Cava is a popular sparkler with over 245 million bottles sold per year! The Champagne of Spain is produced under the same traditional method as the O.G. French bubbles. Cava has been produced in the Penedés region in Catalonia since the 1870’s. In short, the Spaniards know what they are doing when it comes to quality sparkling wine production. The best part about Cava is the quality to price point ratio, i.e. high quality, affordable bubbles. So if Cava is not in your weekly wine rotation yet, it should be. In addition to sharing all you need to know to start diving into Cava , I have some easy yet exquisite Cava pairings to take your wine pairing game to the next level.
The lively culture, vibrant gastronomy, and dynamic wine industry of Spain are so inspiring to me. To think that Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Antonio Gaudí all hail from Catalonia illustrates the magic of a Spanish lifestyle. When deciding what Cava pairings to begin with, I chose to be inspired by one of my favorite aspects of Spanish culture – tapas. When out at the bar with friends for a glass of wine, cocktail or beer in the afternoon to early evening, Spaniards like to serve typically free small plates alongside your beverage. Dinner is usually eaten very late in Spain, so these small plates are meant to hold you over from the afternoon until meal time. Though enough tapas can be eaten to add up to a meal, especially when bar hopping with friends. There are many traditional tapas that are the perfect Cava pairings and have served as inspiration for the recipes below.
Cava Pairings 101
First, let’s go over the basics of creating Cava pairings so you can have guidelines to fall back on when dreaming up pairings of your own. Rest assured, Cava is a famously food friendly wine that can be paired with virtually anything. However, be sure to consider the sweetness level and style of Cava when selecting a food pairing. Refer to this blog post to learn about the different types of Cava and general rules to follow when pairing with each style.
There are 4 important flavor aspects to consider when it comes to Cava pairings.
Acidity in Food
- Increases the perception of body, sweetness, and fruitiness in wine.
- Decreases the perception of acidity in the wine.
- A good rule of thumb is to match the levels of acidity in food to the acidity levels of the wine.
- Cava, like most sparkling wines, is generally higher in acidity. The majority of Cava produced are Brut Nature and Extra Brut (0-6 g/L of sugar).
- High acid Cava with less sugar is a great match for dishes higher in acidity or rich dishes, as the acidity helps cut through the richness of the dish while the bubbles cleanse the palate.
Salt in Food
- Increases the perception of body in wine.
- Decreases the perception of bitterness and acidity in wine.
- This is why salty foods are phenomenal with sparkling wine, especially Cava. The salt enhances the body of the wine while balancing out the high acidity, allowing other aspects of the wine to shine.
- For salty foods, you can pair with any style of Cava depending on your intended effect.
Sweetness in Food
- Increases the perception of acidity, bitterness, and alcohol in wine.
- Decreases the perception of sweetness, body, and fruitiness in wine
- If you have a dish with sweet undertones, sweet fruits, a decadent cheese, or a dessert, pair with an Extray Seco, Seco, Semi-Seco, or Dolce Cava as these wines have a higher sugar content (ranging from 12-50+ g/L of sugar).
Fat in Food
- Richer dishes with some component of fat make a great pairing for Cava.
- Cava higher in acidity will cut through or balance out a heavier dish.
- Cava relatively higher in sweetness can have more of a complementing effect to a richer dish.
In addition to the sweetness level, you should also consider the style of Cava when developing pairings.
Cava – aged on the lees for a minimum of 9 months.
- Younger Cava tends to be brighter, fresher and fruitier with citrus aromatics and higher acidity.
Reserva Cava – aged on the lees for a minimum of 15 months.
- Reserva Cava has developed more complexities with more time spent on the lees.
- More earthy, sometimes even mushroomy.
- Still have citrus and fruit notes, higher acidity, but with more autolytic qualities.
- Richer, with more weight on the palate.
Gran Reserva Cava – aged on the lees for a minimum of 30 months.
- Even more complex with further structure and texture from increased lees contact.
- Has citrus aromatics, a streak of acidity, and autolytic qualities.
- Perfect for more complex dishes with bolder flavors, richer cheeses, heavier meats, etc.
Know that as you elevate with each level of aging from Cava to Reserva to Gran Reserva, you can match with increasingly complex dishes and bolder flavors .
Make It A Tapas Party
Hopefully these guidelines along with those outlined in my other blog post on Cava will help you create exceptional Cava pairings. When in doubt, do as the Spanish do and get inspired by traditional tapas like I did here.
Tapas can be as simple as a bowl of salty olives or pan con tamate and as decadent as tortilla española. For a fun tapas style get together with friends, throw together a few quick and easy dishes and buy some different styles of Cava to pop open and try with each dish!
If you’re an olive lover, these citrus marinated olives are INSANELY delicious and make the perfect Cava pairing. The citrus in the marinade enhances the fresh citrus notes in the Cava. The thyme brings out the white florals in the wine and the saltiness of the olives is a great complement to the wine’s acidity. Rich, meaty Castelvetrano olives are a great match up to crisp, fresh Cava. Get the recipe and learn more info on pairing olives here.
Piementos de Padrón are a delicious tapa that’s super simple to recreate at home. If Padròn peppers aren’t available to you, opt for Shishito peppers instead! I absolutely love the mild, green flavor of blistered Shishito peppers and that surprising spicy bite that shows up every so often. Blistered Shishito peppers (or Padròn peppers) make a great Cava pairing because the vegetal, green quality can be rounded out by the citrus or sweetness in the wine. The salt enhances the body of the wine and Cava’s bubbles act as a palate cleanser to the mild heat of the peppers.
Patatas bravas are another classic Spanish tapa and a personal favorite of mine. But rather than preparing tradition patatas bravas, I wanted to make something new. These crispy smashed potatoes with garlic tarragon aioli and capers were just the trick!
After a drizzle of olive oil, the potatoes are crisped to perfection in the oven. Topped with a rich, garlic tarragon aioli and tangy, salty capers, this is the ideal bite for a Cava pairing. The luscious aioli is leveled out by the Cava’s acidity while the tangy, salty capers enhance the citrus notes of the wine. The bubbles and acidity act as a palate cleanser for the garlicky flavors, prepping your taste buds to experience the flavors all over again.
Whether you opt for the citrus marinated olives, the blistered Shishito peppers, the crispy smashed potatoes with garlic tarragon aioli and capers, all of the above, or none of the above, I’d love to know what Cava pairings you enjoy! Let me know in the comments below. And, as always, if you make any of these recipes, snap a photo of your dish and send it to me or tag me on Instagram. Cheers! (@palm.and.vine)
A quick and easy appetizer or side dish. Perfect for pairing with Cava, Prosecco, Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, and more.
- 8 oz Shishito peppers (1 package)
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- pinch of salt
- 1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Heat sauté pan or skillet over high heat.
Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to pan. Add the Shishito peppers to the pan. Cook turning only occasionally so there is some charring on the peppers. About 5 minutes.
Place peppers in a serving bowl. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Serve immediately.
I promise you these potatoes will become a hit at your next get together and join your regular rotation for appetizers and side dishes. Though delicious on crispy potatoes with tangy capers, the garlic tarragon aioli would also be great on vegetables or fish. Pair these potatoes with Cava, an unoaked Chardonnay, a dry rosé, or medium-bodied red wine.
- 1-2 cloves of garlic (only use 1 if cloves are large)
- 1 large egg yolk (at room temperature)
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup avocado oil
- 2 tsp room temperature water (more as needed)
- 1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped tarragon (or other fresh herb of choice)
- 24 oz baby medley potatoes (1.5 lbs)
- 2 tbsp capers
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- garlic tarragon aioli for garnish
- pinch of salt
Place the garlic clove(s) and a pinch of salt into a mortar and pound into a smooth paste with the pestle. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, mince the garlic. Then add a pinch of salt to the minced garlic while on your cutting board. Using the flat side of your knife, press the minced garlic into a paste.
Transfer the garlic paste to a bowl and add the egg yolk. Whisk in a few drops of olive oil. Continue to add the rest of the olive oil a few drops at a time while continuously mixing until you have a thick mixture. Place a kitchen towel around the base of your bowl to hold the bowl in place as you whisk.
Once all of your olive oil is added, gradually pour in the avocado oil in a slow and steady stream while whisking. The finished sauce should have the same consistency as lightly whipped cream.
Don't worry if the sauce gets too thick. Just add 1 tsp of room temperature water at a time and gently whisk in until the mixture reaches the desired consistency.
Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and the chopped tarragon. Stir in. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to garnish the potatoes.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Wash the potatoes. Place in a medium pot and fill with water so there is at least 1.5 inches of water above the potatoes. Cover the pot and bring the potatoes to a boil over medium to high heat. Allow to boil for about 10 minutes or until fork tender. Strain the potatoes and allow to cool. (This step can be done before making the aioli. You will have time to prepare the aioli while the potatoes cool.)
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the potatoes on the parchment sheet. Using the palm of your hand, press to gently smash and flatten the potatoes. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil. Don't over do it to avoid ending up with greasy potatoes, but make sure there is a bit of oil on each potato. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes start getting crispy.
Remove from the oven. Lightly sprinkle the potatoes with a pinch salt. Place the potatoes on a serving tray. Garnish each potato with a dollop of garlic tarragon aioli and a few capers. Serve immediately.