In Spain too, the grapes intended for production of Cava are carefully selected and harvested. The best grapes for making Cava are grown on very chalky soil at a height of between 656-1,476 feet (200-450 metres).
The following grapes are used for the base wine: Macabeo (fruit and freshness), Parellada (floral perfumes) and Xarel-lo (acidity and alcohol). Sometimes a little Chardonnay is also added. For Cava Rosado the grapes used are Carifiena, Garnacha Tinto (Grenache Noir), Tempranillo, and Monastrell. Inland Cavas are usually made from Viura (Macabeo) grapes. Because it can become extremely hot in Spain the grapes for Cava are usually picked early in the morning. This Spanish grapes are pressed as soon as they are brought in from the vineyards.
The juices are transferred to stainless steel tanks where fermentation takes place at a constantly controlled low temperature. After fermentation the wine is rested for a while before being sampled by the cellar master. The best cuvees are selected and blending takes place in great secrecy. This Spanish wine is then bottled and held in enormous cellars for a minimum of nine months but often for longer. During this period a second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Just as with Champagne, Saumur, or Limoux lots of tiny bubbles form.
The bottles, which are stored on racks or rotating pallets, are manually or mechanically shaken to get the floating remnants of unfermented sugars and dead yeast cells to fall to the neck of the bottle. Here too the neck of the bottle is dipped into a special salt solution to freeze the sediment. When the bottle is opened the plug of sediment is forced out of the bottle by the pressure. The wine, which is now clear, is topped up with a liqueur (see main section on sparkling wines) and provided with a cork and retaining wires and cap. The wine is now ready to be shipped to the customers.
More than 90% of all Cava originates from Catalonia, particularly from Penedes. Two major companies control about 90% of the market. Freixenet (which also owns Segura Viudas and Castell Blanch) is the undoubted leader of the export market.
The true market leader though in Spain is Codorniu. Cavas are generally somewhat less dry than French sparkling wines. They have that little bit of Spanish temperament. The price of the top quality Cavas is exceptionally low for their quality but one needs to be careful. Corners are sometimes cut, especially with the nine month 's period of maturing in the bottle.
There have been cases for many years against brands which do not stick to the minimum nine months and whose wine is therefore not permitted to be termed Cava.There are officially only two different types of Cava: white and pink. The white Cava though is subdivided into a variety of different taste types.
What can be read on a champagne label? The brand and the name of the maker; the dosage (brut, sec or so on); the year or lack of a year; the phrase blanc de blancs when only white grapes have been used in the wine; when possible, the commune of origin of the grapes, and finally, sometimes, but less and less often, the qualitative classification of the grapes: Grand Cru for the 17 communes that have the right to the description, or Premier Cru for 41 others. The professional standing of the producer must appear, printed in small letters: NM meaning a merchant-winemaker; RM a grower making champagne from other sources; CM a cooperative that makes and sells its own champagne using grapes from its member growers; MA the brand of the buyer; RC a small grower who sends his grapes to one or several cooperatives to be make into champagne because he does mot habe the equipment to do so himself, and who receives the finished champagne to sell;
Indeed, it is difficult to argue with the suggestion that using top-quality ingredients helps when transforming grapes into red wine or good wine. White wine can be made from both white and black grapes. Crushing breaks the skins, after which de-staking takes place. Gentle pressing is favoured and skins are removed. Fermentation traditionally happends in oak barrels, although today, when minimal change is required, most white wines will ferment in stainless steel vats, Maturation in oak barrels can add another dimension and flavour profile to a good wine.
Red wine must be made from black grapes. This time the juice is fermented on the skins for better colour extraction. The juice, which runs freely after fermentation, is of the highest quality. The remaining pomace, or skins, are further crushed to release any more juice, which is generally used in blending for the best red wine.
Maturation can be controlled on oak barrels. The filtration of red wine may be minimal, if at all. Most fruity wines made to be consumed young will have little further maturation or development in the bottle. Some of the world's great classics however, can evolve slowly, to reach a plateau of maturity and amazing levels of complexity.
Oak barrels are used by a winemaker to impart complementary flavours and aromas to a wine. Barrels are toasted at various levels from light to medium to heavy, and will be selected to suit o particular grape variety or style of wine. Barrels are a convenient container in which to store a wine, as the subtle exchanges with oxygen, moisture ans alcohol help the wine to evolpe from the youthul 'green' to more complex and mature flavours.
Many different types of oak are used in the winemaking process, with white oak being the most common. French, Hungarian, and North American oak are the best-known species used, with each one having slightly different attribures. Just as vines and grapes are distinctly individual when groun under differnet conditions or areas, so are oak trees.
Arguably, the most important factor here is to recognise when a wine is in good condition or when a bottle is faulty. This becomes particularly relevant when you are faced with the sort of markups applied in some restaurants. When a sample from an approved bottle id offered to taste wine, you are cheching the conditions of the wine that you hane ordered, not tasting the wine to decide wherher you like it.
There are three simple steps to follow when tasting wine: look, smell, and taste. Firstly, you should look at the wine when it's poured, Is it clear and bright? Is it looking in good shape? An excess of brown colour in a white wine may indicate that it has gone off. It's possible to guess the age of a red wine by observing it's rim colour. Tilt the glass slightly and look at the edge of the wine. If you see a purple tint it is probably a young wine while an orange tint is an indication of maturity.
Swirling the wine a around the glass will relase the aromas and you should take either a large sniff or a small sniff, followed by a large sniff. Does the wine smell clean and fresh and can you identify fruit-related aromas? If not, and you detect musty, wet cardboard-like aromas, you hane probably found a fault. Young wines should always be fruity and appealing on the nose. You should take time to sniff the wine and not rush into tasting wine.
Tasting wine allows you to confirm the condition and characteristics associated with the wine. You should consider the initial taste, the actual taste, and the aftertaste. Have the confidence to reject a bottle which you feel may be tainted and make sure that you assess each bottle ordered individually. Some wine styles, for exemple aromatic whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, are insense and lively an both the nose and palate. Expect to be able to identify lots of fruit and primary aromas. Wines that have matured or developed in the bottle may have a bouquet and flavours such as those associated with dried fruits (prunes, figs, etc), along with savoury nuances. Lurking among all this comolexity there should still be hints of fruit. Some wines over a decade old (for exemple, German Riesling) will suprise you with their amazing vitality and youthful tones.
Lots of fuss can be generated when the virtues of a vintage are sidcussed and in some cases this is justified. As a generalisation, if a wine is made from grapes growing in a cool or marginal climate, then vintages can matter. In warmer climates, where there is better consistency in weather patterns, the changes affecting quality are far less significant.