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Cava | EatCatalunya: All about Catalan Cuisine
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By JaulaDeArdilla on Flickr

Cava, one of Catalunya’s most popular exports, is a sparkling white wine akin to Champagne. It’s used in lieu of its French sister wine throughout Spain to toast special occasions and to welcome the new year. In recent years, cava has even been at the center of political controversy, when sparring Spanish politicians wanted to declare an economic boycott of the Catalan region by discouraging the public to purchase it to ring in 2006.

Cava’s main charactertistics are pale color, intense aroma and floral bouquet. Its flavor is slightly acidic with a fruity body different from champagne, which is sweeter and more floral in flavor.

The grapes selected for cava, the “champagne” of Catalan wines, must be accepted by the regulating council of each region. For example, in the Penedés D.O., the grapes must be Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel.lo or Monastrell, the latter being used to produce rosé cavas. Harvesting must begin in September and immediately after the harvest the grapes must be pressed to avoid oxidation.

Each variety of grape is pressed separately. Nowadays, Catalan cava production tends to use electric and pneumatic procedures in lieu of more traditional methods. The mosto (unfermented juice) of the grape that is used is from the first 100 liters per each 150 kilograms. The longer the aging the smaller and lighter the bubbles and better the bottle of cava.

The type of cava will depend on the quantity of sugar contained in the bottle. Extra brut, brut natural or nature contain less than 6 grams of sugar per liter. Brut has less than 15 grams; extra seco from 12 to 20 grams; sec 17 to 35; semisec from 33 to 50 and dolç more than 50 grams per liter. 

In Catalunya, it was in the Penedés region where cava production began and today that is where the most important cava wineries are located, such as Freixenet, Codorniu and Segura Viudas. The Alt Penedés town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is considered Catalunya’s cava capital, and La Setmana del Cava (“Cava Week”) (every cava lover’s dream) has been celebrated there every October since 1982.

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