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Cava wine

“Our main challenge is to get Cava into the spotlight as a versatile and quality sparkling wine. Not just bubbles.”

Javier Pages, President of Consejo Regulador Cava 

 

“Our main challenge is to get Cava into the spotlight as a versatile and quality sparkling wine. Not just bubbles.”

Javier Pages, President of Consejo Regulador Cava

The Spanish Catalan word Cava meaning “cellar” or “cave” is the term officially adopted by Spanish wine producers in the 1970’s to distinguish their product from French Champagne. In the early days of wine production caves and cellars were used to store the wine during the ageing process hence the word ‘Cava’ was the ideal choice to identify Spanish sparkling wines.

The history of Cava begins in Catalonia in the 19th Century with a man called Luis Justo Villanueva. His knowledge of the French process of sparkling wine production ‘methode champenoise’ enabled him to present the method to the Catalonian agricultural authorities and then to promote it to local wine producers. Using local grape varieties like xarel-lo or macabeu  which grow in the Penedes region and in agreement with Señor Villanueva two producers from the region began to experiment with the method. From the city of Reus in Tarragona, Domenec Soberano and Francesc Gil presented their Spanish sparkling wines at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1868.

Success at the 1868 Exposition was followed by experimentation of grape variety and  increased production of sparkling wine throughout the region of Catalonia. At the same time as Spain was increasing production and expanding vineyard capability France underwent a vine destroying epidemic of Grape phylloxera (insect) a world-wide pest thought to be originally native to North America.

With the French sparkling wine producers facing major difficulty with supply of grapes  Catalonia bordering France, saw a surge in demand for Spanish sparkling wine. This situation in the mid-19th century had two pivotal consequences, the production of Spanish sparkling wine was consolidated and although not yet officially called ‘Cava’ the wine established itself across Europe.  

Cava to this day is mainly produced in Catalonia but it is legal for other regions to produce it and over 150 municipalities including the provinces of Valencia, La Rioja and Barcelona are authorised to do so, using the common indigenous grape varieties of xarel-lo, parellada and macabeu. 

Depending on the type of grape Cava can be either white or rose.

In the same way French Champagne is produced the types of Cava are classified, from Brut Natur to Dolc (from the Catalan word meaning sweet) quantified by the levels of sweetness and the amount of sugar added during the production process. The most popular Cavas consumed in Spain are the ‘Seco’ or drier versions  Brut Natur and the Extra Brut.

These terms refer to the natural sweetness of the wine during the fermentation process before any sugar is added, these types of sparkling wine are not present in French Champagne production.   

 

Methode Traditionelle and Methode Champenoise.

 The two processes are the same and primarily identified with sparkling wine making in the various countries within the EU.

In the  Champagne region of France, the EU after much lobbying have allowed the French producers in this area uniquely to use the term ‘Methode Champenoise’

French Sparkling wine producers outside the Champagne region and the rest of the EU are allowed to use the term Methode Traditionelle or Metodo Tradicional in Spanish.

In Spain the quality  of the vines combined with innovation and technical skill are producing Cava that is growing in popularity across the world. Using the Metodo Tradicional it is making a name for itself as a wine of quality to be taken seriously and these days it is becoming a serious rival to its French equivalent.

In 2018 Cava production reached 244.5 million bottles with 165 million bottles destined for export. The total market is worth an impressive 1.146 billion euros, in growth terms a volume increase on 2017 of 1.8%  and 4.3% increase in value

The majority of Spain’s Cava is for export with 60% sold abroad, last year drinkers in the UK bought approximately 23 million bottles.

The growth is set to continue as a promotional campaign and strategic plan is announced for 2019 and 2020.

Focusing on three elements the plan aims to give clearer definition of quality and regional origin for Cava. Increased quality measures for producers and an extensive marketing campaign in five countries. Marketing activity is to be aimed at restaurants and independent retailers, the Consejo Regulador as a professional body will be speaking directly to the press, influencers and wine buyers highlighting the unique points of difference for Spain’s number one sparkling wine.

While French Champagne gets most of the glamour and Italian Prosecco is currently enjoying the popular vote Spanish Cava well is on its way to being the recognised contender for both of these markets.

The journey started in the 1860’s by Senor Luis Justo Villanueva  continues…      

  

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