The most important fact I learned while on a cava winery tour at Freixenet Vineyards in Sant Sadurni D’Anoia, Spain, is that though it may look and taste like a lot like champagne, it is NOT. However, I feel I can safely argue the effects are definitely the same.
During a recent week long visit from my parents, we ventured to one of the most popular international brand cava bodegas located 40 minutes outside Barcelona’s city center. Sant Sadurni D’Anoia is known as the “Cava Capital” as it produces 90% of Spain’s entire cava export. Because of this notoriety, anyone associated with the location is sure to well educate you on the exact production process of its cava, noting especially the differences between cava and champagne.
To start, champagne is only made in France, and only then can it be labeled as true champagne. Secondly, the process has different steps, cava goes through two fermentations as opposed to just one. The bubbly tiny balls of air are the result of this second fermentation process that takes place inside the bottle – it is then and only then that the wine can legally be given the name cava. Otherwise, it can only be classified as sparkling wine, thus failing to obtain the prestigious label.
On the tour, we learned that “during the second fermentation process in the bottle, a type of liqueur known as licor de tiraje is added (made from sugar, yeast and cava) which causes the bubbles by producing carbonic gas. The bottles are corked with metal tops and stored horizontally in the darkest and coolest part of the cellar.”
The next step in the process – known as el degüello del cava (taking the top off the cava) uncorks the bottles allowing the pressure of the contents that have accumulated in the bottleneck to be forced out.
And finally, the bottle is sealed again with a traditional cork, held in place by wire. The quality of cava is a question of time: the wine starts its second fermentation process in the bottle within three months.
- The more bubbles a cava has and the smaller the bubbles are designates it is a YOUNG cava.
- The less bubbles a cava has and the bigger the bubbles are categorizes it an AGED cava.
The last marketing step of cava production is of course, the labeling and shipping. Below is a video of this last step. Each minute, 40 bottles of cava are packaged.
Freixenet exports the most cava to the following countries:
- United States
- The United Kingdom
After a very informative 90 minute tour through the winery, my favorite part finally came: the tasting! We tried the Cordón Negro Reserva. Cheers! (Or in Spain, Salud!)