Cava holds an enviable position in the world of sparkling wine. It delivers delicious, crowd-pleasing fizz at entry level, but it’s also capable of serious, ageworthy wines, the best of have pretensions to rival Champagne.
Producers have the choice to work with local grapes Macebeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada, which offer plenty of good local character, but they also have the option to use Champagne mainstays Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, something which is increasingly done to win over Champagne drinkers.
Like Champagne, Cava is made using the traditional method, but unlike its French counterpart, there are no geographical restrictions. The vast majority of it is made in Catalunya, but it can in fact be made anywhere in Spain.
This freedom may be short-lived, however, as Cava’s governing body is keen to draw up a zonal map which will create a number of regions and sub-regions, bringing Cava into line with other sparkling wine areas.
Other innovation comes from one of the IWSC’s award-winners, Codorníu, which won a Silver for its Non Plus Ultra Brut Reserva 2017. Not only does the producer encourage drinking its Anna Ice Edition Cava over ice, but it’s also created Anna Rocks, a frozen ice lolly made with one of its rosé Cavas in conjunction with the Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca restaurant in Girona.
For some years now, people have been talking up Cava’s fortunes. Its fans claim it's more characterful than Prosecco and – generally – better value than Champagne. When the quality is there too – as with those below – the best Cavas can be considered among the world’s best-value fizz. Here are eight of the top performers from the IWSC’s recent Northern Hemisphere tasting.
Stars Reserva Brut Nature
2016 Castillo Perelada
Rich ricotta, citrus, lanolin, nutty sherbet, nectarine and pears; waxy, dry and divinely tempered by a superb shard of acidity. Lively, stimulating mousse. A rich and provocative ensemble. 11.5% RRP £10 from Drinks & Co
Gran Reserva Brut 2012
A silky and sensual bubble bath, overflowing with sweet honey, lemon zest, and pineapple aromas. A juicy palate of sharp, green apple and persistent finish make for an entrancing Cava. 12% RRP £16 from Tannico
1+1=3 Reserva Familia Blanc de Noirs Brut Nature NVU Mes U Fan Tres
Lightly toasted nutty brioche; refined, beautifully integrated mousse; delicious doughy flinty notes; and soft ripe stone fruit unite apple and citrus. Poised mid-palate, and lifted acidity promotes divine tension. 12% n/a in UK
Non Plus Ultra Brut Reserva 2017
Complex, creamy and completely charming. Scents of roasted nut, white fruit, and crisp, sharp apple skin mingle with refreshing minerality on the palate, and beautifully bracing acidity. 11.5% RRP £11 from Gourmet Hunters
The Best Marques De Los Rios Brut 2017
Crisp acidity, coupled with soft creamy bubbles make this juicy and fresh wine very easy to drink. Wet stone aromatics bring out a light almond nature on the finish. 12% Enquire at Morrisons
Josep Valls Gran Reserva Extra Brut 2014
Fresh, refined mousse that is aromatic and ripe; much like the smell of fragrant summer rain: anise, fennel, ripe red apple with a lightly toasted touch. The perfect aperitif! 12% n/a in UK
In Partnership With Castillo Perelada Brut NV
Waitrose & Partners
Elegantly executed with a nose of grapefruit and spring flowers. Creamy palate of lemon and evocative stone fruity. 11.5% Enquire at Waitrose & Partners