Spanish Sparkling Wine, a.k.a Cava (A Full Guide 2023)

Spanish Sparkling Wine, a.k.a Cava (A Full Guide 2023)

Spain is one of the best wine-producing countries in the world and is also renowned for its sparkling wines. A variety of Spanish sparkling wines can be easily enjoyed without breaking the bank. One such popular choice is Cava, Spain’s version of bubbly.

This comprehensive article will explore this beloved beverage's history, production, varieties, and tasting notes. Cava is a sparkling wine produced traditionally, similar to Champagne, with unique characteristics and flavour profile.

Spain is the largest producer of Cava, renowned for its quality and affordability. Whether a seasoned wine connoisseur or a curious beginner, this guide will provide all the information you need to appreciate and enjoy Cava. So, grab a glass, and let's explore the world of Spanish sparkling wine together!


What is Cava?

Spanish sparkling wine, also known as Cava, is produced in Spain using the traditional method. This method involves a secondary fermentation in the bottle, which has the characteristic bubbles and fizz of the wine. Cava is made from a blend of three main grape varieties: Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo [1], although other grape varieties, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Subirat, may also be used.


Cava is primarily produced in the Penedès region of Catalunya [2], although it is also made in other areas in Spain, such as Rioja, Valencia, and Extremadura. The production of Cava is regulated by the Spanish government, which sets strict standards for the grape varieties, winemaking techniques, and ageing requirements. Cava is known for its fresh, crisp, and fruity flavours and is often described as a more affordable alternative to Champagne. 


History of Cava Spanish Sparkling Wine

The history of Cava dates back to the late 19th century [3], when Spanish winemakers began to experiment with producing sparkling wine using the traditional method, which involves a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The first Cava producer is believed to be Josep Raventós, who founded the Codorníu winery in 1872 and began producing sparkling wine using the traditional method. Other wineries soon followed suit, and the Penedès region of Catalonia became the centre of Cava production.


In the early 20th century, the production of Cava was disrupted by the phylloxera epidemic, which devastated vineyards across Europe. However, the winemakers of Penedès could rebuild their vineyards using American rootstock, which was resistant to the pest. Cava production resumed and continued to grow throughout the 20th century, with Spain becoming the world's largest producer of sparkling wine by volume.


In the 1980s and 1990s, the quality of Cava began to improve significantly as producers adopted stricter standards for grape varieties, ageing requirements, and winemaking techniques. In 1986, the Spanish government established the "Cava Denomination of Origin," which set guidelines for producing Cava and recognised it as a unique category of wine.


Today, Cava is produced in several regions across Spain, although the Penedès region remains the most important. Cava is known for its high quality and affordability and is enjoyed domestically and internationally. The history of Cava is a testament to the resilience and creativity of Spanish winemakers, who have created a unique and beloved sparkling wine style that is enjoyed worldwide.


Cava Grape Types

One of the defining characteristics of Cava, the sparkling wine produced in Spain, is the blend of grape varieties used in its production. Cava is made primarily from three traditional grape varieties - Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo - each of which contributes unique flavours and aromas to the wine. In recent years, some producers have started experimenting with other grape varieties, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, to create new and exciting styles of Cava.

In this section, we will explore the different grape types used in the production of Cava, their characteristics, and the role they play in the final wine.



Macabeo, also known as Viura, is a white grape variety that is the most widely planted grape for Cava production. It produces a light and fruity wine with aromas of citrus, apple, and white flowers. Macabeo is often used as the base grape for Cava blends, providing a crisp acidity and a clean finish.



Parellada is a white grape variety known for its high acidity and delicate floral and citrus aromas. It is often blended with Macabeo and Xarel-lo to produce Cava and contributes a new and elegant character to the wine. Parellada grapes are typically grown in higher elevations and cooler climates, resulting in wines with a brighter acidity.



Xarel-lo is a white grape variety indigenous to Catalonia and essential for Cava production. It is known for its high acidity, minerality, and complex aromas of lemon, pear, and white flowers. Xarel-lo is often used in blends with Macabeo and Parellada to produce Cava, adding a rich and creamy texture to the wine.



Chardonnay is a white grape variety that is not native to Spain but is sometimes used in the production of Cava. It adds a buttery and toasty character to the wine and can contribute to a more complex and layered flavour profile. Chardonnay is often blended with traditional Cava grapes to create a unique and modern style of sparkling wine.


Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a red grape variety not native to Spain but is occasionally used in Cava rosé. It adds a delicate and fruity character to the wine, with aromas of strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. Pinot Noir is typically blended with Macabeandor Xarel-lo, and the wine is a refreshing and lively sparkling rosé.


New in Australia - Mar de Frades Sparkling Albarino

Kendricks Familia Imports is proud to introduce our portfolio's latest additions - Mar de Frades Sparkling Albarino. This Spanish sparkling white wine is the first of its kind, made with 100% Albarino grapes using the traditional champenoise method. It comes from the Rias Baixas region of Spain, known for its cool maritime climate and the high-quality Albarino grapes it produces.


What makes Mar de Frades Sparkling Albarino stand out is its unique character. It is saline, with a distinct minerality from the vineyards' proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Its fine, elegant bubbles make it irresistibly refreshing, making it the perfect wine for any occasion.


At 13% alcohol and 0.75 litres in size, Mar de Frades Sparkling Albarino is a versatile wine that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with various foods. Its acidity and bright fruit flavours make it an excellent match for seafood, especially shellfish and grilled fish.


If you're looking for a new and exciting sparkling wine, Mar de Frades Sparkling Albarino is worth a taste. Kendricks Familia Imports is excited to bring this unique wine to the Australian market, and we invite you to discover the magic of Mar de Frades for yourself.




2. Interesting facts about Penedes in Catalunya region. Winetourism.

3. Cava sparkling wine: champagne rival. This Day In Wine History.

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