Cava-what is it?

Updated: Jan 6

Spain's famous sparkling wine is Cava. You've probably had it before but maybe don't know where it comes from. For more in-depth information, don't miss our Cava tasting classes on Saturday, January 22nd and Saturday February 5th !!!

Sign up on our website under "Classes" now!

Cava production is centered around Sant Sadurní d'Anoia which is about 45 min. by train from Barcelona.

Rosé Cava at the end of the Codorníu tour!

If you're reading this, you, your family, friends, or customers probably like sparkling wines. Yet, many of us don't know the differences between Champagne (France), Prosecco (Italy), Cava (Spain) and other sparkling wines.

Americans frequently consume Cava at brunch, in mimosas, or as a wine by the glass, but they are not as familiar with this sparkling white/rosé as they are with Champagne or Prosecco. It is nearly just as abundant in the USA, so sometimes it's simply a marketing and education problem rather than a quality or availability problem.

Put simply, France and Italy have been marketing their sparkling wines in the US for longer, more vigorously, for decades or centuries. They also have advantages Cava does not, like family and cultural ties through immigration that helped put Prosecco and Champagne on the map in the USA.

Prohibition undoubtedly also gave Cava a disadvantage in the US, because it's a newer version of sparkling wine, founded in 1872. Unfortunately not long after it was first produced in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, a devastating agricultural pest (phylloxera) hit Spain in the 1880's. The problem with Cava's entry into the US market is most likely a timing and an ongoing interruption problem.

For example, one of the two largest Cava producers in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, Freixenet, has only been making Cava since the WWI era - 1914. Best case scenario, this gave them only 7 years to market, ship, and create a taste for the beverage before Prohibition. In reality, the USA didn't really have a chance to crave Cava before alcohol was banned in 1920.

In contrast, the French had more than a 100-year start producing and cultivating their brands of Champagne in the USA- where it has been available since at least the 1750's.

The United States unfortunately missed the beginning of the Cava boom, and by the time the 21st Amendment was passed and alcohol was legal again, we naturally went back to what we knew, French wine imports. Italians were finally substantial in number due to immigration in the 1890's-1910's, so we also began our food and beverage education that finally made Italian food and wine an American staple in the 1950's-1960's.

Spain didn't really have a chance to build the market post-Prohibition after 1933 because their Civil War in began shortly after. This was a critical period of popularity for Champagne, coupe glasses, and cocktails, which Cava missed trading on. To illustrate this point, one of the largest and biggest names today in Cava was disrupted- family members were disappearing and the factory was forcibly taken over.

Even after the Spanish Civil War, and post-WWII, the trade relationship was complicated and minimal because the US was uncertain how to have diplomatic relations with Franco. Finally in the 1950's-1960's there was an opening up of trade and tourism. The economy, capitalism, joining the EU, this all started to fast forward in the 1980's-1990's. So really, we're only talking about the last 40 years or so of opportunity to appreciate all that Spain produces. Very recently compared to French and Italian exports, Americans have discovered and enjoyed Spanish exports - cheese, wine, sausage, etc. Here we are in 2020's and still, the wine market feels like it's just now blossoming into the next big thing, in the United States.

Americans know the D.O.s Rioja and Cava. Perhaps some even know other regions, possibly now Priorat. (yes!) But there's still an unexplored world of Spanish wines of quality and taste that really stand out, that Americans that we are simply unaware exist or that we haven't tried. We aim to correct this by offering education classes and fun tastings on Zoom.

We have been to the heart of production- Sant Sadurní, and have put together a virtual tasting class for individuals or groups via Zoom. To compliment our online cooking classes, we will be adding introduction classes to various wines from Spain with a focus on those from Catalunya.

The wines here rival the quality of any other European country, and often offer a lower price point. So without further delay, please, this New Year or for Valentine's day, explore your Cava options.

Check out our Instagram photos from our visit to Codorníu winery in Sant Sadurní in December, or sign up for our new Intro to Cava: A Guided Tasting - January 22nd and February 5th!!! You'll get an introduction to the types, the sugar level, the range of flavors and grapes, photos of the place it's from, and information about tourism to help you plan your trip, etc. This class is meant to be fun and to give you basic information to help educate your friends, family, customers, and more importantly gives you a guided tasting through a few Cavas available near you in the USA. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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