Michelin-chef, Roger Jones, concedes he does not know a great deal about Cava. So what better way than to discover premium Cava by flying to Barcelona to meet one of the region’s great families, Juve & Camps.
A visit and tasting with premium Cava producer, Juvé & Camps, that’s worth missing a Euro semi-final for…
A welcome call from Bryony from Proven Communication offering me a quickie one night stand in Barcelona seemed a good way to take my mind off the Euro Semi-Finals, which due to a pre planned lunch I was hosting in my restaurant on Wednesday (with guests such as Jancis Robinson, Nick Lander with South African wine stars David Sadie and Carsten Migliarina) meant that I would miss the Wales vs Portugal game and had to decline my tickets. But I had my very own Fanzone at the Harrow at Little Bedwyn.
Our visit was to the Cava producer Juvé& Camps. Now to be honest I had not taken much interest in Cava besides knowing that some Spanish producers had in the past provided sparkling wine to famous Champagne houses, similar to the train wagons that took Rioja to Bordeaux in the 1930s and 1940s.
Juve & Camps is a rather serious family run enterprise, and not only produce fabulous aged Cava but have a very prosperous import agency, “Primeras Marcas” that brings into Spain some of the most prestigious wines labels on the world, such as Petrus, Delamain, Pingus, Louis Roederer and Cheval Blanc.
Clearly its production and demand for these wines are growing rapidly, demonstrated with its continuous expansion of winery space, new vineyards and a long term plan to age wines in its cellars. Similar to the R.Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia pursuit of ageing in Rioja, Juve & Camps is adamant that age and quality come before instant return or profits.
We had the privilege to meet Juan Juve who in his later years has decided to teach himself English by listening to English podcasts every morning. His daughter Meritxell Juve is now the inspiration and in the driving seat and clearly has the thirst to take this company to a global name. Currently their biggest export market is South America, especially Peru where the Juvé & Camps name is apparently as popular as Coca Cola.
Oh, so special
So what is special about this Cava? Firstly it is all about age and holding back some 10 million bottles till they are ready to drink and secondly the quality and diversity of the grapes that they use and the ability to nurture a vast majority of their wines from their own vineyards. One of the biggest difference to normal sparkling wine is the lower use of added sugar with an average dosage of 7%.
Grape varieties are also different, it does make Chardonnay and Pinot based sparkling, but these are not quite in the same hedonistic class as its own grapes such as Xarel.lo, Macabeu, and Parellada.
Its vineyards cover a vast area and include its very own Chapel in the middle of one prestigious section of vines, another area hosts a rather impressive dining room, whilst the original six storey underground cellars are a historical bastion of their intention to age. Its new winery, built to keep up with demand and production, houses a labyrinth of huge concrete containers to age wines with gravity fed piping lines.
The top label is La Capella, which has on average 108 months in bottle prior to being disgorged. Classified as Gran Reserva and Brut Nature, is 100% Xarel.lo. In a vertical tasting of the 05, 06 and 07 these wines clearly showed quality, they were very much in the full flavoured aged vintage Champagne style. The 2006 was a dreamy rich honeyed and spiced wine that had a gentle toasty brioche in the background but continued to freshen the palate. There are hints of apricots and green pistachio and delicate puff pastry.
Gran Juve & Camps
A Gran Reserva Cava aged on average for 42 months in bottle, is an equal blend of Chardonnay, Macabeu, Xarel.lo and Parellada. The grapes are sourced from their best sites from the Espiells and Mediona vineyards and only in the very best harvests. These wines highlight freshness, with words like white flowers, fresh crisp fennel with unwaxed lemon, delicate light honey, creamy, penetrating aromas all highlighting the style.
100% Chardonnay classified as Reserva with 24 months in bottle. Having tried quite a few vintages it was clearly a different style to the traditional Blanc de Blancs that we enjoy from other Sparkling wine areas around the world but the younger vintages certainly shone. The 2009 from magnum was the nearest to a classic Chardonnay Sparkling with nuances of quince, ripe white juicy peaches, floral, white buttercups with a rich palate and golden colour whilst the 2010 was possibly a better wine with a very much more linear, mineral and focused palate, much more delicate stone fruit.
Reserva de la Familia
This is its ‘House Brand” Cava, and the wine that is its global flagship, and offers exceptional value. It is Gran Reserva with a minimum of 36 months in bottle – 30% Macabeu, 40% Xarel.lo, 20% Parellada & 10% Chardonnay. Made from free run juice, this certainly evolves well with age and highlights bright stone fruit, soft delicate toastyness and fresh citrus flavours. This is more approachable than the Gran Juve and La Capella as an aperitif wine
There are many other categories in their stable, Blanc de Noirs, Essential, Reserva Cinta and Rose, as well as red and white wine production..
Food and Wine Matching
We were entertained both in a Michelin Star Restaurant and in their vineyard and it was clear how important food is not only to them, as it is to all Spanish people, but to match and highlight their wines.
Here are some highlights:
Cold Smoked Razor Clam
A fascination no wonderful sweet and smokey dish that highlighted the best use of Razor Clams, the sweet ness balanced by the subtle smokiness matched perfectly to 2008 Reserva de la Familia.
Traditional sardines cured
Salty, with the classic sardine depth of flavour but perfectly matched with a tomato soaked crisp bread this is an outstanding match to their Blanc de Noir, especially the 2010 which has a hint of resina to it and its masculine structure holds well with the sardines.
Cannelloni of veal with truffles
A deep rich dish that had a lovely lightness and wafer thin pasta, but intensity of flavour was superb and this was perfectly balanced with La Capella 2006.
Whole baked wild sea bass in salt crust
This was served with a jeroboam of Milesime 2006, as the wine evolved in the glass the saline, oyster shell background of the Cava brought out the amazing juicy freshness of the Sea Bass, highlighting both the wine and the so fresh bass.
Besides the oddity of the label ‘Sweet Cava’ this was a superb luscious full flavoured ‘Rich’ style sparkling, perfect by itself as a refreshing off dry end of meal quencher but equally good with sashimi or foie gras.
Sadly in the UK Cava and Prosecco seem to be categorised in the same bracket despite one is made in the Champenoise method whilst the other is made in the lager method. The range that Juvé & Camps offer covers every price range and at the top offer a Vintage aged Champagne style that we see with great sparklers from Tasmania such as Ed Carr with Arras, and Cuvee Clive from South Africa.
I think we are missing a trick here and suggest that you seek out these wonderful wines.
Availability in UK is currently limited to Waitrose and Majestic, however on Sunday I will be highlighting these Cava’s as well as the very best sparkling wines from around the world (and the UK) in the grounds of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn.
- Juvé & Camps is distributed in the UK through Ehrmanns.