Sparkling wines from Spain have their very own character. The main focus of cava production is in Catalonia, where most of the vineyards are located

Sparkling wines from Spain have their very own character. The main focus of cava production is in Catalonia, where most of the vineyards are located
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Salud España: The best sparkling wines in Spain

Spanish sparkling wines have been enjoying a steady rise in popularity among consumers for years. The great variety and the predominant use of regional, indigenous grape varieties such as Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada offer a wide-ranging and individual taste experience.

The afternoon sun bathes the hills of the heartland of Catalonia northwest of Barcelona in a shimmering, golden light. In the background, the rugged outline of the Montserrat foothills, which translates as "sawn mountain", rises into the sky. The unique biotope of the biodynamic Gramona winery is located in the middle of this picturesque, unspoilt landscape in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia.

The area is characterized by an idyllic mixture of vineyards, small woods and pastures for the farm's own sheep, chickens and horses. It is the realm of the Gramona family, which has deep roots here in the Penedès, the core region of top Spanish sparkling wines since the mid-19th century. Xavier Gramona has passionately championed the quality, sustainability and dynamism of this wine region like no other in recent years.

He and other companions withdrew their wineries from the D.O. Cava (Denominacion de Origen Cava), as the quality efforts did not go far enough for them. Together with other renowned wineries, he founded the "Corpinnat" producer association and brand in 2019. And together with his cousin Jaume Gramona, he has developed visions for further developing the terroir concept of sustainable wine production in Catalonia.

Sadly, Xavier Gramona, this grand seigneur of the wine world, passed away in August 2023 as a result of an accident at the winery. But "his ideas live on in me and my cousin Roc, Jaume's son in the sixth generation," emphasizes Leonard Gramona, Xavier's son, with sadness and pride. "His work is the DNA of our wine region, which is characterized above all by the traditional Xarel-lo grape variety, but also by Macabeo and Parellada. The hot summers show that Xarel-lo copes best with the climatic extremes. For us, the future lies in continuing along the path we have chosen."

The high proportion of the antioxidant resveratrol in the Xarel-lo grape is the reason why sparkling wines from the Penedès can mature for an exceptionally long time without losing their freshness. Gramona's mature sparkling wines are irrefutable proof of this. In the tasting, the finesse-rich freshness of the prestige cuvée "Cellar Battle 2013" shines above all.

Other Catalan wineries that have remained loyal to the CAVA D.O. appellation also use Xarel-lo in their cuvées. These include the biodynamic family winery Parés Baltà. The wines are created by the two oenologists Maria Elena Jiménez and Marta Casas. In the tasting, the bone-dry Cava BLANCA CUSINÉ 2013, polarized by herbs and invigorating acidity, stands out in particular.

"The freshness comes from the old historic wine terraces at the source of the Foix river. At an altitude of 700 meters, the conditions are ideal for the grapes to produce the necessary acidity for our top cavas," enthuses Marta Casas. "In addition to Xarel-lo, we also use a small amount of international grape varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay," Maria Elena continues, "they give our cavas additional structure."

The organic winery of the same name, founded by Pere Ventura, also focuses on a marriage of predominantly traditional and international grape varieties. "We pay the necessary respect to our land, the source of our livelihood," explains Pere Ventura, pointing to his historic top locations in Can Bas. The winery has been one of the best cava addresses for years and this year impresses with the "Vintage Gran Reserva Brut Blanco 2016".

Other traditional cava wineries such as Juvé y Camps with the "Gran Reserva Can Rius, Guarda Superior 2017" or the "2017 Gran Reserva" from Muscandià are among the highly rated cavas. The remarkable quality of the tasted cavas in traditional bottle fermentation shows that the sales figures of the last two years are soaring, and with good reason. "In 2022, we sold 249 million bottles. An unprecedented success," reports the President of CAVA D.O., Javier Pagés, "as before, Germany is one of the biggest customers," he continues.

On closer inspection, the basic Cava, the "Cava de Guarda", is the absolute top seller with 216 million bottles and a share of around 87 percent. Exports to Germany amounted to around 29 million bottles, accounting for a share of 13%. This reasonably priced Cava de Guarda goes on sale after a minimum storage period of 9 months. The use of mostly inexpensive grapes from other approved regions reduces the price. This cava is then mainly sold in supermarkets by the three global players Henkel-Freixenet, Codorníu and García Carrión.

Other quality designations are determined by the ripening times. These include the various Cavas de Guarda Superior, the Reserva with a maturation period of more than 18 months, the Gran Reserva with 30 months or the very high-quality"Cava de Paraje Calificado" with more than 36 months.

From the Cava de Guarda Superior quality level onwards, all cavas must also be 100% organic from 2025. It is pleasing to note that the above-mentioned quality cavas have also recorded good growth in sales.
95 percent of cavas are produced in the core region of Catalonia around Barcelona. In order to offer the consumer more clarity about the regional origin, the latest regulation allows the optional naming of the zones of origin with their subzones on the label. These are: Comtats de Barcelona, Valle del Ebro and Viñedos de Almendralejo. In addition, wineries that only use grapes from their own vineyards can use the "Elaborador integral" label. This variety of designations and the regulations of the Cava D.O. are very complex, and it remains to be seen whether consumers will be able to keep track of them.

The appellation D.O. Penedès also stands for high-quality sparkling wine and is represented by the highly rated "Navazos Extra Brut Xarello 2016" from one of the leading wineries, Colet. As a result of this approach, Spain's sparkling wines are once again presenting themselves with complex qualities at a high international level, as in previous years. For the connoisseur, they offer a wide range of flavors and great wine enjoyment.


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Gerhild Burkard