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The Best Kept (Open) Secret in the Wine World – Cava!!

The sign leading to the capital of Cava - Sant Sadurni d'Anoia


I bet – almost anything – that all of you have had Cava at one point or another! From the black bottle of Freixinet in the party days of college yore, to the more artisan and somewhat pricier versions like Gramona as your palate became more sophisticated.

Most people have no clue what Cava is, where it comes from – more than being vaguely Spanish – and that it in fact outsells all other sparkling wines, including champagne and prosecco. And fewer still know that the center of Cava production is the viticultural region of Penedès with it’s capital with the mouthful name of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia. In that little town of barely 11.000 inhabitants you’ll find some 300 Cava cellars! Who knew?? This is where you find the world’s largest Cava producer, Freixinet, which pumps out millions of bottles every year, followed closely by Codorniu and Torres.

One of the problems may be that Cava doesn’t have the ‘designer’ feel to it, like Italy’s prosecco or the sense of place and luxury like champagne. Why is that? Sometimes it seems like even though Spain is one if the major tourist countries of the world, averaging 9 million visitors every 3 months, the Spaniards are very bashful about promoting their country, especially if you count anything 2 kilometers inland from the beaches, which is of course where you’ll find most vineyards,

Case in point; just before I left California to move to Penedès, someone gave me a very nice bottle of Codorniu Cava in a beautiful, ornamental  metal gift case. On the case was printed the usual blather about how harvest took place during a full moon and the name of the winemaker’s dog, but what really struck me was how it was described that the grapes were sourced from ‘the rolling hills outside Barcelona’  Well, yes, we’re about 40-50 km away from Barça, but the name Penedès was nowhere to be found. It’s like saying about a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that the grapes came from the hills of San Francisco or that the chardonnay grapes in a bottle of Blanc de Blanc Champagne came from the vineyards outside of Paris. (most Cavas are made from the Xerello, Macabeo and Parellada grapes, see previous blog posting)

Granted, there is a difference in the geographical aspect, Penedès is a very large area, and also, thanks to a bit of EU ‘fairness’ policy run amok, Cava is not beholden to Penedès alone, but can be produced in more than a 100  viticultural ‘patches’ outside of Penedès. And that, my dear Watson, is why I believe Cava never had a chance to earn the denominational cache’ that champagne and prosecco have. On the upside; you will always be able to find GREAT Cava for one tenth of the price of champagne!

And that’s something worth celebrating!!






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