On the heels of the cult wine episodes, the biddies take a deeper dive into Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Tune in to learn all about this highly sought after (and very expensive) Burgundy wine. While you may never get to try it, you’ll be in the know! And you’ll also learn about the time all the vines were almost poisoned by a crazy guy demanding a ransom – yikes!!

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Sources:

Somm TV, Demystifying Spanish Sparkling Wine

Invinic Blog, Spanish Sparkling Wine

Invinc Blog, Cava & Beyond: Discover Spanish Sparkling Wines

Un Bueno Vino, En Ruedo Tambien Hay Espumosos

Catalunya Wine, Raventos i Blanc

Punch, The New Cava Isn’t Called Cava

Guildsomm, Three Misunderstood Topics in Spanish Wine

Guildsomm, An Introduction to Classic Penedes

https://www.cava.wine/en/categories-types/

Image Credit: Decanter

Study Notes for Spanish Sparkling Wine

Basics/Background:

  • Just because it is from Spain does NOT make it Cava
  • It is not a byword for Spanish sparkling wine in general
  • It’s grown in a large area but it is tightly controlled and regulated
  • The Consejo Regulador del Cava oversees everything Cava-related
    • 1) Most does come from Penedes area of Catalunya but it also can be made in Rioja and Navarra
    • 2) A majority of Cava is dry produced to at least a Brut style
    • 3) Key grapes are Macabeo, Xarel.lo, Parellada for white; Garnacha and Monastrell for Rose but international grapes like Pinot, Chardonnay, and Cab are permitted
    • 4) Made using the traditional method like Champange
    • 5) Cava prices tend to be on the modest side
  • 90% of Cava comes from three producers, most notably Freixenet and Cordorniu and sells from less than 10 euros in Spain 
  • Champagne and Cava have roughly the same production area but there are nearly 5,000 Champagne producers and only 287 cava producers
    • Even though there is “beef” between France and Spain wines, the French drink over 5 million bottles of Spanish cava annual whereas Spaniards drink 3.5 million bottles of champagne 

History of Cava

  • The first bottle of Cava was crafted in 1872 by Josep Raventos in Sant Sidurni d’Anoia, his hometown, which is in the heart of the Penedès region in Catalonia. 
  • He found inspiration using the winemaking method he’d observed in Champagne, where still wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle. 
  • The principal difference was his use of Spanish indigenous grapes such as Xarel-lo, Parallada, and Macabeo. 
  • Cava helped fill the gap that Phylloxera had created following the devastation of vineyards in France.
  • Has really blown up as a cheap alternative to champagne
    • Big brand Freixenet accounts for 80% of cava exports

Other Sparkling wines

  • High end producers became frustrated with lower quality wines going to market to compete with prosecco
  • Three regulatory bodies now play an active role in the production and marketing of Spanish sparkling wine: DO Cava, Corpinnat and DO Penedès, specifically its sub-appellation Classic Penedès which produces only sparkling wine.

Story of Raventos i Blanc and DO Conca Del Riu Anoia

  • “The Raventos family was the unknowing Dr. Frankenstein to the monster cava has become”
  • In 1659 Miguel Raventos married Anna Codorniu, linking two big wine families in Catalonia forever
  • In 1872 Josep Raventos returned from travels to champagne and used the traditional method with the native Xarel-lo varietal
  • In 1888 Manuel Raventos started experimenting with other varietals in addition to Xarel-lo and created what became known as the Penedes sparkling wine formula
  • Built winery known as Cordoniu Cellars at the end of the 1800s – then an increasing focus on production and profitability continued to grow and overshadow quality
  • In the 1980s, Josep Maria Raventos i Blanc was pushed out of the company his family built, so in 1894 he along with his son (another Manuel Raventos) founded Raventos i Blanc at the original estate the family had owned since 1497
  • In 2012, Raventos i Blanc left the DO Cava and formed new “DO” “Conca Del Riu Anoia”
    • 100% estate produced and bottled
    • Minimum of 80% of grapes must be estate grown
    • All grapes must be grown in the valley of the Anoia River
    • 100% organic and biodynamic
    • Every wine must be vintage
    • Every wine must be aged for at least 18 months on the lees
  • This exit from DO Cava produced a chain reaction from other top producers focused on quality over quantity
    • Corpinnat association formed in 2015

Growing Areas and grapes

  • DO Cava
    • The core of DO Cava is Catalonia; however, it also includes areas of Navarra, Rioja, Basque Country, Aragon, Valencia, and Extremadura. 
    • The vast majority of production, 90%, still comes from Sant Sidurni d’Anoia, by three major producers, including Freixenet and Codorníu.
    • In addition to the indigenous varieties common in Cava, regulations also allow small amounts of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Monastrell, Garnacha, Malvasia, and Trepat.
    • In 2020, in response to development of Corpinnat and other “elevated” designations, DO Cava has created their own guidelines for higher level Cava:
      • Reserva Cava must spend 18 months on the lees instead of 15, bringing it in line with Corpinnat.
      • New, overarching classifications include Cava de Guarda (basic Cava with nine months on the lees) and Cava de Guarda Superior, which includes Reserva, Gran Reserva, and Cava de Paraje Calificado.
      • Cava de Guarda Superior must be organically certified, with a five-year transition allowed, starting in 2020 (again mirroring Corpinnat at this level).
      • Zones and subzones have been established, the latter of which can only be used on Cava de Guarda Superior.
  • DO Penedes
    • Classic Penedes was created in 2013
      • refers to a select group of winemakers from the Penedes region (a lot of Cava IS made here) but there are extra conditions
    • Three producers were behind this movement – DO Penedes President Josep Maria of Albet i Noya, Sergi Colet of Colet, and Agustin Torello of AT Roca (one of the leading producers)
      • They believed that the Cava brand was being diluted – believe it’s more associated with cheap bubbly than craft wine
      • Cava and Processco have been racing to capture the bottom end of the market while Champagne beams down from above in bemusement
    • Clàssic Penedès covers a mere 4,000 hectares (although the umbrella DO covers 16,000 hectares) and includes vineyards growing on rocky, poor ancient soils.
    • Three sub-zones include Penedès Superior (inland at high elevations), Penedès Central (central plain), and Penedès Maritim (the coastal area just south of Barcelona). 
    • With overlap between Cava and Corpinnat, Clàssic Penedès rules dictate that wineries cannot purchase still wine.
    • All wine processing must happen on the estate.
    • Grapes must be organic – first sparkling wine designation in the world to do so
    • Often aged longer than DO Cavas or Corpinnat wines – minimum 15 months of cellaring before release – Cava is traditionally 9 months 
    • Cannot buy in their wine – fermentation, disgorging, dosage, and all other aspects of production must happen within their own registered premises
    • Every wine has to be vintage and the date of disgorgement must be identified on the label as well
    • Use only the ancestral and indigenous grape varieties of this region
      • Macabeu, Xarel.lo, Parellada, Subirat Parent, Malvasia de Sitges, Chardonnay, Muscat d’Alexandria, Red Grenache, Carignan, Sumoll, and Pinot Noir plus small amounts of Chenin Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, Riesling
  • Corpinnat
    • Not a DO but an extremely stringent redefinition of Cava’s original guidelines, more of a “label of excellence”
    • Formed in 2015
    • The name is composed of “cor” (heart in Catalan) and “Pinnat” which comes from the eytmological root Pinnae, referring to the origin of the place name Penedes
      • 100% indigenous grapes
      • Organic
      • Manual harvest
      • No base wine purchases
      • Sourcing from the geographic core of Penedes
      • Focus on native varieties
      • Minimum of 18 months of ageing
    • Corpinnat captures a geographic area of nearly 23,000 hectares. Its seven sub-zones include Alta Penedès (high), Alta Camp, Baix Penedès (low), Tarragones, Garraf, Baix Llobregat, and Anoia.
    • While the wines of the Corpinnat producers are certified under Spain’s general Vino Espumoso de Calidad category, they do have a set of guidelines enforced by the European Bureau Veritas auditing agency. Further, the term Corpinnat is a collective trademark under EU law.

Rueda Espumoso

  • The Reuda region is best known for its still white wines from Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc
  • Not related to Cava, this sparkling wine comes from the Rueda region
  • Still champagne method – “Charmat” method
    • Another article says its made in traditional method…
  • It must be aged for at least 9 months in the bottle before release
  • Different styles with individual requirements but each style must contain Verdejo..
    • Grapes: Primarily verdejo, also use viura (known as macabeo in other regions)
  • Verdejo lends itself well to secondary fermentation
  • A leading producer is Palacio de Bornos Brut