So, maybe you’ve heard of Cava but you’re not sure where it comes from or how it’s different from other sparkling wines. Or you’re planning a trip to Barcelona and wondering if you can visit a nearby Cava winery in Spain.
Cava, roughly meaning “cave,” is Spain’s sparkling wine. Not just for special occasions, it can be a great value compared to other traditional method sparkling wines like Champagne.
If you’re visiting Barcelona, wine tasting at Cava wineries is an easy (and fun!) day trip. The center of Cava production is accessible by train, so you don’t even need to rent a car.
Read on to learn about this bubbly beverage (including some Real-Housewives-worthy drama that’s gone down in recent years).
Plus, get all the details you need to plan your Barcelona day trip for Cava wine tasting.
While you’re here, don’t miss taking my wine country destination quiz! It will magically match your taste buds, travel style, and winederlust desires to reveal the wine region of your dreams. Plus, you’ll get my wine region guide to make planning a breeze. Take the quiz.
What is Cava?
Cava is Spanish sparkling wine that comes from the Cava D.O. (Denominación de Origen). It’s made in the traditional method used for Champagne, where the secondary fermentation happens in the bottle.
So, how is it different from Champs? Well, Spain has a warmer climate, so it’s usually lower in acidity.
And it can have those same toasty and biscuity aromas that come from the time the yeast cells are in contact with the wine (yeast autolysis for you wine geeks). But often these are less intense than its French cousin.
It also may not be aged as long, with the minimum being 9 months for a basic Cava. But a Cava Reserva will see at least 18 months of aging and a Cava Gran Reserva at least 30 months.
There’s also a newer quality indicator that was added in 2017. Cava Paraje Calificado requires 36 months of aging. Plus, some other extra requirements like vines being at least 10 years old, yield restrictions, and hand harvesting.
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Cava Grape Varieties
What also makes Cava unique is that the grapes used are indigenous Spanish varieties.
Side note: Spain often has multiple names for the same grapes. You know, just to keep us on our toes. So I’ve called those out below in case you know them better by their other names.
Here are the main grapes allowed in Cava production:
- Macabeu (aka Viura) – This is the most planted grape within the D.O. of Cava, adding elegance and floral notes.
- Xarel·lo – This prized white variety brings body, structure, and character to the wine. It makes the wine more ageable.
- Parellada – Completing the trilogy of a classic Cava blend, this white grape offers freshness and fruitiness.
- Garnacha (aka Grenache) – A widely used variety in red wines, this grape adds red fruit notes to rosé versions of Cava (called Cava Rosado).
- Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre or Mataró) – A grape of many names, it brings color and tannin to Cava Rosado and gives it aging potential.
- Trepat – Another addition to Cava Rosado, giving it personality with red fruits and spice.
- Subirat Parent (aka Malvasía) – Used for making Dulce and Semi Dulce Cava (i.e., sweet versions), this white aromatic grape produces wines with floral, tropical fruit, and herbal notes.
Recently, the Cava D.O. decided to allow some of the traditional grape varieties used in French Champagne (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). But purists are against using these because they feel it takes away from the unique flavors of Cava that come from the indigenous Spanish grapes.
Love white wine? Discover new ones to try with this guide to Spanish white wine.
Where is Cava Made in Spain?
Almost all Spanish Cava comes from the Penedès wine region in Catalunya. This region is also known for producing some of the best non-sparkling Catalan wines.
Penedès sits just southwest of Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast and stretches across a large area. Much of this is a fertile plain with a warm climate. The grapes in this area often go to mega-producers like Freixenet and Codorníu.
But further from the coast, vines can be planted on the cooler and less fertile slopes of the mountain ranges. This lowers yields and retains the acidity needed to produce premium Cavas that can withstand aging.
The heart of the Penedès region is the town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, which is home to more than 80 Cava producers.
Outside of the 200+ producers in Penedès, a small amount of Cava is made in other wine regions throughout Spain. This includes places like Rioja, Navarra, and Valencia.
This brings me to the cause of the recent drama in the D.O.
Corpinnat vs. Cava
It all started when Josep Maria Raventós i Blanc inherited Codorníu, the first winery to produce Cava. After working for years to grow Codorníu, Josep decided to found a separate winery that would make sparkling wines of the highest quality.
Unfortunately, Josep passed away just before the new winery opened. But his son, Manuel Raventós i Negra, carried on the family business. And was eventually joined by Pepe Raventós i Vidal.
In 2012, Raventos i Blanc decided to leave the Cava D.O. Pepe felt that Cava had become too focused on high-volume production. And with all the disparate areas that were allowed to make Cava, there was no sense of place or geographic distinction.
In 2015, he formed the Corpinnat brand with six other producers. This group committed to meeting stricter requirements that would result in more terroir-driven wines.
This includes things like 75% of the grapes coming from vineyards owned by the winery, the use of mostly indigenous grapes, no mechanical harvesting, and a minimum of 18 months of aging.
Initially, the Corpinnat group wanted to remain part of the Cava D.O. But of course, the large producers didn’t like this because they knew they couldn’t meet the stricter requirements at such high volumes.
Long story short, in 2019 Corpinnat was essentially pushed out of the Cava D.O. And Cava created its own higher-level quality indicator, Paraje Calificado, that was easier for the large producers to achieve.
So, if you see Corpinnat on the label of a sparkling wine, know that these are excellent wines at a phenomenal value. And I’m including some great producers below that you can visit along with the other Cava wineries.
When to Visit Cava Wineries
Weather-wise, spring and fall are the best times to visit Cava wineries in Spain. Summer months can be hot and humid. So, visiting in March, April, May, October, or November is ideal.
If you’re okay with braving the crowds, Cava Week happens annually in mid-October. You’ll get to witness the “Cava Queen” be crowned and take the first sips of the year’s harvest. Plus, there are dinners, concerts, classes, and of course, plenty of Cava!
How to Get to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia
If you’re staying in Barcelona, getting to the town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia by public transportation is super easy. From the Plaça de Catalunya, you can hop on the R4 train toward Sant Vicenç de Calders. It’s about an hour’s ride out to the town.
Make sure to pay attention so you get off at the right stop (also called Sant Sadurní d’Anoia). Freixenet will be right in front of you. And it’s only about a 10-minute walk into the town.
If you’re planning to visit Freixenet, you can also buy a combined round-trip train and tour ticket. Reserve in advance here.
The Best Cava Wineries to Visit Near Barcelona
These Cava and Corpinnat producers all have tasting rooms in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia that are relatively easy to get to. And they offer tours and wine tastings in English.
I’d recommend sticking to two for a day trip. But you might be able to squeeze in a third if you time your tours and tastings right.
If you want to see where it all started, there’s no better place than Codorníu.
Josep Raventós Fatjó was the first to make Cava. He was inspired by a trip to the Champagne region in 1872. And thought, “Hey, I could make something similar using Spanish grapes.”
He was pretty successful, and the idea spread to others in the area. After phylloxera hit in the 1880s, many others followed his lead and replanted their vineyards with white grapes suitable for sparkling wine production.
Codorníu grew larger and larger with each generation. It was eventually inherited by Josep Maria Raventós i Blanc, who we know later left to found Raventós i Blanc (which, unfortunately, you can’t visit). But prior to doing that, he played a major role in expanding Codorníu.
Today, Codorníu is still one of the largest producers of Cava wines, making a wide range of sparkling wines from both indigenous and Champagne grape varieties. Their premium collection includes Reservas, Gran Reservas, and a few with the Paraje Calificado title.
The winery is a bit out of town. You can walk it, but be warned that it’s uphill and takes about a half hour from the train station. So, if you’re not up to it, you can catch a taxi from the station.
The 75-minute Discovery Tour is a great option that includes a guided tour where you learn about the production of Cava and visit the cellars. This is followed by a tasting in their Cava bar. They also offer longer visits that include food pairings, chocolate tasting, and a Cava tasting course.
Recaredo was founded in 1924 by Josep Mata Capellades, who named the winery after his father.
Recaredo can claim a few firsts in the Penedès wine region. They were the first to make a single varietal sparkling wine from 100% Xarel·lo.
And they were the first to be certified biodynamic in 2010. (Basically, a more extreme version of organic that factors in things like moon cycles, planetary positions, and philosophy.)
I should also mention that they were named Catalonia’s Best Winery in 2017 by the Catalan Association of Sommeliers. And in 2018, they joined Corpinnat.
Recaredo’s sparkling and still wines are aged at least 30 months, and some for as long as 30 years! They also use natural cork stoppers for bottle aging rather than crown caps.
They believe this better preserves the original character of the wine. But it requires removal (called disgorgement) by hand so it’s a lot of manual labor.
You can book an Origen Visit to tour the cellar and learn about how they make and age the wines. You’ll get to taste two of their aged Corpinnat sparkling wines and two of their Cellar Credo still wines.
Or you can do a private visit, where you get to see the vineyard and enjoy food with your tasting.
Gramona is another Corpinnat producer. A bit of a romantic story, it was founded after the marriage of Pilar Batlle and Bartolomé Gramona. They started producing sparkling wines under the Gramona name and released the first one in 1961.
As with the requirements of Corpinnat, Gramona is all organic. But, like Recaredo, they are also certified biodynamic and use natural cork stoppers during aging.
The average age of Gramona’s sparkling wines is 6 years. Their flagship wine, Gramona Imperial, starts at 50 months. And then they go up from there at 7-12 years for the Ill Lustros label and 15+ for the Colección de Arte.
You can book a wine tasting to try these mature sparklers. They also offer food and wine pairing experiences. And, for you equestrian enthusiasts, even the option to go horseback riding in their vineyards.
If you’re planning to visit Gramona, you couldn’t be any closer to Solà Raventós. Located right next door, this small family-run winery was founded in 1898.
Pere and his wife have been at the helm since 1987. And their son Guifré is now helping.
This is a super limited production, with just 20,000 bottles per year. So, these wines are hard to get outside of the area.
They age their Cavas between two to five years. And have a selection of both white and rosé Reservas and Gran Reservas.
You can sample the full range along with local snacks in a 1-hour tasting. Or book a 2-hour visit that includes a tour of the cellars as well.
If you’ve ever seen the famous frosted-black-glass Cordon Negro bottle in the Cava section at your local store, you’re probably familiar with the name Freixenet (pronounced fresh-eh-net).
This mega-winery is one of the largest sparkling wine producers in the world, selling more than 100 million bottles in 2021. And they make 80% of Spain’s exported Cava.
While I would not say you should visit Freixenet for the best that Cava has to offer, it is an interesting tour from the perspective of seeing how production is done on a larger scale. Plus, it’s right at the train station, so if you’re pressed for time, you can’t get any closer.
Freixenet was founded in 1914 when two Spanish winemaking families joined through marriage. Pedro Ferrer and Dolores Sala Vive got hitched and decided to turn the family business from still to sparkling wine production.
Over the years, the winery expanded internationally. Today, they work with 200 growing partners that supply the base wine for their bubbly. And the wines are sold in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Visits start with a video of the winery’s history. And highlights of their well-known ads, such as the iconic boy in a red hat holding a bottle of Freixenet. And the celebrity-studded Christmas commercial series that started in the late 1970s.
After the video, you’ll visit the old part of the winery to see the cellars and learn about the original production process used. And then tour the current production facility (or factory might be a better word for it!). Then end at the tasting room to sample a variety of their most popular Cavas.
And if you love sparkling wine, don’t miss South Africa’s Cap Classique at these Stellenbosch wine farms.
Cava Tours in Spain
Visiting Cava wineries from Barcelona is an easy day trip to do on your own. But if you prefer a guided option, there are some excellent wine tours led by local wine experts.
For private tours, I recommend this full-day tour that includes transportation, tastings at two family-run vineyards, and a tapas-style meal.
Or if you prefer a small-group Cava tour, this one is a great option that includes wine tasting, tapas, and exploring vineyards in a 4×4 vehicle.
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Where to Stay for Visiting Cava Wineries
If you plan to visit a Cava winery in Spain, there’s no better place to base yourself than Barcelona. This bucket-list destination is known for its stunning architecture, beautiful beaches, and tasty tapas.
The H10 Madison Hotel is a great 4-star option with a pool, terrace, restaurant, and bar. It’s right in the heart of the city close to all the top sites. And it’s a 5-minute walk to the train station you’ll take to get to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.
You can find the H10 Madison Hotel and many other great options on Booking.com. Just enter “Barcelona” and select your dates below to see available options.
What’s your favorite Cava or Corpinnat sparkling wine?