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Every So Often: Cava

Cava Being Poured

Hi, guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So, today, something a little different. So, this it a Dibon Brut Reserve, but the important part here is it’s cava.

If you’re not familiar, cava is just the Spanish term for sparkling wine, for lack of a better definition. Sparkling wine’s kind of interesting, right? We mostly call it champagne, but we can’t legally call it that if you’re not making the wine in the Champagne region of France. So, that leads to a number of marketing challenges. There’s a wide assortment of issues that go along with that.

For California vintners, you have some folks who stubbornly still call it champagne, and end up getting dragged into court over it. You have others who are happy to just go with the more generic California sparkling wine. You have other regions that are now building their own sparking wine portfolios, and they have their own brand. It’s like champagne is, it’s really just a brand name, at this point. So, cava in Spain, prosecco in Italy is probably the best known.

This came up because I talked about yesterday, about how yields in cooler climate vineyard sites are often much lower than they are in warmer ones. The average sparkling wine is made in a cool climate vineyard site, and it’s stuff that just doesn’t get ripe normally. So, in California, we look at that, and most sparkling wine is made of pinot and chardonnay here, in the state of California. Those are planted in parts of the vineyard, or part of the state that’s not going to get ripe all the way, and they end up making a sparkling out of it, and that’s perfectly fine, and it works well.

I think the logical question that comes up then, next, is so what happens next? If California can’t produce anything, Washington’s pretty warm, and it’s not going to produce a lot, although I do think, I talked about some of the Puget Sound AVA stuff the other day, and perennial vintners. I think there’s a chance for folks like that to make a damn good sparkling wine in the western part of the state of Washington. Oregon obviously can do it, although they seem to be singularly pinot focused, perhaps to a fault.

You’re going to see other countries, in other regions, that are maybe not as necessarily normally wine-focused come into this marketplace. I think the Czech Republic’s a great example of this. They have a long history with fermentation sciences. They make some great beer, that’s to be sure, and they do have wine production facilities available. Really, when you talk to wine makers, they’ll tell you a couple of things. First, the important thing is not to learn to make wine. The important thing is to learn how to handle fermentation. When you have a large group of people that already know how to handle fermentation, then that gives you the opportunity to make quality wine.

So, I think you will see Czech Republic making wine. I think you’re going to see someone in South America, I don’t want to – I hesitate to try to guess exactly who it’s going to be – will start a sparkling wine program that $10 to $15 dollar a bottle sale in the United States, if not a little bit lower than that, and I think there will be other regions in eastern Europe that try to come into that market segment, too.

Once again, I just thought it was a little bit interesting, based on yesterday, coming and talking about what happens at a lower yielding vineyard site. The lower yield is good for high quality wine, but it does limit what you can put there, and what a winery could produce. That’s one of the reasons why sparkling wine isn’t made in the numbers in California that it is elsewhere, and that’s why we have a generic sparkling wine designation here in California, instead of cava, prosecco, or champagne, because they have a larger market segment [00:03:38], and they have more producers.

So, once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, hope everybody’s having a good one.

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