie board and a generous portion of ham.