Monday Musings: Can Cava Compete With More Popular Sparkling Wines?

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Today’s topic is Cava. As we move into the holiday season and everyone begins to discuss sparkling wines, I am musing about Cava and whether or not it gets the billing it should. I love sparkling wines, everyday of the week and at every meal. So do a lot of other people but how many of them look to Cava before other sparkling wines. Judging from a recent seminar that I attended back in October with Marnie Old, maybe not enough. The seminar was billed as discussing Cavas Prestige Categories.

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There are currently 235 Cava producers. I was surprised and thought it was a bigger grouping. Apparently total production in 2016 was about 245 million bottles. Prosecco must be around 400 million bottles a year, if not more, and the comparison of course, comes to mind. Cava, unlike much Prosecco however, must be made in the traditional method with secondary refermentation taking place in the bottle rather than in autoclave. A much more costly proposition certainly. That said, there are also some fine Proseccos made using the traditional method, especially in the DOCG areas. Perhaps a better comparison than is Franciacorta or Trentodoc wines, if using Italy as an example.

Getting back to Cava, apparently some 62% of Cava producers export are present on international markets. Clearly, this number must increase if they are to compete with other sparklers.

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Another pair of interesting statistics were that premium Cava accounted for 11.6% of total Cava exports and that 4 million bottles of Cava are organic. Cava comes from 33,903 hectares in the North-eastern corner of Spain. Some 81% of the main varieties are indigenous ones: Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. Other grape varieties used in Cava include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Trepat, Garnacha Tinta and Monastrell.

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There are apparently four Cava categories: Traditional Cava which is released after 9 months, Cava Riserva, released after 15 months and Cava Gran Riserva which is released after 30 months. The new category, Cava de Paraje Calificado has specific rules including minimum yields, hand harvesting, vines over 10 years of age, vinification on the estate, minimum aging 36 months, and precise traceability, among others.

Before writing more about the particular Cavas we tasted at the seminar, I must mention what an incredible presenter Marnie Old is. Having done a number of presentations of my own, I am ever more aware of a good presenter.

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Answering my own question, what does Cava need to compete, I think they need to create more educational tools and opportunities, speak to the fact that they are made with indigenous grapes and go on the road.

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Getting back to the tasting, here are some brief notes on the bottles we tasted:

1. Vilarnau: Brut Reserva NV: Macabeo 50%, 35% Parellada, 15% Xarel-lo

White fruits, full bodied, small bead, a little hint of toast and a nice finish.

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2. Mascaró – “Pure” Reserva, Brut Nature 2013 – 80% Parellada, 20% Macabeo

Numerous fine bubbles, creamy mousse, rich, apple aromas and flavors. Enveloping, persistent and long finish. Close to the French border and could feel that influence.

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3. Alta Alelia – “Bruant” Reserva, Brut Nature 2015 Organic and No Sulfites – 100% Pansa (Xarel-lo)

Spicy undertones, broad on the palate, slight bitter note with medium acidity and length.

4. Avinyó – “Blanc de Noirs” Reserva Brut Nature 2012 – 100% Pinot Noir

Small red fruits, nice perlage, slight tanninic and bitter notes, enveloping and nice finish.

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5. Juvé y Camps– “Gran Juvé” Gran Reserva 2011 – 25% Xarel-lo, 25% Macabeo, 25% Parellada, 25% Chardonnay

I’ve had this wine in the past but hadn’t noticed how much fuller bodied the addition of Chardonnay had made the wine compared with other Cavas.
White fruits, high alcohol, creamy notes and sur lie texture.

6. Gramona “Imperial” Gran Reserva Brut 2011 – 50% Xarel-lo, 40% Macabeo, 10% Chardonnay

Nice perlage, creamy, apple, honey, rich texture and layered finish.

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7. Torelló – “225” Gran Reserva, Brut Nature 2013 – 50% Zarel-lo, 29% Macabeo, 21% Parellada,

Paraje Calificada – Can Marti

Rich, textured, flower notes, great acidity, yeasty, long and persistent finish.

8. Castellroig Finca Sabaté i Coco – “Reserva Familiar” – Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2010 – 100% Parellada

Paraje Calificada – Terroja

Green Apple notes, spicy, rich, textured. Persistent, great acidity and incredible length.

9. Freixenet – “Casa Sala”, Gran Reserva, Brut Nature 2006 – 75% Parellada, 25% Xarel-lo

Paraje Calificada – Can Sala

Golden color, bread, yeast, burned Apple and spice on the palate. Nice length and persistence.

10. Cordorníu – “FInca La Pieta” – Gran Reserva Brut 2007 – 100% Chardonnay

Paraje Calificada – La Pieta

Waxy, yeasty, apple on the nose and palate. Full bodied and rich creamy texture, honeyed.

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