Sant Sadurni d'Anoia

Although Spain's Cava appellation (or D.O. Cava) is spread amongst many regions throughout the country, the majority of Spain's cavas come from the Penedès in the northeast. The Penedès region and the larger land area surrounding it are also referred to as Catalunya. This region has a unique heritage and culture that is expressly Catalan, including its own native grape varieties, including Xarel-lo (shar-EL-lo), Macabeo (ma-cah-BEY-oh) (called Viura elsewhere in Spain), and Parellada (par-eh-YAH-dah).

In Catalunya, vineyards of these white varietals can stretch from the mountains, where Parellada grapes are typically planted due to their resistance to harsh weather, and out to the seaside, where Xarel-lo and Macabeo thrive in the warmer, moister climate. Because the coastal vineyards ripen much earlier than those farther inland, harvest often lasts from early September through late October.

The méthode champenoise process came into use in Catalunya in the 1870s as an innovation in winemaking. Although transplanted from the Champagne region of France, it was in Catalunya that industrious local vintners continually modernized the process over the next century.

The Freixenet winery, in fact, is credited with the development of new technologies that made the process more efficient and consistent to the point that the Champenoise have likewise adopted a number of Catalan inventions to improve their champagne production. Regardless of the origin of the technique that came to make Catalunya's white wines sparkle, cava is distinctly set apart by the primary use of grapes native to Spain. This practice of creating base wines from only Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada continues today at the house of Freixenet, although producers have been allowed in recent years by the appellation control board to experiment with non-native varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Today, the small village of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, where cava production took off, is responsible for more than 95% of total cava production. With only 7 square miles of land area, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia is home to more than 50 cava houses. Although Freixenet is only one of a few producers that do export its cavas, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia is the hands-down sparkling champion due to Freixenet's production of some 200 million bottles each year.

 Cava, a taste for moderation
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