The history of cava dates back to the first half of the 19th century, when some Catalan winemakers tried to follow in the footsteps of French champagne makers, but with their own set of rules. Today, cava is an extremely popular drink in Barcelona and in Catalonia. You can find extraordinary quality here—Recaredo and Gramona, to name two of the best varieties—for a very good price, especially if you measure them by French standards. That’s why it's a good idea to try some of the kings—always go for the “brut” specialty—during your stay in Barcelona.
Even though wine is the top priority at most bars in the city, plenty also serve cava. You’ll often find a separate menu for the drink, and sommeliers know exactly what to recommend, whether it’s for lunch, or dinner, or even breakfast, which has become an increasingly popular pairing for cava fans. Here are my favorite places to sample it:
Cata 181 is a great place to get a thorough introduction to cava. My favorites on the menu are Colet Navazos (both the taste and smell of it are simply amazing) and the Celler Batlle Gramona. The latter is probably among the top 2 or 3 cavas in Catalonia, and even if it’s a little expensive—about $70 a bottle—it’s worth every penny.
Disset 17 Graus
This elegant bar in the one of the most beautiful—and oldest—parts of the city has a large and well-curated cava menu. After you’ve had a glass or two, be sure to try one of their cocktails featuring cava, and order a plate of artisanal cold cuts to go with it.
Casa Mariol only serves its own brand of cava, but don't be put off by the limited selection—it’s quite good. Servers speak English, and are happy to answer questions, but I have one word of advice. Order for the reserve brut, aged for 48 months; the price is fantastic and the quality is even better.
Els Sortidors del Parlament
I love this place. The décor makes you feel like you’re having a drink in someone's Catalan home. The whole place has an old-school flavor; the service is top-notch, and the food is excellent. They even have a shop where you can buy a bottle and then enjoy it here (with a $7 corkage fee); I heartily recommend that option.
More of a shop than a bar, Vila Viniteca is outstanding. Like many other venues in Barcelona, the store has a tasting area, and is a great place to see the whole range of cava options (it has one of the largest selections in the city) before you choose one to take home and enjoy.