Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion (well, OK, excuse) to indulge in a glass of sparkling wine. There are many kinds of sparkling wines made around the world made in a variety of ways from many different grape varieties. Cava is Spain’s contribution to the world of sparkling wine and is made with particular grape varieties using the traditional method. Today we’re tasting two examples, which we received as tasting samples, that are perfect for Valentine’s Day or any day.
Champagne may have been the inspiration for Cava, but the Spanish sparkler brings its own charms to the glass. Cava, the Catalan word for cave, originated in the Penedès region, specifically in and around the town of San Sadurní d’Anoia, just inland from Barcelona. 95% of Cava is made in the sub-zones of Comtats de Barcelona, but may also be made in three other zones in Spain.
Nine grape varieties are authorized by the Cava Regulatory Board to make Cava. Some are familiar names, others are not. Macabeo (Viura), Xarel·lo and Parellada are the most-planted varieties. Chardonnay, Red Garnacha (Grenache), Subirat Parent (Malvasía), Trepat, Pinot Noir, and Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre or Mataró) are also allowed and make their own contributions to the taste and style of Cava.
Still, base wines are made and blended before the second fermentation is started in the bottle, with the addition of yeast and sugar, followed by aging on the lees. Wines are disgorged (dead yeast removed) and topped off with a varying amounts of sugar (0 to +50 g/l) and wine. The amount of residual sugar in the finished wine defines its style: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Seco, Seco, Semi-Seco and Dulce (from least residual sugar to most.)
The minimum length of bottle aging is also strictly defined:
- Cava (de Guarda): 9 months
- Cava Reserva (Guarda Superior): 15 months
- Cava Gran Reserva (Guarda Superior): 30 months
- Cavas de Paraje Calificado (Garda Superior): 36 months
There are many more interesting details to be learned about Cava. I encourage you to visit D.O. Cava, the official website of the wine and the region.
The Vilarnau family were members of Spanish nobility. The name is a contraction of the latin, Vila Arnau, meaning the Arnau family’s country house. The family settled the Penedés residence in the 12th century. The first Cava was bottled under the Vilarnau name in 1949.
Are you thirsty yet?
Vilarnau Brut Reserva, Cava — pale yellow in the glass with fine bubbles and generous aromas of citrus, pears and mustard seed. Flavors follow with oat hay, pears, citrus and hints of toast. 11.5% abv. SRP $14.99
50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarel·lo comprise the base blend of this Cava. The flavors are bright, light and very distinctive. Pair with appetizers or a light meal.
Vilarnau Rosé Delicat Reserva, Cava — pale salmon in the glass with fine bubbles and aromas of dried cranberries, cherries and oat hay. Flavors follow the aromas with dried cranberries, cherries, oat hay and citrus. 12% abv. SRP $15.99
The blend of 85% Garnacha and 15% Pinot Noir lend plenty of red fruit flavor to this Cava making it a pleasure to sip. Pair with cheese and charcuterie, risotto or paella.
Both bottles bear distinctive labels reflecting images made in the Trencadís style of mosaic art using fragments of broken ceramic tiles, roof tiles or crockery used by Catalan architects Antoni GaudÍ and Josep MarÍa Pujol in their designs. The style of mosaic work is used in Barcelona’s Parc Güell.