What Spanish wine has a long history steeped in tradition, is delicious by itself or with savory tapas, is perfect for springtime and is a bargain too? Did you say Cava? Probably not, but don’t feel bad if Cava does not jump out as the obvious choice here. While Cava is the most popular sparkling wine in the world, it suffers from constant comparison to the most renowned of sparkling wines, French Champagne.
“Cava is not champagne and does not pretend to be,” says Julian Jeffs, Spanish wine expert and author of the excellent and highly-recommended Spanish wine book, The Wines of Spain ($29.95). “The wines should be judged on their own, very considerable, merits.”
At first the wine was called “Champán” or in Catalan “Xampan”, but not unnaturally the French objected, Jeffs points out. It wasn’t until 1986 when the new name Cava was found.
So how does Cava differ from the Champagne, you ask? The Spanish make Cava using the same traditional method that the French use to make Champagne, but in place of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir grapes, the Spanish mostly use the traditional local varieties such as Parellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo. The resulting wine is
lighter in body than Champagne, with larger bubbles and less of the yeasty character that one finds in the French bubbly. Cava is bright, lively and often tastes of tangy green apple and lemon zest.
The other main difference between Cava and Champagne is the way the wines are enjoyed. In Spain Cava is everyday fare, consumed enthusiastically, and in abundance, by the local residents. The happy noise of popping corks that we Americans associate with special celebrations is a regular occurrence in the bars and restaurants of Spain. Champagne is an expensive wine for celebrating special occasions. Cava, on the other hand is a relative bargain. None of the Cava we sell is over $30, and most are under $20. These lively, youthful wines are intended for everyday consumption and pair equally well with potato chips as they do with caviar. This unbeatable combination
of tradition, quality and value should be enough to convince you that Cava deserves a place in your repertoire of springtime wines. As you plan your spring menus, please consider the affordable joy that it brings. Here are some options in the Cava department.
Cristalino Brut Cava $8.99 This wine is dry, refreshing and easy to love. The yellow gold color and the persistent bubbles lend a festive touch to any occasion. The price makes this an excellent choice for serving at parties and other large gatherings. $8.99
Parxet Cuvée 21 Cava $10.99 A perennial favorite among our customers, Cuvee 21 is full of big lively bubbles and zesty citrus aroma with a price that encourages spontaneous celebration.
Avinyó Brut Cava$15.99 Small production Cava made by artisan winemakers. The wine is disgorged just prior to shipment, thus guaranteeing the longest time possible on the lees and the shortest time possible between disgorgement and consumption (a good thing!). Yeasty, dry, and brightly refreshing.
Avinyó Rosat Cava $19.99 We just received our first shipment of the sparkling rosado from Avinyó. This pink bubbly is something quite special. It’s dry and leesy like the regular Avinyó cava, but it also has a bit of berry-like aroma to lend a hint of richness to the wine. This gets my vote for the best cocktail wine for spring entertaining. It is refreshing, accompanies a wide variety of appetizers and looks great in the glass.
Can Vendrell Brut Reserva $17.99 A classic blend of traditional Cava grapes (Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada) from all organic vineyards. Green apple fruit and leesy aroma in a bright, fresh style.
Juve y Camps Brut Nature 2002 $19.99 A favorite of our ex-pat Spanish customers who remember it from their younger days at home. Dry and toasty with fine bubbles and a yeasty finish.
L’Hereu de Raventos i Blanc Brut Cava $20.99 The Raventos family has been making Cava for centuries. The current generation produces this wine from all estate grown fruit. L’Hereu de Raventos i Blanc is made up of 60% Macabeo, 20% Xarel-lo, and 20% Parellada. The wine is dry, with fine bubbles, creamy texture and elegant complexity.