Catalan winemaking and Penedés region in particular, enjoyed its greatest glory moments by the mid-nineteenth century. After the rise and tremendous success of Champagne in France, during the eighteenth century, winemakers all over the world turned into the attempt to conquer the new sparkling wine, and of course the Catalan neighbours were second to none in this contest.
In Cataluña, many experimental rounds took place but it was not after the appearance of the studies on microbiology carried out by Louis Pasteur, when Josep Raventós produced the first bottles of sparkling wine following the champenoise method, on 1872. His son, Manuel Raventós, was the real mastermind behind its marketing under the name of xampany and champán.
Nowadays DO Cava includes about 160 municipalities distributed in seven autonomous communities; the heart of the production is basically located in Barcelona with 63 villages, Tarragona with 52 villages, 12 in Lleida and 5 in Girona; looking at the Ebro river basin we find two counties in Aragón, 2 in Navarra, up to 18 in La Rioja and 3 in the Basque Country. In total almost 32.000 hectares and about 260 wineries, being Penedés (Sant Sadurní d'Anoia) the region where most of the production converges, about a 90%.
The traditional varieties for Cava production are three: Xarel.lo, which gives structure to Cava wine, Macabeo, which endows apple and citric primary aromas, and finally Parellada, which confers elegance and mildness as well as aroma. Besides these grape varieties, some others are also used: Chardonnay to enhance aroma intensity and improve ageing, Pinot Noir to obtain rosé cava, aromatic and delicate, and Trepat which furnishes colour and ripe red fruits aroma to rosé cava.
Depending on the bottle ageing of the base wine to obtain Cava, legislation establishes the following terms: Cava for young wines with a minimum bottle ageing of 9 months; Cava Reserva for those sparkling wines with a minimum 15 months-ageing in bottle period; and Cava Gran Reserva for those with almost 30 months aged in bottle in contact with fine lees.
Depending on the sugar added to the expedition liqueur during the bottling process, Cava can be classified as follows: Brut Nature, if the sugar content is negligible (0-3 g/l), the highest quality and more gastronomic cava are included under this category. Extra Brut, when the sugar content is less than 6 g/l; Brut if sugar is less than 12g/l; Extra Seco if sugar content ranges between 12 and 17 g/l; Seco if the content is between 17 and 32 g/l; Semi Sec if between 32 and 50 g/l and finally Dulce if the sugar content is over 50g/l.