Climate and Soil
With mild winters and, and an early spring, warm summers and mild autumns the growing season is long here. The grapes mature slowly and with the amount of sunshine over Catalonia, the grapes produce a high sugar content.
The warmth comes early in the morning during the summer and lasts until the breeze comes. Blowing in from the Mediterranean Sea in the late afternoon; it gives some of the much needed freshness to the grapes. I never thought it was possible that a wind could be so punctual, but the producers told me that it has to do with the closeness to the sea. Certainly it rains too, but it is only heavy rains or hail close to harvest that constitutes an actual threat to the grapes. Thanks to these conditions, the harvests are very consistent in their quality, compared with many other wine regions around the world that have more uncertain weather conditions.
Cava grapes are grown everywhere in the hilly countryside of Penedès, and the vineyards are planted at altitudes between 100-800 meters (about 300-2600 ft) above sea level. Some Cava producers have also recently begun to experiment with plantations at still higher elevations. Some are experimenting with new spots in general and some prepare for the possible effects of global warming. If the temperature can be kept down thanks to the high altitudes while still accessing the same amount of sunshine, they will get both the sought-after acid in the wine and the sugar that is needed to achieve the right strength of alcohol and fruit sweetness in the finished product.
The soil in the area is largely calcareous due to the fact that the valley once was a seabed. These chalky soils are considered a great advantage in the production of sparkling wine. The limestone in the soil gives the wines some of the minerality in their aroma and taste that many wine drinkers appreciate in sparkling wines. There are also other minerals than calcium in the ground, such as iron, magnesium and phosphorus. The composition of this reddish soil with its stones and calcium deposits , together provide the vineyards with a natural drainage to protect plants from being swamped in the water during heavy rainfalls.
During my visits to producers in the region, I have understood that it is customary to divide the area into three parts. Firstly, is the area closest to the sea that enjoys the slightly warmer Mediterranean climate. Secondly, the plain formed between the mountains which is situated a bit higher than the coastal area and is thus a little cooler. Thirdly, the hillsides on the surrounding mountains where the climate is even cooler, thanks to the higher elevations. These three areas all have different microclimates that affect the final product substantially. And with practice, great interest and searching among CavaCava producers, you may appreciate the differences between the types of soil in which the grapes have been grown.
When it comes to these three main areas in the valley, you will on a visit find that there are certain grapes varieties grown in certain places by tradition. Different types of grape thrive in different kinds of soils and at different altitudes. It is therefore of high importance for the producers to optimize their plots in this regard. In order to make the best choice of variety when planting new vines, there is always a very rigorous analysis of soil and everything else that makes the plant site unique, in order to be able to make the best choice of grape to be grown there. Soil type, altitude, sun exposure and drainage are just a few parameters that are taken into account. Nothing is left to chance.