This sparkling wine, famous all over the world, started to become known in the area of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia (Alt Penedès) in 1872, when Josep Raventós produced the first 3,000 bottles in the historical Codorníu winery. Currently more than 200 million bottles are produced each year.
Cava is made by following the traditional or champenoise method, which consists in taking barrel-fermented wine and fermenting it for a second time, this time bottled, adding sugar. The bottles then rest for nine months in a horizontal position and produce a sediment which will be removed after turning them a quarter of a turn twice a day. Finally they are closed using their characteristic cork.
In Catalonia cava can only be produced within the Cava Designation of Origin territory. This designation includes 69 towns which belong to the following areas: the entire district of El Alt Penedès (28 towns) and parts of El Alt Camp, Alt Empordà, Baix Penedès, Anoia, Bages, Baix Llobregat, Conca de Barberà, Garraf, Maresme, La Selva and Tarragonès.
Outside Catalonia cava is only produced in 23 towns in La Rioja, two in Aragón, one in Valencia and another in Extremadura.
The cava grape harvest is usually done manually between late August and late October. In El Penedès, the varieties of grape used are preferably white grapes such as macabeo, xarel•lo, parellada and chardonnay.
Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is the capital of cava. Throughout the year there are two events held where this sparkling wine plays the leading role. One is the Cavatast, a sample of cavas and gastronomy which takes place in early October, with talks, stands and tastings.
The other, organised by the Confraria del Cava, is the Setmana del Cava, which starts just after the Cavatast. It has been held since 1982 and includes an international cava congress a luncheon for the public and the selection of the Queen of Cava.
The Cava Train, is also put into operation, a special train which covers the route between Barcelona and Sant Sadurní de Anoia. Halfway during the week, the cava producers from the town hold an open doors day with tastings and samplings.
Apart from Codorníu, the other pioneering company in the production of Catalan cava is Freixenet. Freixenet started the business in 1914. Back in 1935 it opened its first establishment in the United States where its products were welcomed with great success.
The majority of Catalan cava companies can be visited. The visits tend to include an explanation on the cava production process, which at times is accompanied by exhibitions or audiovisual presentations. The tour almost always ends with a tasting of the products from each wine cellar.