Champagne Vs. Cava. What’s the Difference?

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.

Main Grapes

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.

Bubble Method

ChampagneBottle: 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.

CavaBottle: 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.

Bubbles (Mousse)

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

General Quality

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.

General Price

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.


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One thought on “Champagne Vs. Cava. What’s the Difference?

  1. Champagne 🍾 and Cava!! I had never heard of Cava before!! Both are outstanding!!! Got a BD coming up next month and I’m going to try them both!! Thank you, Merci Beacoup, and Gracias!!😊😊

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