Special occasions are made more meaningful and enjoyable with a glass of bubbles. If you want a small celebration sans the champagne, cava is your best bet. It is versatile, inexpensive, and is downright delicious when taken with a wide variety of food.
Cava makes meals more appetizing because it helps cleanse the palate by canceling out the grease from your mouth. It also tastes good with sweets and salads so it’s not just for heavy or oily food. Let’s get to know this terrific wine and how it can fit into a vegan lifestyle.
What is Cava?
Cava is a type of sparkling wine that originated from Spain. Its name, the word cava, was derived from the Spanish word for “cave.” This is because this wonderful beverage is usually housed and aged in a network of caves or cellars.
Cava was made by the Spanish as an answer to the French’s champagne, the reason for the similarity. They are both sparkling wines and are made using the same method, the Methode Champenoise. Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo grapes are the main ingredients that make up the cava blend, but there are six others that add uniqueness to the blends.
A nice bottle of bubbly that costs way less than champagne, cava has had a bad rap as an inferior alternative to it. But this wine has gained respect and social approval that can rival the other sparklies. Its production has been upped in quality and is giving prosecco and champagne a run for their money.
Short History of Cava
In 1872, Don Josep Raventós Fatjó is believed to be the first to produce cava. In his Codorníu estate in the Penedes region, Northeastern Spain, Josep first made his first bottle of cava by using the méthode champenoise which he brought upon his return from France.
During this time, the vineyards of France were plagued by phylloxera lice which destroyed most of the grapes being cultivated there. Thus, the demand for champagne went high and was obligingly filled in by Spanish winemakers. The first bottles of cava were then introduced to the public and became an instant hit especially in high society.
The Spanish vineyards were also hit by the same plague but by the time it happened, a solution had already been found and cava has already made a name for itself globally. The countries that France was unable to supply with their champagne have already been acquainted with cava, increasing the sales of the Spaniards.
A group of wine farmers and producers in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia were successful in their rehabilitation of the vineyards. They were also able to determine which types of grapes would grow and develop more in their lands. This has become the true birth of the Spanish cava.
Today, the demand for this beverage is on a consistent rise, coming to a close second to the French champagne. And the potential keeps growing and expanding, now becoming Spain’s largest wine export. Cava nowadays has its own identity, no longer the Spanish champagne of yesteryears.
Is Cava Vegan?
Did you know that not all wines are created vegan? Sure, wines are made from grapes, but there is a process called fining that requires the use of non-vegan ingredients. Casein, albumin, isinglass, and gelatin are some fining agents that we all know have animal derivatives.
The ingredients aren’t normally included in the wine but are used in the production process. It can be concluded that there may be a chance, however infinite, that traces of animal products are absorbed by the wine. However, this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a glass of cava, special occasion or not.
Most winemakers are aware of this and have come up with different processes of fining without using agents that are animal-based. Bentonite, silica gel, and activated charcoal are some examples of those that are vegan-friendly. Other natural methods of fining have also been discovered, allowing for more options for vegetarians and vegans alike.
Where It Grows Best
As mentioned earlier, the three types of grapes most commonly used for making cava are Xarel-lo, Macabeu, and Parellada. A big percentage of cava production takes place about 40 kilometers south of Barcelona, Spain but is not limited to that specific region. The characteristics that differentiate cava is a result of where the grapes were grown and other production conditions such as the weather.
Considered as Spain’s most widely planted variety of grapes in the northeast region, Xarel-lo is the sixth most important grape variety in the whole country. The majority of the Xarel-lo grapes used in the production of cava are grown from the Penedes region in Catalonia. The best grapes are those cultivated in soils within an altitude of 400 meters.
Also called Viura and Macabeo, Macabeu is a variety of white, light-cleaned grapes. The best types are those that are grown in hot and dry areas such as the Rioja region of northeastern Spain and the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. It is best grown in hills rather than the valley floors.
Unlike the Macabeu that thrives in hot soils, the Parellada is best grown in cool climates and high limestone terrains. It grows in the Catalonia, Tarragona, and all throughout the Penedès regions and nowhere else.
5 Famous Cava Bottles
If you’re wondering which cava wine to try, these are the top 5 vegan favorites:
Dibon Cava Brut Rosé
Dibon Cava Brut Rosé spends a long time on the lees that gives it its creamy texture, sweet and fruity aroma, and a splendid bubbly sensation in the palate.
Waitrose Cava Brut NV Spain
This pristine cava with the right amounts of fruits, Waitrose Cava Brut NV Spain has a refreshing, crisp taste. A full year on the lees is what fills this wine with a lingering crunch and subtly complex texture.
Codorniu 1872 Vintage Brut Cava
Codorniu 1872 Vintage Brut Cava is loaded with fizz, citrus flavors, and pleasant floral notes. It has fine bubbles and a pale, lemon color.
Albet i Noya Cava Brut Nature
With no animal by-products used, Albet i Noya Cava Brut Nature has the crisp aroma of white fruits and hints of lime. It is a brilliant combination of Xarel-lo, Parellada, Macabeu, and Chardonnay.
Contevedo Cava Brut
A delightful blend of lemon and apple flavors, with crisp hints of honey, Contevedo Cava Brut is touted as Spain’s favorite fizz.
The Best Food Pairings
Cava is versatile and flexible when it comes to the food you can pair it with. The premium and brut nature styles can stand on their own, though. Perfect for celebrations big or small, cava is the most food-friendly wine you can find without breaking the bank.
This sparkling drink has low acidity and alcohol compared to champagne which makes it suitable for cleansing the palate, ready for the next bite. Its heat makes for a good pairing with spicy food as it doesn’t clash with the kick. In addition, the bubbles will rejuvenate your taste buds to add texture to your meals.
The type of food that would go well with cava can depend on the type of cava you have. For greasy and heavy food, Brut Nature and Extra Brut Cava are recommended. The bubbles and acidity will scrub the grease from your mouth.
Sweet dishes will go well when paired with Sweet Cava or Semi-Dry. The sweetness of the cava will complement the sweetness of the food. Sweet cava also helps in digestion making it a good companion for desserts.
Reserve and Gran Reserve cavas work well when paired with spicier food. These aged cavas have strong flavors and aromas that won’t be overpowered by pungent food. As with fatty food, it will help cut the oil and cleanse the mouth with its bubbles.
Here are some examples of food pairing that you can try with your favorite cava:
- Seafood, such as oysters, tempura, shellfish are best paired with Brut Nature Reserva or Gran Reserva. These cavas will help balance the natural saltiness of the food.
- Pasta tastes better with Brut or Brut Nature cavas. Brut Nature Rosé also tastes good with pasta and its color can also make desserts look good as well.
- Fruit salads. Most especially those with apples, pears, and grapes, go well with Brut Nature as it can complement the taste. Add nuts for a delish combination.
- Fish dishes taste better with Cava Reserva, Brut Nature, or Brut. It balances the grease to keep a clean, fresh taste.
- Meat dishes such as poultry and white meats go well with Cava Brut Nature and Brut Nature Reserva. A sweet cava will help offset the fat of some meats while Gran Reserva Cava can go well with rabbit.
- Cheese such as Roquefort or Cabrales works well with the sweet cavas. Rosé Brut can be good when paired with fatty cheeses such as Ricotta or Cheddar.
These combinations are just suggestions, the possibilities are endless and it’s up to you to explore and find what works best for you.