How is Sparkling Wine Made?
Quick refresher. Grape juice turns into wine when yeast consume the sugar and leave alcohol in its place. This process also creates a gust of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which usually just evaporates into the air. However, if you prevent the CO2 from escaping, it becomes trapped in the wine and creates the bubbles (mousse) we see and taste on our tongue.
Champagne Vs. Cava
Name & Location
Name protection is a forever driving force and challenge for the wine business. Champagne comes from the Champagne region of France. Only sparkling wine made from this region can lawfully be named “Champagne.” However, you may catch the name used in other countries because the brands were created before the global law took effect. For example, you may see bottles with “California Champagne” labels.
Cava comes from Penedès in Cataluña, Spain. The name “Cava,” which derives from the words “cave,” or “wine cellar,” was created to set itself apart from other sparkling terms. It was formally recognized in the wine industry in the 1960s and became a legally-protected name in 1972.
Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier
Cava: White grape varieties are Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Parellada, and Chardonnay. Black grape varieties are Garnacha Tinta, Trepat, Pinot Noir and Monastrell.
Champagne–Bottle: Wine from this region uses the “Traditional method” for bubbles. A base wine is added to a bottle, a mixture of wine, yeast, and nutrients are added next. The wine ferments for a second time in the sealed bottle and the CO2 is locked in to create bubbles and pressure. The dead yeast are removed after a significant period of time of mixing with the wine, and the bottle is resealed under pressure.
Cava–Bottle: Same as Champagne
Champagne– Apple, lemon, citrus, brioche and pastry. The bready (autolytic) notes are a result of the sparkling wine mixing with the dead yeasts over a period of time. Dead yeasts release flavors of toast, brioche, graham crackers, etc.
Cava– Apple, lemon, herbal, and light brioche. The autolytic flavors are less pronounced than Champagne due to shorter aging requirements on the dead yeast.
Champagne: Delicate, tender, fine bubbles
Cava: Fine bubbles
Aged Before Released
Champagne: All Champagnes must age on their dead yeast for at least 12 months. Premium versions can be aged for years before the yeast are removed.
Cava: All Cava must age on their dead yeast for at least 9 months. Cava Reserve is aged for 15 months, and Cava Gran Reserva is aged for a minimum of 30 months.
Additional Aging in Bottle
Champagne: Can age in the bottle, some for many years
Cava: Can age in bottle
Champagne: Very good to outstanding. Champagne is made in a very meticulous way, from harvest, to the wine-making techniques, to traditionally hand-turning the bottles to mix the dead yeast in (riddling), and to long-term aging for bready notes.
Cava: Acceptable to outstanding. Most basic Cavas are acceptable or good quality. “Reservas” have a higher quality level due to more meticulous wine-making techniques.
Champagne: Premium + due to all of the careful wine-making techniques and aging before release.
Cava: Inexpensive to premium. The longer sparkling wines undergo aging, the higher the final price.
Follow me for more wine education and tips!