Why not Cava?

Photo by Vinologue

There is what appears to be a “möbius” argument these days when it comes to people’s opinions on Cava, the Spanish bubbly that is mostly made in the Penedès region of Catalonia. Concisely put, “…Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain, is considered merely simple and fun…” as the problem is stated here by Lettie Teague. It’s the type of discussion you never hear about Champagne (obviously always classy because it’s French) or Prosecco (which is very similar to Cava but isn’t scorned, yet.) The reasons are often different, but the end result is the same in that people seem to generally be wary of Cava unless of course you’re from Sweden and such a fan, you wrote a book about the wines.

But, for most other countries, the points we hear whether on the interwebs or in person seem to be something along these lines:

The American Argument

Every Cava I’ve tasted is crap. It’s a crap wine. Oh, sure there was one that was like $30, but why would I try that when there are so many under $10, which by the way, are crap.

The British Argument

Yes, there are some distinguished Cavas out there, but the price point is just too high and if I’m going to spend that, I’ll buy Champagne. Now that, is a world class bubbly. [thumbs must be placed in one’s vest while saying this]

The French/Italian Argument

Cava, what’s Cava?

The Non-Catalan Spanish Argument

Cava? Oh right, that’s mostly made in Catalonia, so I’ll boycott it and buy a Cava from one of the other DO Cava regions that aren’t Penedès like Extremadura, but they actually truck in their bottles from there anyways and release the wines as a “Spanish” Cava. But, I won’t pay more than 6€ or at most 8€ if it’s a holiday.

The Catalan Argument

What day is it? Is it New Year’s, Sant Jordi, Sant Joan, la Diada, somebody’s birthday or Christmas? Okay fine, Jaume, go to the market and get a bottle of the good Cava. [20 minutes later] Jaume, this Cava is the shit we drink not for holidays! Take it back and get something over 10€! And Jaume, don’t forget your hat, it’s cold outside!

The Technical Argument

The name Cava has just become a generic brand and has little distinction of quality as it is produced in such large amounts when compared to France where you find many small, craft producers of Champagne making less than 5,000 bottles a year. Of large concern is that notable cellars have been leaving the DO in protest over how badly they think the brand has been handled.

Also tied in to this is that importers create a chicken and egg syndrome where they only bring in cheap bottles so people view it as a low quality, cheap sparkling wine and then won’t buy the more expensive, quality bottles even when readily available.

Lastly, the DO Cava region, while focused mostly in Penedès is spread far and wide across Spain in a myriad of regions that have no common identity and isn’t a single, controlled zone as seen with Champagne. Essentialy, there is no “terroir” for Cava which again leaves it without distinction.

The Vinologue Argument

In no way do we hate Cava or Champagne or Prosecco, but it’s often the case that bubbles are used to mask an inferior white wine. We’ve had variants of all three that have been quite excellent, but, unless made extremely, extremely well, it feels the opposite of an inferior sparkling wine in that the bubbles get in the way of what is an otherwise excellent wine.

But, you see this in non-sparkling wines as well and the problem comes back to price. Much like birthday cake at an office party, the Cava selected generically for celebrations will often be piss poor, giving the illusion that this is always the case when there are countless more out there which need to be tasted to give it a fair shake. To suffice, if all you’re drinking is Don Simon box wine at 0.69€ a liter, would you even be aware of the stunning wines of Priorat or Rioja existed?

Your Argument

Speak up. Do you hate Cava? Why? Do you love it? Why? And why does this debate never get resolved?