I should have written this a while ago but better late than never says the mother of two small children. In June this year Consejo Regulador del Cava decided on a new classification to help us consumers understand that there is true quality to be found in Cava. Something many Cava lovers (including myself) have been trying to explain to our fellow sparkling drinking friends. Cava has a big problem in the fact that many people see it as an inexpensive alternative to Champagne. It's not really a product in itself, but rather something that can act as a replacement when the wallet feels a bit thin. The lovers of Cava of course know better, because we have seen how the small scale producers work and have tried their wonderful sparkling wines. But these cavas get drowned in the massive quantity of cheep bubbles that flood the wine shelves of the world.
Some of the problems DO Cava has today; -It's not one region, even though 95% of all cava is made where it was once born. That is in Penedés and the Anoia valley. There is actually over 150 places in Spain that are allowed to make sparkling wine and call it cava! -Nine grape varieties can be used, and not only the local ones traditionally used, but also Chardonnay and Pinot noir. I'm not personally against it, but it does make the "cava profile" very wide and hard to grasp. Some might say "what profile?". -Cava has no Grands Crus, Premiers Crus, no sub-regions, no clear system at all actually apart from the three aging categories where "Gran Reserva" is the oldest one. What about cavas aged longer than 30 months?? But to try to make the premium segment of cava clearer the regulatory board has now come up with "Cava de Paraje Calificado". This basically means cava from one site or place. Not the most simple word to pronounce if your not native... but lets not get hung up on that.
The rules for Paraje:-All the nine varieties are allowed: Xarel-lo, Macabeu, Parellada, Malvasia/Subirat Parent, Chardonay, Garnaxa, Monastrel, Trepat and Pinot noir. -Maximum yield of 8,000 kg/ha or 48 hl/ha -36 months ageing in bottle -Only vintage wines -Only Brut (or dryer) -The wine cannot be acidified, and it must have a natural acidity level of 5.5 g/l (measured in tartaric) BUT a very important rule is that producers can only get cavas qualified for Paraje if they vinify 85% of their own wines. That means that many of the producers will be excluded just because they do not own enough of their own vi nes. There are so far 24 producers interested in presenting cavas for this new classification, according to the latest news from the regulatory board.
There are a lot of challenges within the DO Cava for sure, but it is really good news that something is happening to make people understand Cava better!