You come and go, you come and go.
Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams,
Red gold and green, red gold and green.
OK, so this might be a stretch, but you know what, Cava’s colors could be roughly called red, gold and green, red gold and greee-en.
I promise I won’t do that again. It’s hard to sing lyrics in written format, and based upon my actual singing, something I am eminently unqualified to do. But, I thought this might be a fun way to kick off a little look at cava, Spain's fun and serious sparkling wine.
So let’s start with what cava is. It’s a sparkling wine produced by the so-called traditional method which was pioneered in Champagne. That is, the secondary fermentation, which produces the fizz in these wines, occurs in each bottle.
Cava is a denomination of eight wine regions that pretty much covers all of Spain. Unlike other regional appellations, Cava is a style of wine, as opposed to a wine from a specific place. Traditionally, Cava was produced using indigenous varieties such as Macabeo, Parellada, and Xerel-lo. These would be the green grapes with their bright, citrus flavors and zesty acidity. Chardonnay was introduced to Cava in 1981 and has becoming increasingly common, adding yellow fruit and a certain voluptuousness to the texture of many wines. And finally, there can be red grapes such as Garnacha or Monastrell used in Cava, particularly roses.
Cava, like most sparkling wines, sticks to a fairly straightforward and consistent naming convention that can give you an idea as to how sweet or dry a particular wine might be. The naming conventions happen to be both tricky and counter-intuitive, so here’s a handy guide to help you remember the differences.
Brut Nature, Ultra Brut - No residual sugar, bone dry
Extra Brut - 0-6 grams/liter of RS, still feels dry but has a touch of roundness
Brut - Up to 12 grams/liter RS, the standard dosage or amount of RS, softens the wine but it still seems dry
Extra Dry, Extra Seco - The only thing extra here is extra sugar. With 12 to 17 grams/liter of RS these wines tend to be fruity and are a touch sweet.
Dry, Seco - With 17 to 32 grams/liter of RS these are obviously sweet wine but not dessert level sweet.
Demi-Sec, Semi-Seco, Semi Dry - Now we’re entering dessert level sweetness with 32 to 50 grams/liter of RS.
So there you have it; red, gold and green makes loving Cava easy. The variety of allowable grape varieties makes for a compelling assortment of potential flavors and textures among Cavas, so having a little guidance to help one separate the lean from the full, and the fruity from the complex is helpful to make sure you’re getting the Cava you need.
Sparkling Wine image via Shutterstock
Also, check out Diane Letulle's Holiday Cava Guide to get you up-to-speed on Cava!