A basic guide to Cava

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This guide from the Institut del Cava, takes you through the difference between brut and demisec, with plenty of tips on what to eat with a glassful of Cava too.

A basic guide to Cava

Not sure where to start when it comes to Cava? This guide from the Institut del Cava, takes you through the difference between brut and demisec, with plenty of tips on what to eat with a glassful of Cava too. The Spanish toast the arrival of their weekend with a glass of Cava. A few bubbles alongside some delicious tapas is the ideal way to ‘Sparkle Your Friday’...or any other day for that matter. 

What is Cava?
Cava is a quality sparkling wine produced in the designated area of the Cava region in Spain. It’s produced using specific methods, by which the second fermentation and ageing process take place in the same bottle that you uncork. This allows the bubbles to be produced in a natural way, following traditional methods.

There are different types of Cava, which result from the length of time the wine is allowed to age during its second fermentation stage:

  • Cava: a minimum of nine months ageing
  • Cava Reserva: a minimum of 15 months ageing
  • Cava Gran Reserva: a minimum of 30 months ageing

Cavas can also be classified by their sugar content - the more sugar that is added to the wine, the sweeter it will be. The classifications can run as follows:

  • Brut Nature: no added sugar
  • Extra Brut: up to 6g of sugar per litre
  • Brut: up to 15g of sugar per litre
  • Extra Dry: 12 - 20g of sugar per litre
  • Dry: 17 - 35g of sugar per litre
  • Demisec: 33 - 50g of sugar per litre
  • Sweet: More than 50g of sugar per litre 


Cava grape varieties
Your glass of Cava is likely to be a blend of the following grape varieties. Keep an eye out on bottle labels if there’s a particular grape variety you love.

  • Macabeo: This grape offers moderate acidity and alcohol content, and is light, fruity and floral when young. Delicately pearly with a light bouque.

  • Xarel.lo:A well balanced grape that produces structured wines with good acidity, providing personality and aging potential.

  • Parellada: Fruity, fresh and aromatic wines are produced from this grape. Its moderate acidity levels provide fragrance, freshness and life to young Cavas.

  • Chardonnay: Balanced wines with body and strong aromas are produced from the likes of this grape. It’s good level of alcohol content gives Cavas staying power on the palette.

  • Garnacha (Grenache): Balanced stable wines are produced from Garnacha grapes, with their rich alcohol levels and moderate acidity.

  • Pinot Noir: This grape variety is aromatic and rich in alcohol. It is delicate in flavour with excellent acidity and alcohol balance.

  • Monastrell (Mourvèdre): This grape has an intense colour and produces great, full-bodied Cavas. Its good alcohol content and balance between alcohol and acidity make it a well-balanced variety.

  • Trepat: This variety is only used for making rosé Cavas. It’s moderate in alcohol content, with balanced acidity, light colour and little body.


Matching Cava with food
Cava serves as a great accompaniment to the four main flavour groups: salt, sweet, bitter and acidic. It’s also a great match for fatty foods, as the carbon dioxide bubbles help to refresh the palate.


  • Salads: salads with fruit (especially grapes, apples and pears) and the growing range of vinegars such as Cava vinegar make Cava an ideal choice. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut, Brut Reserva) 

  • Pasta: the neutral flavour of pasta makes it easy to combine with almost any variety of Cava. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut Nature, Brut, Extra Brut Reserva) 

  • Rice: One of the best matches. This is a clear example of Cava as a “conductor” of flavours. Cava goes particularly well with paellas and risottos. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut, Extra Brut, Rosé) 

  • Seafood: Cava helps to enhance the flavour intensity of seafood and shellfish as their natural saltiness is balanced out by the acidity of dry varieties. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut Nature Reserva, Brut Gran Reserva) 

  • Fish: a particularly good combination with blue or fatty fish, as the effect of the carbon dioxide balances the greasy sensation in the mouth. ‘Meatier’ fish such as tuna also goes very well with Cava. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut Nature/Brut, Cava Reserva Brut Nature/Brut) 

  • Meat: Cava goes fantastically with poultry and white meats. It’s also a tasty accompaniment to lamb, stews and carpaccio. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut Nature, Brut Gran Reserva, Rosé) 

  • Desserts: light, sweet desserts and acidic red fruit flavours match nicely with Cavas that are drier. The flavours of long aged varieties are a perfect match with desserts in general, and sweet Cavas are a pleasant accompaniment to custard-based or creamy dishes. (Pairing suggestion: Cava Brut, Demi-sec, Sweet, Rosé)


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