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TIP OF THE DAY: Cava Instead Of Champagne

You may be thinking ahead to purchasing champagne for Mother’s Day. But you can save a lot of money with Cava, instead.

Cava, the renowned Spanish sparkling wine, is produced in the region of Penedès, in northeast Spain, south of Barcelona.

In the late 1800s, a Spanish vintner, Josep Raventós Fatjó of the Codorníu estate, decided to experiment with making sparkling wine, using the méthode champenoise of champagne production. His first batch was produced in 1872.

He then had a cool cellar, or cava, dug to produce more sparkling wine. It turned out to be an instant success, particularly among the wealthy. Soon, his sparkling was being drunk by the Spanish royal family.

Other local vintners followed, and today, in addition to the two heavyweights Codorníu (cor-doan-YOU) and Freixenet (FRESH-eh-net), there are hundreds of sparkling wine producers in Penedés.

   

freixenet-cordon-negro-w-glasses-230
Cordon Negro in its signature black bottle. Photo courtesy Freixenet.

 
VARIETIES OF CAVA

As with champagne, cavas are produced with different sugar levels, to please different palates and pair with different types of food. As with champagne, seco, which means dry, actually indicates a sweeter wine. Semi-seco and dulce are excellent dessert wines. Brut is best for apéritif or with food.

  • Extra Brut, the driest (0-6 g sugar per liter)
  • Brut (0-15 g sugar)
  • Extra Seco (12-20 g sugar
  • Seco (17-35 g sugar)
  • Semi-Seco (33-50 g sugar)
  • Dulce (50+ g sugar)
  •  

    cordoniu-cuvee1872-rose-230
    A rosé cava. Photo courtesy Cordoníu.
      Typically, producers make a rose version; and some also make a reserve wine, aged 30 months.

    U.S. merchants typically carry three major brands, all of which produce varieties with different levels of sweetness:

  • Codorníu, which produces the greatest range of cavas, including a selection of rosés and blancs de blanc.
  • Freixenet, the best-known of which is Cordon Negro, in a dramatic black and gold bottle.
  • Segura Viudas, which also makes a rosé and a Reserva Heredad, aged 3 months in a bottle that looks like it was created for royalty
  •  
    As with any sparkling wine, serve cava in chilled flute champagne glasses (place the glasses in the freezer 30 minutes or more before you need them.

    Chilled glasses help to keep the wine cold, and flutes help the bubbles last longer, since they need to travel a longer distance before breaking into the air.

     

      




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