Although the method is the same, the méthode champenoise (champagne method), the two wines show significant differences :
– The soil of Champagne is mostly limestone and chalk with sediments of marnas , clay and sand. This type of soil favors the minerality characteristic of Champagne wines. The slate retains water by capillarity and provides reserves to the vineyard. In the Pénédès, the soils are deep, moderately clayey and sandy, poor in organic matter and not very fertile. Their permeability allows them to retain rainwater.
– The climate is also important, both at the level of rainfall (approximately 700 mm in Champagne and 500 mm in the Pénédès , the main cava production area) and at the temperature level (15.5 ° C in the Pénédès and 10 , 8 ° C in Champagne) and lighting (1900h / year in Champagne and 3000h / year in Pénédès)
– The vine varieties are different:
Champagne uses Chardonnay (white grape) , pinot noir and pinot meunier (black grape) .
When champagne is made only with white grapes it is called “blancs de blancs” (white of white “grapes”), when it is made only with black grapes it is called “blancs de noirs” (white of black “grapes”). The cava uses Xarello , Parellada and Macabeo (white varieties) . Some red varieties are authorized but above all they are used for rosé cavas. The cavas are almost all “blanc de blancs”
since they are made with the three varieties of white grape.
– The plantation density is between 8000 and 10000 vines / Ha in champagne with a yield of 10,000 to 15,500 Kg / Ha and a pressing yield of 96 liters of must (maximum authorized) per 150 Kg of grapes. For cava the density is 1500 to 3500 vines / Ha; the yield of approximately 10,000 kg (with a maximum of 12,000 authorized) and a pressing performance of 100 liters (maximum authorized) per 150 kg of grapes.
– The chaptalización (sugar added to the wort) is authorized for the champagne when grape not contain enough sugar. It is proceeded before fermentation. This stage is very strictly regulated. On the other hand, for cava there is no chaptalization, it is prohibited by Spanish legislation and the sugar from the grapes is sufficient thanks to the amount of sun it benefits from.
-In general, with a fairly regular production, the mixture of cavas is mostly wines from the same year, but reserve wine is authorized with a limit of 35% of the total volume. The cavas are almost all “millionths” (mono-vintage). In the case of champagne, the irregularity of production caused by the weather, forces to mix with wines from different years. Older wines make up for a lower quality vintage. The “millésimes” (champagne made with wines from the same year) are made only in the best years).
-The cava has to age a minimum of 9 months for the quality of the wine. Champagne must be aged for a minimum of 15 months .