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.
The north west
The following autonomies or areas are found in north-western Spain: Galicia, the Pals Vasco, Castilla y Leon, Asturias, and Cantabria. The latter two of these autonomies only produce vinos de mesa. The other areas can be split into their DO wine-growing areas.
The climate of north west Spain is clearly influenced by the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean. The weather is much cooler, wetter, and more windy than the rest of the country. Daily life is clearly marked by the sea and fishing.
This part of Spain is less typically Spanish, having more Celtic and Basque characteristics with little sign of the Castilian and Moorish invasion. The local dishes are inspired by the sea's harvest: fish and other seafood. The local Spanish wine is generally white, dry, fresh, and light, with the exception of a few red wines.
The total area of Spanish vineyards is in the region of 1.2 milion hectares. That is enormous and about 300,000 hectates larger than either the France or Italian wine-growing areas.
Yet less wine is produced than in either of the other two countries, at approximately 35,5 milion hectolitres, a vast 20 milion hectolitres less than France or Italy.
The difference in production volumes in partly accounted for by the large proportion of Denominación de Origen wine. Spain produces relatively smaller volumes of vino de la tierra (country wine or vin de pays) than France or Italy.
The majority of Spanich wines originates from Catalonia, Valencia, and La Mancha. Regions such as La Rioja, Aragon, Levante, and Andalucia produce quality wine in much lower volume.