Last week Michelle and I went with a few of my BCN friends on a trip to Cava Town. Cava Town has been on my list of places to visit for oh… a year and a half or so but just hadn’t gotten around to doing as of yet. The Penedes region of Spain produces about 95% of all Cava in Spain. Luckily for me, this region is only about a 45 minute train ride from Barcelona.
So what is Cava? I’d like to say that it’s the Spanish version of Champagne but I found out on our trip that that is not necessarily true. Yes, it is very similar to champagne but there are ways that it is differentiated as well. First of all, according to Wikipedia, “The word cava means “cave” in both Catalan and Latin, and “cellar” in Spanish. Caves were used in the early days of cava production for the preservation or aging of wine. Catalan winemakers officially adopted the term in 1970 to distinguish their product from French champagne.” The type of grape used, the land and the weather all differentiate the cava from champagne.
We started off at the Recaredo vineyard / plant for our tour with Alex (http://www.recaredo.es/#en/welcome). Alex, I think, was rather entertained by our little group (this vineyard does not normally give tours but will do so upon request) and spent about 3 hours with us, educating us on what makes them special compared to the larger cava producers and why it’s ok to be on the smaller side and how they never compromise their product to satisfy the needs of the customer (for example, in various countries there are preferred tastes that many vineyards will change their wines to better accomodate) – they are incredibly proud of their product and it shows.
Recaredo has only 25 employees for the 300,000 bottles a year of cava (this is considered a lot) they produce. Unlike most cava producers, they use cork thru the entire process. They are not looking to become a huge producer like Freixenet (the largest cava producer) but want to produce a product that they are proud of and are unwilling to make any compromises to it in the process. A few things I learned aside from the cork is to look for the year (many champagnes and cavas do not have the year because they tend to mix years) and how long it has been aged. We tried 3 cavas and all were amazing and even better, all were organic.
Our second cava producer was Juve & Camps (http://www.juveycamps.com/ingles/index.htm). They had a very different approach from Recaredo. First off, while our tour guide was nice, he wasn’t as entertaining or lively as Alex. We had a private tour like we did at Recaredo though. They are a much larger cava shop with over 3 million bottles produced each year and so while the process is still primarily by hand, they do things slightly differently than at Recaredo. They froze the bottle neck rather than by hand to remove the yeast at the end of the process – there is debate on how this affects the taste of the cava and honestly I don’t know enough about it in order to give an opinion one way or another. They also used a plastic stopper rather than the cork – his defense was that the cork can let in oxygen which affects the taste of the cava – again I can’t say one way or another. However, we tasted 3 cavas here as well and I’ll tell you, I liked the Recaredo better but still, the Juve & Camps was good too.
So the next time you are in Barcelona, make sure to make a stop in Cava Town – I don’t think a lot of people get here. It’s not a touristy area because many will spend their time in Barcelona proper or in the coastal areas rather than inland at all. But it’s worth it to learn more about these great cava producers and taste some amazing cavas!