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If you drink sub-$20 Champagne on New Year’s Eve, chances are it’s either Prosecco or Cava. So you’re probably wondering…
What is Cava?
Cava is Spanish sparkling wine.
Cava is made the same way that Champagne is produced, but with different grapes.
Let’s find out what Cava is and what makes it unique. You’ll be surprised to know that Cava is far closer to Champagne (in terms of taste) than Prosecco. If you’re looking for value bubbly, Cava might be your bag.
Macabeu (aka called Viura in Rioja) is the primary grape used in Cava production. Despite its importance, Macabeu tastes somewhat simple. It has faint floral aromatics, a lemony flavor with a slightly bitter finish that tastes similar to green almonds. Xarel·lo (sounds like ‘Cheryl-ooh’) on the other hand, is much more aromatic with rich floral aromas and pear/melon-like notes. The last grape, Paralleda, is blended for its ripping high acidity and zesty citrus flavors. Together the three Spanish grapes create a balanced fruity sparkling wine that’s less sweet than Prosecco but not as nutty as Vintage Champagne.
Is Cava sweet? No, not usually. Cava is far closer to a non-vintage Champagne or an American Sparkling wine. Let’s break down the styles of Cava:
Brut Nature is a specific category within Brut that has even less sweetness. This style is growing in popularity because it’s lower in calories and Brut Nature is a great alternative to cocktails and lager.
Brut Nature: 0-3 g/l residual sugar
Extra Brut: 0-6 g/l residual sugar
Brut: 0-12 g/l residual sugar
Semi Seco: 12-17 g/l R.S. (aka Extra-Dry )
Most people know Cava as a simple aperitif with zesty aromatics, but more producers are aging their wines. Vintage and Cava aged on the lees have incredible body with baked notes of apple and almond. Many of these prestige bottlings use Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes (the classic Champagne grapes). While using French grapes doesn’t seem true to Spanish tradition, the wines make Champagne enthusiasts giggle with glee.
Cava DO (denominacion de origen) is the official classification of Cava. It can be produced throughout Spain but most Cava is made in Penedes (next to Barcelona) and in the Ebro River valley (in Rioja). There are now close to 200 producers registered with the Cava Consejo Regulador.
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