The origin of cava is associated to the winemaking splendour in Catalonia in the mid-19th century and to the fame that champagne achieved at the end of the 18th century. The microbiology studies of Louis Pasteur applied to wine, meant being able to control the second fermentation in the bottle, and the discovery of cork stoppers meant that the bubbles that were produced in the wine were not lost. This is how the traditional or champenoise method was born.
During the 19th century, several families from Sant Sadurní d'Anoia started to research into this new technique of collaboration and to apply it to the crops in the area. As a result of the studies and of the tests they made, linked to the prestigious Sant Isidre Catalan Agricultural Institute, they opted for local varieties of white grapes. This is how cava was born, with a particular body that characterises it and that differentiates it from other quality sparkling wines.
In 1872, Josep Raventós i Fatjó, of the historic company Codorniu, made the first 3,000 bottles of cava using the traditional method of the second fermentation in the bottle. His son and heir, Manuel Raventós Domènech, started the expansion and consolidation of the company. Other producers in the town also started to make it and turned Sant Sadurní d'Anoia into the cava-making centre.
During the 1920s, it consolidated itself on the Spanish market, where it had a large growth in the 1960s and became internationally consolidated in the 1980s. Nowadays, it is one of the most dynamic and prosperous, basically Catalan, winemaking sectors, with a production that exceeds 200 million bottles a year and which reaches consumers the world over.
The cava production area includes 160 municipalities found in seven autonomous communities. Most of these municipalities are found in the Catalan winemaking area of the regions of Barcelona (67), Tarragona (52), Lleida (12) and Girona (5).
The varieties of grapes used are varied, but the main ones are white grapes such as macabeu, xarel•lo and parellada as well as chardonnay and subirat parent or malvasia from La Rioja and two varieties of red grapes: garnatxa negra and monestrell. There are two more red varieties that are only authorised to be used in pink cava: pinot noir and trepat.
Depending on the amount of sugar added to the liqueur d'expedition there are different classes of cava:
NATURE: A very dry cava without liqueur d'expedition.
EXTRA BRUT: A very dry cava with a sugar content of less than 6 g/litre.
BRUT: A dry cava with a proportion of sugar lower than 15 g/litre.
EXTRA SEC: with 12 to 20 g/litre of sugar.
SEC: from 17 to 35 g/litre of sugar.
SEMI: from 33 to 50 g/litre of sugar.