• Cava chameleon – Spanish sparkling’s all-change

    Spain’s cava association is trying to elevate the sparkling wine in the eyes of consumers, by introducing a new quality classification.

    Spain’s cava association is trying to elevate the sparkling wine in the eyes of consumers, by introducing a new quality classification.

    mm By April 26, 2016

    Cava is the sort of drink I associate with bad hangovers. In Spain. Drinking in the early hours, or whenever it was safe to avoid the sun. Round a pool. Without trunks on. TMI, I know, but that was the Seventies. It was the time that most of us Brits discovered cava – in the hills around Marbella or on other parts of the Costas – the first thing to go into the holiday shopping trolley, and the first thing to go into the fridge in the villa.

    Sexy Beast
    “I’m so f-ing hot”. Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast. Cava not pictured.

    Cava used to be what Proseco is today, a cheap sparkling wine that allows the greater-unwashed to think they are the hoi polloi. If the cast and crew of Sexy Beast weren’t on it 24/7 then they really should have been. So it is excellent news that the Cava producers have clubbed together and are bringing out a new quality classification, one that will show Cava off for what it is capable of – an age-old method of vinification, and one that can achieve really great things.

    The classification came out at the end of 2015 and will be called Cava del Paraje Calificado. Unlike the soapy, cheap supermarket Cavas that are picked and shipped in 9 months, these will need to be single-estate wines, with hand-picked grapes and aged for at least 3 years. In a fascinating tasting held at London’s top Cava restaurant Copa de Cava, Reservas and Gran Reservas were ‘shown’ alongside a range of tapas that brought out the age and complexity of the wines. It was a revelation. The variety of the grapes used – Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Parellada, Pansa Blanca, Garnaxta – ageing by as much as 10 years and a varied mix of production methods meant that for the first time people were getting to taste what Cava really is capable of. Oh, and you won’t see the likes of these in the supermarket, they are far superior to that. Thank God.

    Recaredo Brut de Brut 2006
    Recaredo Brut de Brut 2006

    The Buyer’s verdict

    Gramona, III Lustros, Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2007

    Celebrating its 50th anniversary four years ago, this is one of the most iconic Cava producers on account of them ageing the Cava in bottles for six years, twice the time necessary for a Gran Reserva classification. The nose is simply extraordinary, an intense mix of fruits, peel, herbs, nuts, toasted brioche and toffee, and the palate is creamy, full and has an after-taste that goes on and on and on. And on.

    Recaredo, Serral Del Vell Estate, Brut de Brut 2006

    Like Gramona, this is single vineyard wine using just Xarel-lo and Macabeo grapes, although this Cava is aged even longer – a minimum of seven years and three months. To give the wine structure the Xarel-lo are barrel-aged in oak. Everything is done by hand from picking, riddling and disgorging and the attention to detail hits you immediately – the nose and palate match perfectly. “This is Cava, Jim, but not as we know it.”

    Agusti Torello Mata, Kripta, Brut Nature Gran Reserva, 2007

    One of a number of Cavas produced by this outstanding estate, the most immediately striking things being the bottle shape – one that demands pouring out and finishing in one fell swoop. Don’t let the bottle fool you, this is a serious drop and not a gimmick. Aged for four years, it is a blend of Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada. The bubbles are big and slow, and the crisp bouquet is followed by a big blast of ripe fruit, toast and vanilla. Parker gave it 94 points.




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