In Catalonia there is no celebration without Cava: birthdays, Christmas, weddings, New Year’s Eve, the celebration of an important achievement, a sports triumph… Almost every ceremony and party must have a toast with Cava. And note we say Cava and not Champagne because Cava is the official an regulated name for sparkling wines elaborated in a specific region, mainly in Catalonia. Under the Cava DO (Denomination of Origin), high quality sparkling wines are produced following the traditional champagnoise method with the specific grape varieties of the region. In Catalonia, nearly 300 million of bottles are produced every year and more than 50% of them are sold internationally, being the Cava industry one of the most important in the country.
Why does Cava spark?
The main feature of Cava making, and what makes it different from the production of wine, is that it requires a second fermentation inside the bottle. This fermentation lasts about 9 months; during this period of time bottles are preserved in dark cellars (cavas) in a certain position, and are periodically and carefully moved following a specific manner. The chemical process that occurs during this second fermentation inside the sealed bottles is what brings fizz into the formula and turns original wine into sparkling wine.
History of Cava
In the XVIIIth century, sparkling wines were already known in Catalonia because two cork factories here were the main cork providers for the French champagne bottles. However, it was at the end of XIXth century when sparkling wine producers in Catalonia had their real shot in the business. At that time, a plague devastated all grape harvests in France and resulted in a rise of the production of Catalan “champagne” as well as its export into France. Once the phylloxera plague swept across the vineyards in Catalonia, a method to fight the plague was soon discovered, which diminished the effects on the harvest. During 1920’s, Cava consolidated in the Spanish market and in the 80’s the production of Cava was regulated, establishing the DO Cava. This Denomination of Origin guarantees its quality and the traditional making method.
The Cava Region
The main production of Cava is concentrated in the Penedès region, in Barcelona and Tarragona provinces. The village of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is the historical capital of Cava, with 75% of the total production; this is where you have to go to reach the heart of Cava! In this area, visitors can find many wineries to discover the craft of cava making and, of course, to taste the different varieties.
Prades Festa del Cava
A final tip or curiosity around Cava: there is a small village in Tarragona province, named Prades, where once a year Cava sprouts from and old fountain all night long. This happens since 1979 during the night of the third Saturday of July. This celebration has grown in popularity and nowadays it brings more than 3.000 people, who gather around the fountain partying all night long. It is a great opportunity for visitors to take part in a local festivity, and enjoy all the rest of activities of the Cava fair that take place during the celebration.