Gastronomy


sparkling wine


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Cordoníu Raventós

Irene Moore


Spanish cavas are not only reserved for special occasions.


Ever since the French Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon sipped this glorious liquid and said—according to legend—“I am drinking the stars,” champagne has been the world’s favorite wine for celebrations and special occasions. But why does it have to be champagne? Only the sparkling wine made with grapes from the Champagne appellation in France can be called “champagne.” If produced in other countries, it’s called sparkling wine. In Italy, the sparkler is known as spumante; in Spain, it’s called cava. The Spanish like to use cava instead of champagne for their most cherished moments.

Cavas Cordoníu Raventós have been part of celebrations for hundreds of years. Spain’s foremost producer of cava is the oldest family-owned company in the country and 17th oldest family-owned company worldwide. Javier Pagés, the company’s CEO, is a proud member of a family with 465 years of experience in producing quality wines and cavas—since 1551. “The firm has always been in the same family,” he says.

Cava was the creation of Don Jose Raventós, of the Cordoníu winery, which sold wine throughout Europe in the 1860s. He discovered an excellent opportunity after a visit to France’s Champagne region and started producing sparkling wines in Spain in the year 1872. He called it cava (the Catalan word for “cave” or “cellar”). Today, more than 230 million bottles of cava are sold every year, with Cordoníu Raventós among the top sellers.

But is cava the same as Champagne? “Yes, and no,” says Pagés. “Yes in the sense that the production method (méthode Champenoise) is the same. However, cava is different because the terroir is different, and we make cavas in our style.”

 


Javier Pagés

Cava was originally made from Spanish grape varieties such as parellada, xarel-lo, and macabeo. “The varieties used now are chardonnay and pinot noir, the same employed to make Champagne. But they take their own personality,” Pagés says. Anna de Cordoníu, the company’s first Chardonnay Cava, is named for the Codorníu heiress, who married winemaker Miquel Raventós in 1659, but maintained her surname as the Codorníu matriarch. First produced in 1981, Anna de Cordoníu cava celebrates the family dynasty. “Anna de Codorníu has an excellent image and tasting profile,” says Pagés. Tasting notes describe it as having aromas of red and yellow apples and pears, and creamed bananas, with a soft, lemon-pie note at the end.

 

Appreciation of sparkling wines is growing worldwide because of their increasing quality and availability. The popularity is perhaps fueled by a younger generation unwilling to pay champagne’s sometimes exorbitant prices. Pagés believes it is a lifestyle change as well. “Consumers are drinking on more occasions, and they love sparkling wines. Champagne is perceived as being for special celebrations, whereas cava is more affordable. In Spain, glasses of cava are often shared before lunch and dinner. Many consumers have not had the experience of drinking sparkling wines regularly,” he says, “but once they try them, it makes every occasion special.”

 


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