The Effervescent World of Cava Rosado
Cava rosado is the perfect pairing for a huge range of foods and for any occasion. But you don’t have to take my word for it, just ask the growing number of fans of this category of Spanish sparkling wine all over the world.
Living in a gorgeous European country like Spain is not without its problems. Just imagine: the produce is outstanding, the gastronomy exquisite and spectacularly diverse, and the selection of quality wines is seemingly endless, meaning that it can at times be rather hard to choose between them all. Faced with this challenging existence, I have found a tried-and-true answer to the search for the perfect accompaniment for virtually any gastronomic experience, and that answer is Cava rosado.
By no means are all rosé Cavas the same, with grape varieties, aging times, regions, production methods and other factors all playing their part in the final outcome, but I like to think that these sparkling wines “bridge the gap” wonderfully between other Spanish wine styles. Rosé wines in general have been gaining in popularity in recent years, particularly as a crisp and summery alternative for ardent red wine drinkers who still seek the aromas and flavors of red and black fruit that red grape varieties provide. But the rosé or rosado Cavas often have wonderful berry and floral notes that add another layer of complexity to their glorious effervescence.
This also makes them the perfect choice for any number of foods, starting of course with Spanish Ibérico bellota ham and including rice dishes, steak tartare, pork, meaty fish like tuna, and grilled or roasted vegetables, while still being light enough to drink on their own. I would in fact be drinking a glass of Cava rosado right now if it weren't nine o’clock in the morning – though, of course, it is afternoon somewhere!
How Cava rosado is made
The making of Rosé Cava follows the same method used for non-rosé Cava, known as the método tradicional (traditional method) (link to article on Cava making). The main difference is that it begins with a rosado base wine, which, according to Protected Designation of Origin Cava regulations, must contain at least 25% red grapes. The regulations also stipulate that only four red grape varieties may be used: Garnacha, Monastrell, Pinot Noir and Trepat, of which the latter can only be used for Cava rosado. Furthermore, in DO Cava, similar to other famous sparking wine regions like Champagne, red grapes are sometimes used to make white wine, a process that depends on extracting the grape must only from the pulp without the skins. Therefore, it is not unusual to find a white Cava with Pinot Noir in it, for example (although white grapes Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes are still the blend par excellence used in Catalonia, where the vast majority of this sparkling wine is made). Each winemaker can select which grapes to use based on the qualities that he or she wishes to enhance in a particular wine.
In terms of these red grapes, traditional Spanish varieties Garnacha and Monastrell are often used for their moderate acidity and to increase the alcohol content in rosados. Pinot Noir is prized for its soft palate and complex aromas, as well as its balanced acidity and alcohol content. And then there is Trepat, an extremely interesting local (Catalonian) red grape variety that had nearly been forgotten until several years ago when some Cava producers began cultivating it again, using it for both single-variety Cava rosados and blends. The 100% Trepat wines are modestly pink in hue, with a balanced acidity and light structure, and a pleasant and crisp finish that makes them very easy to drink. One of the earliest ones was Rosat Trepat – a burst of freshness on the palate that is aged for just eighteen months. It is made by venerated Penedès winery Agustí Torelló Mata, which has long been dedicated to using only indigenous grape varieties in its wines.
The lighter body of Trepat is particularly evident when compared side by side to single-variety Cava rosados made with a bolder Garnacha wine with its fresh berry notes, especially one that has been aged a long time like the exquisite Reserva de la Música 2013 made by historic Cava winery Jané Ventura. This salmon-colored wine has abundant notes of berries (strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate in particular), as well delicate roses. Although still crisp on the palate, it is a more structured wine with a rapturous intensity. Pinot Noir rosé Cavas also tend to age very gracefully, taking on elegant, creamy and complex bouquets.
Something that I've not yet encountered is a single-variety Monastrell rosé Cava, despite the historic importance of this grape all along the Spanish Mediterranean for centuries. Even so, the role of this grape in rosé Cava blends – particularly with Garnacha and/or Trepat – is undisputed, thanks to its robust and vivacious nature.
With different styles to choose from and given their food pairing powers, it’s no surprise that Cava rosado from Spain is yet another of this country’s gastronomic gems.
Text: Adrienne Smith