What is Cava, and How Does It Make Barcelona Special?

Master in Fashion and Luxury Business Management students are heading to Freixenet on February 23rd, 2017. A world leader in cava production, Freixenet is located in the Penedès wine region, just 50 kilometers southwest of Barcelona. This is an exceptional opportunity for students to learn about the brand, the production of cava by the "Método Tradicional", and what sets it apart from the most notable French Champagne on the market and other types of sparkling wine throughout the world.

Studying in Barcelona is very advantageous. Its strategic location along the Mediterranean is extremely varied geologically, characterized by very poor-quality, well-drained soils that are mostly comprised of Miocene sediments. Both continental and maritime climates distinguish the region. The sandy, clay-like soil is poor in organic matter and quite rocky in the main region. Further afield oceanic deposits can be found. Jagged Cretaceous limestone also give this region a distinct personality from the vantage point of wine production.

The Penedès region is framed by the coastal hills of the Garraf Massif, and the higher inland mountains border the Central Depression. This dynamic region is widely recognized as one of the country’s best wine-producing regions behind Rioja. It is also known to be one of the oldest viticulture areas in Europe. Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city only a short drive away, is a major draw for tourists and locals alike.

Everyone recognizes Champagne for its prestigious name and exceptional quality, but for some reason cava is less recognized, when it is probably the most Champagne-like sparkling wine outside of France. Cava is not Champagne, and it is not trying to be. It is authentically Spanish, but no less quality than its bubbly competitor. It is often more affordable than its French equivalent -especially given the Método Traditional used to produce it (we’ll go more into differences later). Spanish Cava is appreciated for its own distinctiveness that, like all types of wine, is subject to personal preference.

What is Cava?

In order to understand cava, let’s understand what it is not in order to make the destinction. Because of its close similarities to Champagne and its production, it is important to explore how French Champagne is produced in the "Méthode Champenoise", to define how close these two bubbles are in the procurement of the final product, and what differentiates them.

The three traditional grapes used to make Champagne are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Cava is different. While sometimes cava producers will use Chardonnay, they prefer to stick to their own local varieties, Viura (also known as Macabeo), Xarel.lo, and Parellada.

What characterizes the French "Méthode Champenoise" is that the wine is allowed to ferment in the bottle for any period of time, from a few months to a couple of years. During this fermentation, the bottles are capped much like beer, with crown caps, helping to control the pressure inside the bottle. During this process, bottles are slanted down which helps the yeast settle into the neck of the bottle.

When it is determined time, the bottles are kept at this angle and submerged in a freezing solution, which freezes only a few inches of wine inside at the neck, where the yeast has settled. This creates a short cube of ice, trapping the yeast, and making it easy to contain the yeast at the top when the bottle is turned upright. The cap is removed and the gas in the bottle applies pressure to the ice cube and dispels it. In Champagne, the winemaker tops the bottle off with the same wine or adds wine with some sugar to increase the fermentation or slightly sweeten the end product.

How does this relate to Cava?

The methodology in Spain is modeled off the French technique. The only difference is that the French have the legal rights to term it "Méthode Champenoise". In Spain this process is called, "Método Tradicional" or Traditional Method.

Although cava can come from a few areas in Spain, the most prominent region is in the Northeastern region near Barcelona. The aforementioned Penedès region and Catalonia accounts for 95% of all of Spain’s production. First produced in the mid-1800’s, cava pairs well with everything from fried fish to dessert. The locals do not designate a certain time for consuming this beverage. Because it is lighter than Champagne, it is easier to drink. Unlike some preconceived pretentions about Champagne, cava for the Catalans is an everyday drink that can be consumed from morning to night.

The History of Freixenet

In 1861, Francesc Sala Ferrés founded Casa Sala, the first wine export company in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia. Ferrés’ son, Joan Sala Tubella moved the business forward. After his daughter’s marriage to Pere Ferrer Bosch, the company entered the cava production business.

Unfortunately, company advancements were delayed by the Spanish Civil War and then by the Second World War. Today, Freixenet Group remains a 100% family-owned company with 18 cellars in 7 countries on 3 continents around the world.

The Visit

Tune back in next week after our MA in Fashion and Luxury Business Management students have visited Freixenet, where they will learn about the company’s specific production practices, participate in a tasting, network with various industry experts and gain a more in-depth understanding of how cava and more broadly wine production is associated to luxury brand management.

Respond to the complex and fast-changing world of fashion and luxury business management. The Master in Fashion & Luxury Business Management program at GBSB Global Business School is designed for students who are interested in business, management and fashion and luxury retail industry. This industry is complex, global, and highly competitive. It therefore requires graduates who can respond effectively to the constantly changing challenges by defining new strategies to ensure business market success.

There is no better time to start planning for the future. GBSB Global Business School arranges visits to different companies where the students are introduced to the management and offered to leave their CV´s as well as develop their professional connections.

Written by Emily Dawn Szajda, GBSB Content Manager

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