Cava Wine at Cellar Carles Andreu
Cava, the sparkling Spanish wine that rivals Champagne, is a modern name for a style of wine that has been produced in Spain for centuries. When we visited our Cava producer, he explained the history of Cava and what makes his Cava Wine so special.
It was still morning when we arrived at Cellar Carles Andreu, but the Catalan sun had already warmed the Parellada vines to a balmy 20°C. On the outskirts of a tiny town called Pira in Conca de Barbera, Bernat Andreu welcomed us to the winery and cellars that have been in his family since the 18th century. In the cool, shady interior of the winery, Bernat explained what Cava wine is all about.
Before Spain joined the EU in 1986, Spanish sparkling wine was generically known as Champaña or Xampany de cava, in Spanish and Catalan respectively. However, the EU obliged the Spanish winemakers to remove the reference to their French counterparts, and the Catalan word for the cellar where the wine was aged, Cava, was adopted instead. Since then, Cava has gained a reputation for crisp freshness and rich brioche flavours which puts all but the best French Champagnes to shame.
Bernat Andreu’s enthusiasm is as effervescent and compelling as his Cava. As well as being the head winemaker at his family Cava business, Bernat is also head of the local association of winemakers, an expert historian of Cava, and an experimental winemaker on a quest for innovation and novelty. As we huddled around a huge aerial photograph of Conca de Barbera, he explained the more about the production of Cava wine.
Most Cava, around 95%, is produced in the more easterly region of Penedès DO. Conca de Barberà DO, where the Andreu family makes their Cava, is distinguished by grape selection and a favourable local climate. Firstly, the local Parellada grape accounts for the bulk of their Cava production, whereas Xarel-lo and Macabeo are the main constituents of Cava wine from Penedès. This gives Conca de Barberà’s Cava more intensity and freshness compared with the output of the larger Cava region.
Also, Conca de Barberà’s best plots benefit from cooling breezes that also contribute to Cava’s characteristic refreshing flavour. Bernat’s best Parellada vineyard (from which he hopes to make the esteemed Cava de Paraje Calificado in the next few years) was a winnowing field when his family grew cereals there in the 18th century. The breeze that blew away the chaff in those days now gives his Parellada grapes a unique balance of acidity and ripeness.
Like many of our Spanish winemakers, Bernat is a tireless innovator. Adding the little-known local red grape Trepat to make a rosé cava earned him a Premi Vinari (the Oscars of Catalan wine) in 2017. While recognition with awards is nice, we knew Cellar Carles Andreu made the best Cava Wine when we first tasted it all those years ago.