Cava discovery (1) an overview and a large blind tasting

Cava is changing. In May I visited the region to taste lots of the top examples of Cava, the well-known traditional method sparkling wine of Spain, and discovered some impressive wines. It leaves me with the impression that there’s a positive evolution in the region, and I didn’t realize that I’d find lots of wines like these – too often Cava has been seen as an inexpensive wine fighting on price at the bottom end of the market.

As well as my visits to vineyards and producers, Patrícia Correia, director of communications for DO Cava, gave me a presentation on Cava, beginning with some history. The production of traditional method sparkling wine, what was later to be called Cava, dates back to 1872 in Saint Sadurni d’Anoia. It was then known as Spanish ‘Champagne’. In 1887 phylloxera came to the region, and when the vineyards were eventually replanted, white varieties then ended up replacing a lot of reds. 1959 was when the word Cava appeared for the first time in an official document, and the Cosejo Regulador was set up in 1972 and the name was officially approved. In 1986 Cava became used exlusively for describing traditional method wines from Spain, and in 1991 the regulations were approved for the DO. 2002 was a very important year because a new strategic plan was implemented, which recently led to new categories of Cava in 2020.

‘Now the DO is focused on quality and excellence,’ says Correia. ‘In the past this has been a volume product, not a quality product. They are trying to raise prices. We are trying to get everyone on board.’

First, the new Cava categories. In 2020 the DO Cava unveiled two umbrella categories based on time spent ageing on lees (the second fermentation after bottling until disgorgement). The term ‘guarda’ is translated as ‘to keep’ here: they are Cava de Guarda and Cava de Guarda Superior. The first is from 9-18 months (this is 88% of all Cavas), and the second is longer than 18 months.

This second umbrella category – Cava de Guarda Superior – is broken down further. Reserva is 18-30 months, then Gran Reserva is 30 months or longer, and De Paraje Calificado is 36 months or longer from a single site (only 10 wines have achieved this as of 2020). For all three of these sub categories the vineyards must be 10 years old, of maximum 10 tons/hectare yield, and from 2025 all will have to be farmed organically. This is a major step!

Then it’s worth mentioning the Cava zones. The main area is called the Comtats de Barcelona, and this covers the whole of Catalonia, which catches 95% of Cava production. This is broken down into five subzones, of which the Valls d’Anoia – Foix is the heart of Cava country. But in contrast to Champagne, which is quite tightly geographically localized, Cava also has production zones widely spread. There’s one called the Valle d’Ebro, which takes in parts of Rioja and Aragon. Then there’s the Viñedos de Valencia/Levante, half way down the east coast inland from Valencia. Then there’s the Viñedos de Almendralejo, on the other side of the country next to the Portuguese border.

Some more facts. First, the permitted varieties:


  • Subirat Parent/Malvasia
  • Chardonnay
  • Macabeo
  • Xarel.lo (rarely, you will see this indicated as Pansa Blanca)
  • Parellada


  • Monastrell
  • Pinot Noir
  • Trepat
  • Garnacha Tinta

‘We think Trepat has a lot of potential,’ says Correia. ‘We are trying to motivate winemakers to make more Trepat wines.’ There’s no push to add further grapes. ‘These nine varieties are enough at this stage. We are pretty stable with the varieties we have.’


The length of the ageing determines the category:

Cava de Guarda (9 months+) and Cava de Guarda Superior (with Reserva [18 months], Gran Reserva [30] and Paraje Calficiado [36]).

‘We are seeing a lot of increase in the Brut Nature category,’ says Correia

There is another rule: the liqor de tiraje can’t increase alcohol by more then 0.5%.

Cava in stats

  • 38 000 hectares of vineyards (in 2022)
  • 276 million kilos of grapes harvested (2022)
  • 249 million bottles a year in sales (up 5% on 2021)
  • More than 90% comes from Penedes
  • 69% sales export (38% in EU outside Spain)

Top export countries, in sales of million bottles 2021/22

  • Germany (29, 30)
  • USA (24, 22)
  • Belgium (23, 21)
  • UK (20, 17)
  • Sweden (9,11)
  • Japan (11, 11)
  • France (9,10)
  • NL (7,8)
  • Russia (6,7)
  • Canada (4,3)


  • Organics: now 32 million bottles in 2022, which is up 40%
  • Guada Superior (has to be organic) grew 12.5% in the year to 2022
  • 6 Cava producers left for Corpinnat and now there are 10 in that alternative appellation
  • Cava is 350 companies/wineries (206 bottling wines and another 144 who make base wines)
  • 6284 winegrowers in the region
  • Ageing is a way to increase complexity and prices, so this is an objective

People didn’t know that Cava is made by traditional method, so they now communicate this, and they also communicate ageing time.

A new move is a producer stamp identifying those who do everything from pressing to bottling on their own property. Elaborador Integral. ‘Let’s give something to all these wineries that are doing everything on their property,’ says Correia. 14 wineries have the stamp now, with three more on the way.

Paraje Calificado is the highest level of Cava, and there is a separate tasting panel for this

Maximum yield of 8 tons/ha, manual harvest, at least 36 months on the lees but most do more, only Brut, Extra Brut and Brut Nature, made on estate, 48 hl/ha maximum yield. Six wineries are doing this at the moment. New wineries are trying to get in on this.

There are four different areas in DO Cava

  • Comtats de Barcelona (95% of production) with five subregions (Valls d’Anoia Foix, Serra de Mar, Conca dei Gaia, Serra de Prades, Pla de Ponent)
  • Vall del Ebro, which has two subzones (Alto Ebro, Valle del Cierzo)
  • Vinedos de Almendralejo – inland from Badajoz, the border with Portugal
  • Zona de Levante (name yet to be determined) close to Valencia, lots of interest here in making better wines. 600-900 m altitude, with a big diurnal temperature range

Blind Tasting

Flight 1

Dominio de la Vega Reserva Especial 2018
12.5% alcohol 70% Macabeo, 30% Chardonnay, aged minimum 24 months on lees. Full yellow colour. Lovely intensity on the nose with appealing citrus fruit as well as some toast and spice. Shows great depth on the palate with nice intensity, keen acidity, and lively, precise flavours of lime, pear, some peach and bracing acidity. Lots of flavour here: a serious expression of Cava. 94/100

U Mes U Cygnus Sador Cava Brut Nature NV
11.5% alcohol. Organic. Pale in colour. Intense aromatics of lime, honey and citrus zest. Has a brightness. The palate is very fresh and delicate with lively lemon and lime fruit with keen acidity and a nice bitter grapefruit peel twist on the finish. Fruit to the fore here, and real brightness and transparency. 91/100

Bodegas Escudero Dioro Baco Cava Reserva Extra Brut
12% alcohol. 100% Chardonnay. Full yellow colour. Rich, toasty, intense nose of baked bread, burnt toast, honey and tinned peaches. The palate is powerful and dense with spicy, toasty, nutty characters complementing the bold pear and peach fruit. Has some appley, oxidative character, too. Delicious in this rich bold style. 91/100

U Mes U Cava Laurus Brut Nature Reserva NV
50% Pinot Noir, 50% Xarel.lo. Pale colour. Fresh, fruit-driven and really nicely balanced. Apple, pear and citrus fruit here with some flesh, a hint of green, and a nice gentle finish. Has appropriate acidity, with nice emphasis on the fruit, and a twist of citrus peel bitterness on the finish. 89/100

Giró Ribot Cava Brut Reserva Avant Excelsius 2016
12.5% alcohol. 45% Xarel.lo, 45% Chardonnay, 10% Macabeu. Full yellow colour. Nice intensity on the nose: some citrus peel, alongside lime, pear and roast almond notes. The palate has ripeness and some flesh, with appealing pear, apple and peach fruit, as well as a fine toastiness. Stylish with nice weight, and a touch of spice on the finish, as well as a touch of cherry. 91/100

Flight 2

Via de la Plata Cava Brut Nature Gran Reserva NV
11.5% alcohol. From Extremadura. Yellow colour. Zesty aromatic nose with lime, pear and spice. This has a vivid, powerful palate with linear lemon fruit core and taut acidity. There’s a density to the fruit with some pithy bitterness, but also some fine toasty notes in the background. Has a sour cherry twist at the end. 92/100

Pere Ventura Cava Tresor Gran Reserva Brut 2019
11.5% alcohol. 40% Macabeo, 40% Xarel.lo, 20% Parellada. Very rich and toasty with bold pear and peach fruit. There’s a sweetness and richness to this wine, which is focused on abundant pear and peach fruit with a gentle finish. Has some toast in the mix, too. 90/100

Roger Goulart Cava Gran Reserva Josep Valls Extra Brut 2019
12% alcohol. 30% xarel.lo, 20% Chardonnay, 20% Macabeu, 20% Parellada, 10% Pinot Noir. Lively, bright and quite delicious with lots of generous pear and peach fruit, kept honest by some lime and mandarin brightness. Nice texture and weight with good acidity. Fruit is the main emphasis here. 90/100

Rimarts Cava Gran Reserva 40 2018
Nicely aromatic with zesty citrus fruits and a touch of apricot. Fine, fruity palate shows good acidity, with a fleshy texture and a core of sweet fruit. Very appealing and fruit driven, showing a bright zesty finish with a twist of nice bitterness. 91/100

Oliver Viticultors Gemma Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature Ecologic 2018
50% Xarel.lo, 35% Macabeu, 15% Chardonnay. Yellow colour. Very appealing aromatics here with a juicy mandarin and lime character. In the mouth it is bright and fruity with a zesty, pithy, spicy twist to the appealing citrus fruit. Nice weight and balance. 92/100

Alta Alella Mirgin Cava Gran Reserva 2018
Organic. 12% alcohol. Full yellow colour. This is a bold wine showing ripe pear and peach fruit as well as a touch of baked apple. There’s some spiciness, too, and a bready quality. Has lots of appealing toastiness, finishing with spice, nuts and honey. A broad wine of real appeal. 91/100

Flight 3

Chozas Carrascal Eterno Cava Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2016
12.5% alcohol. Concentrated, taut and tasty with pear and peach fruit, showing some nutty development and subtle toast, with honeyed richness and even a touch of apricot. Lovely depth to this wine, which has generous fruit. Subtle pithy bitterness on the finish. 90/100

Finca Valldosera Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2013
11.5% alcohol. Vivid and limey with nice acidity, and notes of pear and ripe apple adding an extra dimension. Lovely acid line: there’s a sense of precision here. Finishes with a nice tart, slightly bitter pithy twist that works well. Juicy and linear. 92/100

Canals & Munné X10 Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2011
100% xarel.lo, 50 year old vines. Overtly toasty on the nose with nuts, honey and some burnt sugar. This is quite an extreme style, but some will love it. Concentrated, nutty and toasty on the palate with peach, apricot and lime sitting under the nutty, almost toffee richness. A very distinctive wine but there’s lots to like about it. 91/100

Canals & Munné 1915 by C&M Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2017
80% Pinot Noir, 20% Xarel.lo. Linear nose with pithy lime fruit. Zesty and aromatic. The palate is powerful, zesty and lively with keen acidity and subtle toasty notes in the background. Good freshness and depth of flavour here. Stylish in a classic sort of way. 92/100

Mascaró Indòmit Blanc de Noirs Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2019
100% Garnacha, 12% alcohol. Juicy and linear with bright lemon and lime fruit, as well as some pithy grapefruit notes in the background. Bright, lemony and linear, showing nice purity, depth of flavour, and a fresh finish. Lovely concentration. 93/100

Emendis Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2019
11.5% alcohol. 30 months on lees, a blend of five varieties. Such a distinctive nose, with bright aromatics of lime and grapefruit. Very fresh. The palate is youthful, pure and linear with brightly focused lemony fruit. So linear and direct, with such fruit purity. Has a fresh grapey edge to the palate: quite terpenic. 92/100

Flight 4

Clos Gelida 4 Heretats Brut Nature Cava Gran Reserva 2019
12% alcohol. From Costers de L’Anoia. Full yellow colour. Bright, linear nose with pure, zesty citrus fruit. The palate has some fruity depth with a nice spicy edge and some subtle grapefruit pith notes. Juicy and appealing. 90/100

Pago de Tharsys Cerámica Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2018
Juicy and fruity, but with some depth. Appealing pear and citrus fruit with a slightly richer peachy quality, and some good mid-palate depth. There’s nice brightness here, a touch of bready, creamy richness, and then it finishes with some sour cherry. 91/100

Rabetllat i Vidal Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2018
Very refined nose showing fine toast, crystalline citrus fruit and a touch of honeyed richness. The palate is linear, fruit-driven and quite exotic, with a waxy, pithy edge to the bold pear, apple and lemon fruit. Lovely depth to this wine. 92/100

Muscàndia Anhel Blanc de Noirs Cava Gran Reserva 2018
100% Pinot Noir. Zesty lemony nose with a touch of lime oil. Quite linear and appealing. Bright palate with some juicy notes and a twist of lime as well as a bit of pear and peach flesh. Lovely fruit emphasis here, finishing long and lemony. 92/100

Vins El Cep Mim Natura Blanc de Noirs Cava Gran Reserva 2018
85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay. Bright, vivid, focused and lemony with some toasty, bready depth sitting under the juicy fruit. Has nice presence, with a touch of grapefruit pith bitterness on the finish and some candied, waxy notes. Vivid acidity. 91/100

Pere Mata Reserva Familia Brut Nature 2018
Complex nose of toast, nuts and wax. There’s a lovely balance here between the lemon, pear and peach fruit, and the nutty, toasty, spicy depth. There’s even a touch of apricot richness. A complete wine showing lots of character and depth, but also good balance. 93/100

Flight 5

Rovelatis Cava Gran Reserva 2017
Lively, pithy and quite intense with a twist of bitterness. Shows lime, lemon and green apple. Juicy and expressive, with the bitterness quite dominant. 87/100

Orial Rossell Cava Ariadna Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2017
50% Xarel.lo, 50% Pinot Noir. Aged at least 42 months. Zesty, spicy and vivid with some grippy notes on the palate. Good concentration of tart lemony fruit with some apple and pear. Good acidity, and some bitter notes on the finish. 89/100

Parxet Cava Gran Reserva M.C. 2016
11.5% alcohol. Juicy and bright with zesty cherry and lime fruit. Has nice brightness with cherry, pear and apple fruit. Appealing. 88/100

Uma Giró Ribot Cava Guarda Superior Brut 2016
40% Xarel.lo, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir. Nice fruit here: ripe citrus and pear, with some green apple. Good acidity. The emphasis is firmly on the fruit and there’s lots to like about this fleshy, fruity wine. Subtle bitter twist on the finish. 90/100

Maria Rigol Mil.leni Cava Reserva Brut Nature 2016
11.5% alcohol. A blend of Macabeu, Xarel.lo, Parellada and Chardonnay. Lime, yellow plum, orange peel and spice on the nose. Has bright fruit on the palate with a subtle pithy edge. Zesty, linear and bright with a juicy twist. Appealing. 90/100

U Mes U Caellus Cava Gran Reserva Brut 2016
12% alcohol. Blanc de Noirs, 100% Pinot Noir. Distinctive pithy citrus fruit nose. Peach, pear and lime on the palate, showing nice purity and good acidity. Linear and bright. 89/100

Flight 6

Segura Viudas Torre Galimany Cava Gran Reserva 2016
12% alcohol. Xarel.lo, 70+ years old, fermented in oak. Full yellow colour. Rich and textural with bold pear and peach fruit as well as some toastiness, and creamy, bready richness. Nice depth of flavour with a rich peach and baked apple generosity to the fruit. Nice depth. 91/100

Segura Viudas Cava Gran Reserva 2016
12% alcohol. 85% Macabeu, 15% Chardonnay. This is bold and rich with nice depth to the fruit. Lots of pear, peach and apricot, married well to sweet toast, nuts and honey depth. Nicely intense with some spicy depth. Satisfying and broad. 92/100

Josep M Ferret Cava Brut Nature Gran Reserva Arashi 2012
This spends 60 months on the lees, and is a blend of Parellada, Xarel.lo and Macabeu. Full yellow colour. Highly aromatic and rich with toast, honey and spice on the nose. Linear and focused on the palate with lovely taut citrus fruit, supplemented by some pear and peach richness and a nice nervous acid line. Stylish and focused. 92/100

Mestres Clos Domiana Cava Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2007
60% Xarel.lo, 20% Parellada, 20% Macabeu from a 50 year old vineyard. 14 years on lees under cork. Yellow/gold in colour. Distinctive style. Broad, aromatic nose of peach, baked apple, toast and honey, showing lots of character from long ageing. The palate is bold and savoury with harmonious pear, apple, toast and nut flavours, as well as some wax and straw. Lovely depth to this wine, which is quite vinous. 94/100

Mestres Mas Via Cava Brut Gran Reserva 2006
This is 65% Xarel.lo, 20% Macabeu, 15% Parellada, from an old bush vine vineyard planted between 1954 and 1968. 16 years on lees under cork. Yellow/gold in colour. Distinctive style. Intense and developed (in a nice way) with nuts, toast, spicy and honey, as well as bold peach and apricot fruit. Lovely depth and weight with some spicy intensity on the finish. Mellow with age and showing nice harmony as well as complexity. 94/100

Flight 7

Alta Allell Mirgin Opus Cava Paraje Qualificat Vallcirera Brut Nature 2018
60% Chardonnay, 40% Xarel.lo. Complex nose is zesty and bright with lemon, apple and pear. The palate is juicy and direct with nice crystalline citrus fruit as well as high acidity. Lovely precision to this wine, which shows great focus. 93/100

Alta Alella Mirgin Exeo Cava Partage Qualificat Valleirera Brut Nature 2016
60% Xarel.lo, 40% Chardonnay. Complex nose with zesty citrus fruit: lime and lemon, and even some mandarin richness. The palate is fruity and lively with pear and spice and nice pithy bitterness, finishing long and lemony. Lovely balance here, and such focus. 93/100

Giró del Gorner Cava Brut Rosat Pinot Noir 2021
Pink/orange in colour. Bright and fruity with some lovely supple strawberry and cherry fruit, as well as a touch of jellyish richness to the texture, and good lemony acidity. Pure and bright with fruit focus, but also a bit of complexity. 91/100

Tantum Ergo Cava Rosado Pinot Noir Brut Nature 2020
Pale pink in colour. There’s some toasty depth here as well as cherry, cranberry and lemon fruit. Lovely crisp acidity keeps things really in focus. Good balance. 90/100

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