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Definitive guide to differentiate cava and champagne

It is the quintessential Christmas drink. Surely these days, in your glasses there is cava and / or champagne, in addition to toasting, to drink with an aperitif and / or with lunch or dinner. Sparkling wines are synonymous with joy, celebration, fantasy and good wishes. And, although it is now when its consumption grows, it is a wine that goes well with almost any dish and can be drunk from the aperitif to the dessert. Cava and champagne are the two most popular sparkling wines – although prosecco is also making its way. Let’s see, then, what these two white wines with bubbles agree on and how they differ. Both are made using the traditional or champenoise method Cava and champagne share the same production method, known as traditional or champenoise, by which a double fermentation takes place in the bottle. The wine is bottled -or assembly of different wines- and after a first fermentation, generally with some added sugar along with the yeasts, it performs a second fermentation in the bottle consuming all or part of the sugar and generating, in addition to alcohol, bubbles of carbon dioxide. These bottles are placed horizontally with the cap down so that sediment is deposited near the cap. Thanks to the ‘stirring’ process, they are turned -manually or automatically- until they are turned upside down so that the lees or dead yeasts are deposited on the part of the neck, near the stopper, in what is known as the ‘neck’. Finally, and due to the freezing effect, the bottles are slaughtered so that all these grounds are expelled and they are covered again, preserving the gas pressure, the initial volume is restored, being able to add tirage or expedition liquor (mixture of wine and sugar) depending on the type of product you want to obtain. Subsequently, they are corked again, after still remaining a few months in the cellar, and the aluminum capsule, the wire brush and the label are placed on them to be marketed. Main differences between cava and champagne 1. The area of ​​origin Cava is protected by a designation of origin, whose area with the highest production (90%) is located in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Barcelona), but it is also recognized as cava which is made in some municipalities of Tarragona, Gerona, Lleida, La Rioja, Álava, Navarra, Badajoz and Valencia. For its part, the designation of origin Champagne is located in the north-eastern part of France, with 4 large well-differentiated regions: the ‘Montagne’ of Reims, the Marne Valley, the Côte des Blancs and the Côte des Bar. 2. The climate and the soil Each of these areas has a different climate and soils and this is reflected in the final product. In Catalonia, which is where most of the cava is made in Spain, the Mediterranean climate predominates and this causes a faster ripening of the grapes, while in the Champagne region they enjoy a less moderate continental climate, with Atlantic influence. , rainy and cold that affects a higher acidity and a later ripening of the grape. The soil also marks fundamental differences, in the Champagne area they are calcareous, very acidic and poor in substrate, unlike the Mediterranean soils where cava is grown, especially in the Catalan region of Penedés, which are calcareous and clayey and This causes a grape with a lot of sugar, since it does not require excessive rainfall to accumulate water from the soil, rich in nutrients. Although it must be said that due to the breadth of what is known as the ‘cava region’, it can be said that there is no single soil and that, therefore, each one will mark a different character in the final drink. 3. The grape varieties Another of the great differences between cava and champagne is that each uses different grape varieties for its production. In the case of cava, the authorized varieties are: Macabeo, Xarel.lo, Parellada, Malvasía and Chardonnay, in white; and garnacha, monastrell, pinot noir and trepat, in red. Champagne, for its part, has as its most emblematic varieties, pinot noir and meuenier, in reds, and chardonnay, in white. Although the use of arbane, petit meslier, pinot blanc and pinot gris (all white) is also allowed. 4. Grapes from a single harvest or different ones. Cava makers usually use grapes from the same vintage while champagne makers, due to their climate, make products with wines from different harvests of different years. The term millésime used by the French indicates that it comes exclusively from a vintage and the year of harvest is stated on the label. Although they also make non-vintage ones, in which wines from different vintages are mixed. 5. The categories The Regulatory Council of the Denomination of Origin Cava establishes 4 categories within this drink -which is made in a white and pink version- according to its aging time in the bottle: ‘Cava’ (from 9 months of aging) , ‘Reserva’ (from 15 months of aging), ‘Gran Reserva’ (from 30 months of aging) and ‘Cava de Paraje Calificado’ (from 36 months of aging and with grapes from small plots with unique soil and climate characteristics). According to the sugar content, the categories are ‘Brut’, ‘Extra Brut’, ‘Brut’, ‘Extra Seco’, ‘Seco’, ‘Semi Seco’ and ‘Dulce’. This differentiation is also made within champagne. In France, the minimum aging for champagne is 15 months and the grape varieties with which it is made also determine the existence of different types of champagne: ‘Cuvée Prestige’ (it carries different varieties from the best plots selected for their quality and typicality); ‘Blanc de Noirs’ (red grapes such as Pinot Noir and / or Pinot Meunier); ‘Blanc de blancs’ (it is made exclusively with white grapes) and ‘Rosé’ (they are obtained by maceration of red grapes or by assembling white wines and a ‘still’ red wine with the ‘Champagne’ appellation). We also find the ‘Grand Cru or Premier Cru’ champagnes on the market, which, in general, are wines whose grapes come from excellent vineyards classified as ‘Grand Cru’ or ‘Premier Cru’. 6. Prices As a general rule, the price of cava is usually lower than that of champagne, but in recent years this has not always been the case. For a time it was spread, unfairly and inaccurately, that the former was of inferior quality than the latter. But this price difference may be more related to the fact that in Spain the most common is that the producers and the farmers are the same, while in France they are differentiated and the former have to buy the grapes from the latter, at the same time. which is linked to a lower yield per hectare due to the adverse weather conditions in the champagne area. This has traditionally resulted in a higher price for French sparkling compared to our cava. However, today, the differences are narrowing, there are cavas whose price is at the level of many champagnes and, in both cases, it must be said that we find them of magnificent quality, both from small and large producers. Hence, the price range is very wide in both cases. Temperature, service and toast of sparkling wines Both in the case of cava and champagne, it is recommended to serve them at a temperature of between 6 and 8ºC for the youngest and around 10ºC for those with a longer aging time. Traditionally, the flute glass, after the almost extinct Pompadour, was the most recommended to drink this drink, to avoid the disappearance of the carbonic and, therefore of the bubbles, and achieve that the aromas are concentrated inside, but the trend Today advises the glass of white wine and even the widest Burgundy because experts say that they allow sparkling wines to express themselves better. There is also the tulip glass, which starts from the flute model and which widens at the base to allow the wine to express itself without losing temperature and narrows again in the mouth so that the aromas are concentrated and the carbon dioxide does not escape. Whichever you drink it in, freshness, finesse and elegance are the main virtues that a good sparkling wine has to bring together and, once we have it, let’s fill our glasses with it, raise them and let’s toast with its bubbles!

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