Cava is definitely one of my favorite sparkling wines for so many reasons.  My top 2 are the price point and honestly, it’s just delicious. 

It doesn’t hurt that many (many) years ago, I studied in Spain to complete my minor in college and then a few years ago, I went to Barcelona and found my way (of course) to the Penedés Region where I had the best cava tasting experience ever.  

So, some might say that my love for cava is heavily influenced by my experiences in Spain, but I am going to urge you to give it a try if you haven’t already and it will soon become your new go-to bubbly.

The Pendedès region in Spain, home of Spanish cava.

What is Cava?

Cava is sparkling wine from Spain.  It is made in the traditional method (same as champagne for reference) which means that the second fermentation, where all the bubbly magic happens, is right in the bottle. 

The main difference between a Spanish sparkling wine and others is the types of grapes they use.  The most popular grapes used in making a cava are Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada.  But much like other sparkling wines, these are not the only grapes they will use.  

Because of the optimal sunshine and where the region is situated on the Mediterranean Sea, you will find other grapes used as well such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Monastrell (also known as Mouvèdre) and Subirat Parent.

Cava, the most affordable sparkling wine.

Spanish Cava Aging Defined

All bubbly goes through an aging process.  During this time, the bottles are resting in the horizontal position as they are going through their second fermentation which is what we like to call the bubbly magic.    

The Cava Regulatory Council has put these four categories into place to clearly indicate how long the aging process was:

  • Cava de Guarda at least 9 months.  
  • Reserve 18 months, 
  • Gran Reserve 30 months, 
  • De Parade Calificado 36 months

Some would argue that the longer a bottle has aged, the better it is, but just like all palates enjoy a different sweetness level of bubbly, the same can be said for the amount a time a bottle has aged.

Sweetness Levels of Spanish Sparkling Wine

Just like all sparkling wines, you will find Spanish sparkling wine in a range of sweetness levels.  There are some similarities among champagne, crémant and sparkling wines so if you know what end of the spectrum you enjoy best, you will be able to shop for a new favorite bubbly.

Cava sweetness levels explained.

Let’s take it one step further and look at the amount of dosage or sugar content in each of these.

  • Brut Nature 0-3 G/L
  • Extra Brut 0-6 G/L
  • Brut up to 12 G/L
  • Extra Seco 12-17 G/L
  • Seco 17-32 G/L
  • Semi Seco 32-50 G/L 
  • Dulce greater than 50 G/L

While brut nature is the purest form of the grape you will ever taste, the exact opposite end to the spectrum is cava dulce that does not hide is desire to be a sweet, after dinner or dessert bubbly.

How to Host a Side by Side Tasting

One of my favorite things to do is side by side tastings and it usually revolves around a theme. 

Side by side tasting with cava.

To prepare for this side by side tasting, I headed out to several grocery stores to gather some new (to me) cavas.  I did have to visit several grocery stores to find cavas I had not tried before.   

Once I had my four cavas chosen, I chilled the bottles and pulled out the fun tasting boards.  Now the tasting boards are not needed, but you do need enough glasses to pour all the bubbly at once if you want to do a true side by side.  

When you arrange a side by side tasting no matter what type of bubbly you want to make sure they’re in an order that will not completely throw off your palate.  For example, if you have different sweetness levels, you’ll place them from driest to sweetest.  

In our case, we had all four brut cava, but two of them were reserva and two were not.  So we moved the two reserva as the final 2 of the four.  

I often get asked what is the proper way to complete a side by side tasting and here’s the good news, there is no right or wrong way.  Some people take a sip of each of them first and then re-visit in order to rate them.  Some people like to drink them in order and then rate them.  I usually take a sip of them all, go for a revisit and then finish them in order of what I liked the least and saving my favorite for last.  

This was a fun tasting because we all enjoyed all four of these cavas and that doesn’t always happen.  There was only one bottle that we didn’t like as well, but in all honesty, if we hadn’t tasted it side by side, I am not sure that would have been the case.  

Side by side tastings are so fun for a girls’ night and very easy to execute.  The hardest part is gathering enough glasses for everyone in the group and getting the bubbly.  Make your life easy and order the bubbly from (they always have great specials and prices on bubbly) and the glassware (plastic bubbly glasses makes for the easiest of clean ups) from our Amazon shop.  

PRO TIP:  Have oyster crackers (and if you want the best, Kroger brand) on had to cleanse the palate between tastes.  

Side by side cava tasting in action.

Why Cava?

  • Have I mentioned the price point?  For a sparkling wine that comes from Spain, in the same method as they make champagne, it truly can’t be beat.
  • It’s great in bubbly cocktails.  You know how much we love bubbly cocktails here and it’s quite versatile and is the perfect bubbly topper. 
  • When you fall in love with it, you’ll want to plan a trip to Spain and have your own amazing cava tasting experience.  

Cava Tips

  • Cava generally tastes best out of a champagne tulip glass.
  • Most cavas are best served around 68 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees Celsius with the exception of Cava de Guarda which should be served around 46 degrees Fahrenheit or 8 degrees Celsius.
  • When serving fresh fruits and vegetables, choose a Cava de Guarda
  • When serving white meat, choose a Reserva.
  • When serving strong cheeses and meats, choose a Gran Reserva,
  • When serving something with more complex flavors and aromas, choose Paraje Calificado.

Want More?

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Want to host your own bubbly side by side tasting for your next girls’ night? You’ll find more tips here.