Cava and Other Sparklers

Just in time for the holidays, a collection of fantastic sparkling wines from GDP


Cava, Cava, Cava, Cava, Cava Chameleon.
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
By chance that’s just what we’ve got, Cava to kickstart your holiday season!

Also, check out Diane Letulle's Holiday Cava Guide to get you up-to-speed on Cava!

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  • Snooth User: abquiat
    491506 19

    I am very surprised that none of your featured cavas are from the cava house Codorniu -- a wonderful place (we visited there in 2010) with fantastic brut and brut rose' sparkling wines.

    Dec 24, 2012 at 3:05 PM

  • Snooth User: dvrcru
    1099311 24

    I dont know if any of these family cava cellers get to the other side of the atlantic, but it is worth to know or to have heard of these brands: Miquel Pons (with his Eulalia de Pons Brut Reserva), and all of the sparkling wines of Rimarts. Rico, rico ...............

    Dec 24, 2012 at 8:31 PM

  • Snooth User: JensGA
    585107 4

    I agree with earlier comment on Codorniu. Their production doesn' t (or didn't) rely so heavily on export but seems to be more true to the traditional Catalonial style. Thus I generally tend to prefer their cavas over Freixenet's.

    Dec 24, 2012 at 9:28 PM

  • Totally agree on the Codorniu comment, that Cava rocks! Way better than loads of sparkling stuff and for the price you can get a bottle, oh boy it is unbeatable!

    Dec 26, 2012 at 4:55 PM

  • I know a guy who once worked with the Freixenet company and he was told (by the boss, indeed) that the way to serve Cava was to chill it so much that ice crystals formed in the glass as you poured it. Which is terrific if you're in, say, Madrid, on a hot June night, less so in England in winter. Still, my routine is to get the stuff down to a hairsbreadth above absolute zero, and what do I find but a nice prickly mousse, followed by a hint of burnt caramel on the tongue, then a ferocious poof as it expands rapidly across the floor of the mouth like a CO2 fire extinguisher, leaving only a chesty rasp in its wake. It passes the time very agreeably, especially when you consider what we paid.

    <a href="">The Sediment Blog</a>

    Dec 27, 2012 at 4:12 AM


    Dec 30, 2012 at 6:26 AM

  • Snooth User: MelanieCP
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    698415 18

    Great article!! I too wish that Codorniu was represented above. Especially Anna de Codorniu Brut, the first cava to introduce Chardonnay in it's cuve - which I believe you referred to in your article. Also try to the Anna de Codorniu Brut Rose - 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.

    Dec 31, 2012 at 3:22 PM

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