The majority of wines from Ampurdan-Costa Brava are still rosados made with Garnatxa, frequently supplemented with Cariñena. In addition, both white and red Spanish wines are made here and some excellent Cavas. The largest local producers, the Perelada Group (Cavas del Ampurdan and Castillo de Perelada) have advanced and established the Ampurdan-Costa Brava DO over the years. It is due to this group that this DO has become an established name throughout the world. If you visit the region then in any event visit Castillo de Perelada in the the Ampurdan region. The castle of Perelada is the historical and commercial heart of Perelada and it contains very impressive wine cellars that are centuries old, together with a superb glass and wine museum, to view by appointment.
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.
It is a shame that almost everything with bubbles in gets called Champagne. There are top quality Cavas made by the traditional method that are far better in quality than the most lowly of Champagnes.
Calling these wines Champagne is to undervalue them. Not only is it incorrect but in common with other sparkling wines, the Spanish Cavas have their own story to tell about the grape varieties used, the soil on which they are grown, and the weather conditions that are quite different to those of Champagne. This Spanish wine has been made by the same methode traditionnelle as French sparkling wines since the end of the nineteenth century.
Cava came into being in the province of Barcelona in 1872 because the local innkeepers and hoteliers could not meet the increasing demand for good sparkling wine. The Catalans decided to make their own sparkling wine instead of always having to import either expensive Champagne or cheap Blanquette de Limoux.