As a sommelier and wine geek there are wines I frequently find myself defending, and to be sure, Cava is one of them. People are scared of it, and rightfully so, I suppose. Diners have been burned by the substandard, cloyingly sweet sparklers restaurants have been willing to put on their list as a cheap alternative to Champagne. And to be real, the Cava DO hasn’t exactly been known to favor quality. Many Cava producers are looking to make a dollar on volume, rather than focusing on the terruño or the wine’s potential for depth and character. But, in the words Steph Curry, “let’s make that old”.
The Run Down:
Cava can come from a number of regions throughout Spain, but for the most part it is produced in Penedès, Catalunya- where they’ve been making it since 1870. Penedès itself is not a city, but a coastal, mountainous region that sits in between Barcelona and Tarragona. Penedès has its share of microclimates, but most of the vines used for Cava production are planted to the high altitude hills, where the weather stays a little cooler and lends to freshness in the wines.
Cava, like Champagne, is typically made from three varieties- Macabeo, Perellada and Xarel.lo (no, that’s not a typo). Rosado Cavas can be made as well, with varieties like Monastrell and Trepat as major players. To actually be called Cava, the wine must be made the same way Champagne is made, in the Método Tradicional (aka the Champagne Method). It can be blanco or rosado and, just like big daddy Champagne itself, it ranges in style. Cava can be lean, fruity, zippy and linear to yeasty, briochey, nutty and full. The list of Cavas below is only a start. My advice: drink and buy wine from a place you love and trust and ask for help. Oh, and drink more Cava. ¡Salud!
Celler Mas Candí– I’m a huge fan of Mas Candí wines across the board, and the Cava is no exception. They focus on Xarel.lo here, grown in living calcareous clay soils. The Cava has lively, fresh fruit with a lean, super linear element that I love. It clocks in at a mere 11.5% abv, so feel free to drink the whole bottle.
Rimarts- This is a wine that would impress even the staunchest of Francophiles. Rimarts comes in various styles, from Brut Reserva to Rosado. For the broad and bready bubbly lovers, the Gran Reserva is your baby. Aged for a minimum of 40 months- nutty, yeasty and able to stand up to any meal in its entirety. Throw this sucker down at the dinner table and wait for thunderous applause.
Raventós i Blanc– The Raventós family pretty much invented Cava back in 1870. Fast forward to 2012 when, fed up with the lackadaisical, money hungry attitude of producers all around him, Pepe Raventós up and left the Cava DO altogether. In Spanish wine speak, that’s a pretty bold move. Pepe created a new (de)classification for his Cavas, where he uses only indigenous varieties, workers get paid a fair price, his vineyards are biodynamic and his wines truly represent the region. Raventós i Blanc Cavas come in various styles- many of them vintage dated and all of them remarkable.
Avinyó- The Avinyó lineup is solid across the board. The vintage dated Brut Reserva gives you just enough yeasty, nutty goodness to stand up to richer foods, but has a zippy, mineral backbone with fresh fruit and acidity to balance ‘er out. The true Avinyó charmer, however, is their petillant- less of the sparkle, all of the ambition. We call it “cougar juice” at Birba and we take it down like a young lover. Get on our level.
Blogged at: Little Gem SF
Soundtrack: DJ Shadow Entroducing, Deluxe Edition.