What is cava? The wine's history, tasting and pairing with food »

An extract from PAIRED: Champagne and Sparkling Wines

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<i>PAIRED: Champagne & Sparkling Wines</i> by Fran Flynn and David Stevens-Castro

PAIRED: Champagne & Sparkling Wines by Fran Flynn and David Stevens-Castro

Cava Sorbet - from <i>PAIRED: Champagne and Sparkling Wines</i>
Cava - from PAIRED: Champagne and Sparkling Wines


PAIRED: Champagne and Sparkling Wines by Fran Flynn and David Steven-Castro is all about matching food with these sparkling wines. An important part of understanding the matching process is to have some background information on the wine itself.

So, not only does this beautifully presented book include advice on food pairing and delicious recipes to try out, it also has information on the major sparkling wine styles. This extract from PAIRED covers the Spanish cava.

 Fran and David write

Cava originated in Penedès in the Catalan region of north-east Spain in the 19th century. The Spanish learnt about sparkling wines because the corks used for French champagne were being sourced from Spain.

Tentative attempts to produce wine using the same methodology followed and quickly evolved to award-winning standard.

Late in the 19th century, a nasty aphid-like louse called phylloxera wiped out most of the French vineyards, giving Spain a great opportunity to increase their exports and establish cava as a popular beverage. By the time the louse reached Spain a workable solution had been found and phylloxera was less of a threat.

The 1960s saw the introduction of regulations to define the quality and methodology of cava production, giving greater credibility to the name cava.

While 95% of cava is produced in Penedès, there are eight other regions within Spain that are also allowed to produce cava under Spanish law.

The main grapes used are local varieties macabeo, xarel•lo and parellada, however chardonnay, pinot noir, garnacha and monastrell can also be used. Cava follows the traditional method, which is the same process used for champagne production. This is a key regulation for cava production. Additionally, rules about grapes varieties, method of growing, location of vines and other stipulations combine to define authentic cava.

Cava is also blended using a similar methodology to champagne. The winemaker carefully utilises differing proportions of the permitted grapes and varying years of vintage to create a unique blend. Automation has been introduced to many processes, which allows for a cheaper product to be produced, arguably without substantial loss of quality.

Pairing cava
Cava is generally dry (brut), or extremely dry (extra brut). There are three key styles of cava: non-vintage, vintage/aged and rosé. When attempting a food match, cava rosé can be considered similar to other sparkling rosé, so we recommend that you refer to the relevant chapter on page 88. Most cava tends to match well with typical Spanish fare such as manchego cheese, paella, tapas, eggs and seafood.

A non-vintage cava has a typically dry, light, fresh, fruity style and pairs particularly well with salads, pasta, rice and Thai food. Aged non-vintage cava is referred to as ‘reserva’ or ‘gran reserva’ to identify aging for a minimum of fifteen or thirty months respectively.

Vintage cava is aged and only uses grapes from a year that has been recognised as having had ideal growing conditions that have resulted in exceptional grapes. Aged cava has the best grapes held aside for aging, but not from a year recognised for excellence.  

A vintage cava, or a cava that has been aged for more than fifteen months, has dry, nutty, creamy and toasty characteristics that can match beautifully with the same suggestions as for NV, plus especially with nutty, oily or fried foods. It also pairs well with saltiness such as salty cheese, potato chips and fish, or even meats, like pork or duck.

Cava quick reference

  • Location: Spain
  • Grapes: Macabeo, xarello and parellada
  • Regulations: Strict viticulture andproduction requirements
  • Winemaking method: Traditional method
  • Acidity: High
  • Alcohol: 12–13%
  • Ideal pairing: Especially seafood, cheeses, fried food, lightly creamy dishes and the majority of buttery, oily recipes.


This extract is from PAIRED: Champagne and Sparkling Wines by Fran Flynn and David Stevens-Castro and is reproduced with the authors' kind permission.

Read more on PAIRED here »

PAIRED: Champagne & Sparkling Wines has also won a number of awards »

PAIRED: Champagne & Sparkling Wines is self published (2016; Qld, HB, pp, RRP A$37.99. It can be be ordered direct from the publishers at www.paired-media.com. It is also available from good book stores nationwide and internationally on Amazon.com

See links below for further wine information and recipes from PAIRED including this one for Cava Sorbet »

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June 08th, 2017
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