Cava is Spain's iconic sparkling wine style, and the Iberian Peninsula's answer to Champagne. Its name comes not from a place, grape variety or winemaking technique, but from the stone cellars (cavas) in which the wine is matured. The style was first produced in the 1870s, by a Josep Raventós, on his return to Catalonia after a visit to France. Raventós had married into the Cordorníu family, whose brand still dominates Cava production today.
The traditional grape varieties used in Cava were Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, but the Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are also now being used. Macabeo makes up around half of a standard Cava blend – not because of its flavor (it is quite bland), but because it represents a viticultural insurance policy. Macabeo vines bud relatively late in the spring, ensuring that their flowers and grapes are safe from early frosts. The interesting, slightly earthy flavors that distinguish Cava from most Champagnes are generally attributed to Xarel-lo grapes. Pinot Noir and Monastrell are used to bring red pigment and depth of flavor to Cava Rosado, which may also be labeled as Cava Rosé. Grenache, Malvasia and Trepat are also authorized for use in Cava by the Consejo Regulador wine authority, although the latter is allowed only in rosado wines.
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