Wines: Cava

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Wines: Cava

Spain's most popular sparkling wine. Cava is the only denominacion (appellation) in Spain not restricted to one delimited area. Although roughly 95% comes from the fertile plateau around the town of San Sadurni de Noya in Penedes, Catalonia, it is also produced across Spain in the regions of Rioja, Valencia, Aragon, Navarra, Castilla y Leon and the Basque country.
For the most part Cava is made from a pretty unique blend of three white grapes. Firstly, Macabeo (also known as Viura in other parts of Spain), a fairly innocuous variety that provides the foundation for most of the blends. Secondly there is Xarel-lo, a grape capable of producing quite rich fruit that hence contributes most of the body and depth while Parellada, often regarded as the finest of the trio, adds a refined crispness and often green fruit notes of apples and pears. Chardonnay is the fourth white grape used in the region. Despite being a relative new comer (permitted only in 1986) it is becoming very popular, with plantings increasing at a faster rate over the traditional varieties.
Rose Cava is made from 4 permitted dark skinned varieties; Monastrell (Mourvedre), Garnacha (Grenache), Trepat, and the less indigenous Pinot Noir.
Interestingly, Cava's producers are responsible for one of the biggest technological advances in the sparkling wine industry. Quickly adopted across the globe, the gyropalette replaced the arduous and labor intensive job of "remuage," or riddling. Riddling is process by which the dead yeast cells are collected in the neck of the bottle before disgorgement. Originally done by hand, the bottles would gradually be turned and rotated one by one from a horizontal to vertical (upside down) position. The gyropalette, capable of turning hundreds of bottles at a time, mechanized the process.
One of the factors that accounts for the style difference between Cava and other traditional method sparkling wines, other than climate, soil and grape varieties, is the length of time the wine spends on its lees during its second fermentation. While Gran Reservas require 30 months in the bottle before disgorgement, only nine months is required for what forms the vast majority of production. By contrast, Champagne rests on its lees for a minimum of 36 months and 16 months for vintages and non vintages respectively. The extra time in Champagne allows for the development of autolytic or yeasty characteristics reminiscent of toast and pastry. Cava on the other hand retains a more youthful dimension of fresh fruit.