A Cava Adventure in Spain
We are excited as we arrive at the Sant Sadurní d’Anoia train station, a short trip from Barcelona, to enjoy a day of tasting Spanish sparkling wines known as cava. Catalunia’s Penedès is the equivalent of France’s Champagne region. The town is home to 50 cava producers, although we have time to visit only two. For lovers of sparkling wine this is heaven, and we can’t wait for our exploration of cava to begin.
Cava, like the best Champagne, is made using the traditional méthode champenoise, where the secondary fermentation happens in the bottle. It takes its name from the caves where it is produced. The difference is the grapes used, which are unique to Spain: Macabelo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo. Cava has been produced in Spain since 1872 and gained prominence for its high quality. Our first stop is Freixenet, which has been producing cava since 1915.
We arrive to see a motor scooter with an oversized bottle of cava in front of the building, along with several vintage autos. Our tour begins with a video detailing the history of Freixenet going back multiple generations. We learn about farming practices, grapes, and the production process and finally descend nine levels into the caves. At one point, the caves are so low we have to duck to pass through. The leading lady on this season of ABC’s hit show, “The Bachelorette,” visited these very same caves on one of her dates, making our visit even more special. The caves are enormous, with more bottles than we can begin to count, given they produce 140 million bottles of cava each year.
Next it is time to be whisked through the rest of the caves on a train, one of the best rides ever. Disneyland has nothing on Cavaland!
After covering lots of ground, we finish in the elegant tasting room with a sample of the cava we have heard so much about. We sample the Cordon Negro, brimming with bubbles, crisp, and delicious. We would love to linger over a glass of Brut Rose and some of the winery’s other selections, but we are expected for another tour and tasting elsewhere.
The drive into the Segura Viudas estate is beautiful and dramatic with vineyards on each side of the road lined with hedges. It is an impressive estate of 185 hectares, historical buildings dating back to the 11th century, and verdant land. We are welcomed with a glass of perfectly chilled cava, the winery’s refreshing and delicious Reserva Heredad. The tour begins in the vineyards to learn about the grapes. It is nearing harvest so we are treated to the sight of grapes ripening on the vines and compare the taste of a 15-year-old Macabeo grape with that of 45-year-old vine, a white varietal we are unfamiliar with. The older vines naturally produce a more refined fruit.
We learn about the winery’s philosophy about farming, preferring natural methods for treating soil and pests to preserve the quality of the fruit. Afterward, we visit the production facility, with its soaring ceilings and enormous tanks covered with ceramic tiles. The caves are a welcome sight, a cool contrast to the outside temperatures. We admire bottles aging in the cellar, nine months for the youngest and 15 and 30 months for Reserva and the Gran Reserva, respectively, accounting for their smooth taste.
After seeing the caves and the archives where decades of vintages are stored, we sit down for a thorough tasting of the winery’s array of cava, ranging from dry to sec (or sweeter), in a room carved out of stone older than any buildings in the United States. It is fun to compare the cavas side-by-side and to appreciate how nicely they complement the cheese, meats, and almonds we are served. After noting our favorites we realize not all are available in the US, making our tasting that much more special.
After what seemed like hours sampling cava, we are hungry and eager for Spanish cuisine. This cava town has a beautiful restaurant, Cal Blay, recommended by the winery. It fittingly has images of wine along with a curved ceiling made of stone, reminiscent of a cava bottle. We order seafood and a bottle of cava, of course. During our meal we discuss our favorite cavas and what we liked best about the day’s tours. We conclude that while we always appreciate a glass of cava it is so much more satisfying to enjoy it where it was produced, which only makes it taste better. It was a truly memorable day, one we will remember for years every time we drink a glass of sparkling wine.