lunes, 6 de agosto de 2012

Spanish Cava and the Penedes Wine Region


Cava, is Spanish sparkling wines made using the traditional method of sparkling wine-making. The term Cava was adopted by the Spanish in 1970 when they agreed to abandon the use of the potentially misleading term Champaña. The word originates in Cataluña, which produces most but not all Cava, where it means ‘cellar’. It was in the town of San Sadurní de Noya that José Raventós, head of the family firm of codorniu, made the first bottles of traditional method sparkling wine after a visit to France in 1872. Early growth in the industry coincided with the arrival of the phylloxera louse, which first appeared in Catalan vineyards in the 1880s. Vineyards that had once made sturdy red wines had to be uprooted and were replanted with macabeo, parellada, and xarel-lo, the triad of grape which is the mainstay of the Cava industty to this day. In 1889, the Raventos family were joined by Pedro Ferrer, who founded the firm of freixenet. Codorniu and Freixenet, both still family owned, are now two of the largest sparkling wine producers in the world, with their own winery outposts in California.

Unlike any other Spanish DO, the Cava denominación is not restricted to a single delimited area. However, since Spain joined the European union in 1986, the EU authorities have insisted that Cava should be made from grapes grown in prescribed regions. As a result, the use of the term Cava is restricted to sparkling wines from a list of municipalities in Catalinia, Valencia, Aragón, Navarra, Rioja, and the basque country. Ninety-five per cent of all Cava is made in Cataluña, however, mostly in and around the town of San Sadurní de Noya. Total production amounts to over 1.2 million hl/ 31 million gal a year (about a third that of Champagne).

The somewhat neutral Macabeo (the Viura of Rioja) comprises about half of the blend for a typical Cava, its late budbreak making it a popular choice for vineyards prone to spring frosts. The productive and indigenous Xarel-lo vine is the second most important, and its earthy aroma has been one of Cava’s distinguishing features, although it thrives only at relatively low altitudes. Parellada performs better above 300 m/900 ft, where it produces finer wines relatively low in body. Plantings of the French vine chardonnay, officially authorized for Cava in 1986, are increasing rapidly.

To qualify for the do, Cava must be made according to the local, and in some respects less rigorous, adaptation of the champagne traditional method. The wine must spend at least nine months on its lees before disgorgement, achieve at least four atmospheres of pressure, and attain an alcoholic strength of between 10.8 and 12.8 per cent by volume. Yields, set at a maximum of 1 hl of must per 150 kg of grapes, are higher than those allowed to Champagne.

(The bitter competition between the two giants of Cava, Codorniu and Freixenet, produced a series of ugly court battles in the late 1990s, with Codorniu charging that its competitor’s less expensive wines did not spend minimum time on lees, and Freixenet counter-attacking with charges that its rival was using still illegal Pinot Noir grapes.)

Most remuage is now carried out automatically in a grasol or gyropalette, a Spanish invention which enables hundreds of bottles to handled at a time. The best Cavas tend to be produced by the larger firms who control their vinification rather than those producers who buy in ready-made base wine from one of the large but often outdated cooperatives continue to flourish all over Cataluña.


Penedès, sometimes spelt Penedés, the largest and most important denominated wine zone in Cataluña in north east Spain, producing an innovative range of wines. With its proximity to Barcelona, Penedes has always had a ready outlet for its wines. In the 19 century, it was one of the first regions in Spain to begin mass production and France, stricken by Phylloxera, became an important market. The phylloxera louse reached Penedes in 1887, by which time José Raventós had laid the foundations of Coddorníu and the Cava industry. Vineyards that had once produced strong, semifortified reds were uprooted in favour of white grapes for sparkling wine. Cava has subsequently developed a separate natinally organized DO.

Penedès underwent a second radical transformation in the 1960s and 1970s largely because of Miguel Torres Carbo and his son Miguel A torres, wine (and brandy) producers in the heart of the region at Vilafranca del Penedes. They were among the first in Spain to install temperature control and stainless steel tanks. Miguel Torres, Jr, who studied oenology in France, also imported and experimented with such revolutionary vine varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer, which were planted alongside and blended with native varieties. Other growers followed in the Torres family footsteps and Penedes was in the 1980s one of the most dynamic and varied wine regions in Spain. By the late 1990s, however, the region was failing to confirm the high hopes placed in its red wines, which were increasingly overshadowed by those of Priorat.

Penedes rises from the Mediterranean like a series of steps and divides into three distinct zones. Bajo, or Low, Penedès reaches altitudes of 250 m/825 ft away from the tourist resorts of the Costa Dorada. This is the warmest part of the region which traditionally grew Malvasia and Moscatel de Alejandría (Muscat of Alexandria) grapes for sweet Fortified wines. With the expansion of the resort towns and declining sales of such wines, these vineyards have either been abandoned or replanted with Garnacha, Cariñena, or Monastrell making a coastal region just to the south of sturdy reds. The second zone, Medio Penedes, is a broad valley 500 m/1,600 ft above sea level, separated from the coast by a ridge of hills. This is the most productive part of the region providing much of the base wine for the sparkling wine industry at San Sadurni de Noya. Macabeo, Xarel-lo, an Parellada are grown for Cava, together wiht increasing quantities of Chardonnay an red varieties such as Tempranillo (often called here by its Catalan name Ull de Llebre) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Penedès Superior, between 500 and 800 m above the coast on the foothills of Spain´s central plateau, is the coolets part of the region where some of the best white grapes are grown. The native Parellada is the most important variety here, but Riesling, Muscat of Alexandria, Gewurztraminer, and Chardonnay are also successful.

No hay comentarios:

Publicar un comentario