Cava Discovery Week: Why you should think about picking a bottle of Spanish fizz
Tasting through five different bottles with Helen McGinn
If you open a bottle of fizz, my guesses are it’ll probably be Prosecco, Champagne, maaaaybe English Sparkling. But perhaps not Cava?
Cava seems to fallen out of favour a little in the UK over recent years, partially due to the meteoric rise of Prosecco, and more recently, thanks to the excellent sparkling wines we’re producing here on our doorstep.
But that’s a shame, because Cava is delicious, it’s seriously great value for money, and there’s a whole world of flavour out there waiting to be discovered.
Cava is made in Spain, in different regions across the country (unlike Prosecco and Champagne which are made in a concentrated region). The three main grapes used are Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada, although a bit of Chardonnay is used as well. There are also a few red grapes used in very small percentages: Garnacha, Trepat and Pinot Noir. It can be white (blanco) or rosé (rosado).
It’s also made in the same way as Champagne, using the imaginatively Christened “Traditional Method”. OK, it does sound better in French… “méthode champenoise”. This sees the wine going through a second fermentation process (post-alcohol fermentation) inside the bottle. This method creates maximum fizz, as the carbon dioxide created sinks back into the wine, forming bubbles aplenty. It also gets you those nice toasty brioche notes you often find in Champagne.
While you can make a bottle of Prosecco in 40 days from start to finish, a bottle of Cava has to be aged for at least nine months, and is often aged for longer. There are different categories of the wine depending on how old it is, and different styles, depending on how much extra sugar (dosage) is added.
Cava Discovery Week and tasting with Helen McGinn
This week is Cava Discovery Week. Running from 16-24 October, It’s the perfect excuse to open a bottle, or try Cava at various restaurants, retailers, wine bars and other establishments. Find out here if there’s anywhere local to you.
We joined a tasting with the fabulous Helen McGinn, who you may know as Saturday Kitchen’s resident boozy expert, to try a few different bottles of Cava, and see what all the fuss is about.
We asked Helen why she thought Prosecco had trounced Cava in popularity. She said when Prosecco first came out, it used to be cheap as chips, and you could pick up a bottle for around £5. However, the price has increased over the years, and they’re now at a similar level. There’s also often a bit more sugar in Prosecco than in Cava, which appealed to people’s sweet teeth (tooths?). Now however, with the choice and availability of organic Cava, and the reduced amounts of sugar, she think we might see a move back to people picking a bottle of Spanish fizz instead of Italian.
Anna de Codorniu Brut Cava
Usually £12, but currently available in Waitrose for £8.99 a bottle
The name of this wine is a tribute to the last member of the Codorniu family to take the surname. In 1659, she married viticulturist Miquel Raventos. This was the first Cava to introduce the Chardonnay grape. It’s made with 70% Chardonnay, 15% Parellada, and 15% Macabeo / Xarel·lo, and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. It’s been aged for nine months, so is on the younger side that Cava can be.
You do get a little bit of that breadiness, but it’s not quite toastiness. Perhaps croutons! On the nose there’s loads of citrus, white peach and a bit of apple, then those citrus notes carry through to the wine. It’s soft, refreshing, easy to drink, with lovely fine bubbles.
It would be perfect to quaff as an aperitif, or would go well with shellfish, sushi, sashimi or lightly spiced carpaccio.
Vallformosa Col-leccio Brut Bio Organic Cava
Cava de Guarda, RRP £12.49, available from Bouquet Ltd, Hoults, Reserve Wines
This Origen Brut Bio Cava uses a blend of the three traditional Cava grapes: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo. The first fermentation happens in stainless steel tanks, and the second fermentation happens in the bottle using the traditional method. It’s aged on average for 12 months in the bottle. And 100% of this producer’s wines are suitable for vegans.
Compared to the Anna, it’s a bit more apple-y. You get a nice floral aroma, followed by lots of apple and apple peel. More fine bubbles, and a long finish. It’s recommended for ‘drinking on its own at any time’ (excellent!), or to accompany light meals.
Vilarnau Brut Reserva Cava
Cava Reserva, £12 from Ocado
Now we’re moving to the older stuff. This is a bottle of Cava Reserva, which has been aged for 18 months. It’s made with 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Chardonnay. The bottle designs take their inspiration from the Catalan Trencadís mosaic style popular in Catalan modernism, which is used by architects such as Antoni Gaudi and Josep Maria Pujol. The mosaics are made using broken pieces of ceramic tiles and dinnerware.
They’ve tried to get a triple layer of flavour from this wine: the fruity and floral notes, the bready pastry notes, and then the toasted nuts and honey notes. This one also packs lots of lemon peel and lime marmalade flavours. It would go perfectly with tapas, or anything that’s salty and snacky, according to Helen.
Vilarnau Rose Delicat Cava
Brut Reserva Organic, £12 from Ocado
This is a Rose Cava, made with 85% Garnacha and 15% Pinot Noir grapes. And once again it has the fabulous artist-inspired bottle design. The colour is pale pink, and there’s lots going on on the nose, with roses and some ripe red berries. On the palate you get bags of strawberries and cream, along with a smooth, fresh elegance. This would be delicious with pasta or pizza.
Juve Y Camps Reserva de la Familia Cava
Cava Gran Reserva, £18, although available for £14.99 as part of Majestic’s Mix Six
This is moving into the older stuff! It’s a 2017 vintage and is at the top end of aged Cava, having spent 36 months in the bottle. It’s also a ‘Brut Nature’, meaning no sugar has been added. It’s made with 55% Xarel·lo, 35% Macabeo and 10% Parellada grapes. It’s a lot dryer than the others, and properly gets your mouth watering. The nose has lots of white fruit, and then you get that delicious toastiness and even a bit of spice.
Helen said she has great memories of drinking this with a bowl of Manchego chips (yum!) in Spain.