Cava is a del­i­cate, bal­anced and re­strained wine

The China Post - - ARTS & LEISURE -

In early May a new qual­ity clas­si­fi­cat i on was an­nounced for Span­ish sparkling wine Cava. The pre­mium Cava del Paraj Cal­i­fi­cado will be launched within the year.

While the pa­ram­e­ters are yet to be ce­mented, they will likely cover sin­gle vine­yard bot­tlings, re­duced yields (even as much as 30 per­cent lower) and prob­a­bly also spec­ify vine­yard prac­tices, which will likely need to be or­ganic. It will thus echo the ex­ist­ing Do Pa­gos sys­tem which ap­plies across Spain.

Th­ese are dy­namic times in the sparkling wine arena. Ital­ian Prosecco has swept to the fore with sales even sur­pass­ing those of cham­pagne in the UK, tra­di­tion­ally France’s big­gest mar­ket. At the same time, the UK’s own sparkling wine in­dus­try goes from strength to strength, and Italy’s high-end Fran­ci­a­corta is also get­ting the at­ten­tion it de­serves.

It would seem that Spain sparkling is try­ing to es­tab­lish as a pre­mium plat­form to free it­self from an ev­ery­day drink­ing, lack­lus­ter rep­u­ta­tion. It is a po­si­tion that has worked with the mar­ket­ing of Cham­pagne: Moet for cock­tail par­ties and Dom Perignon for din­ner par­ties.

But how is the pre­mium end of Cava? Sarah James Evans MW, chair­man of the In­sti­tute of Masters of Wine, ex­plains that most of us have had lit­tle ex­po­sure to it un­til now, be­cause un­til the eco­nomic down­turn in Spain the best wine stayed at home. Now it is en­ter­ing the ex­port mar­kets at prices which can even ex­ceed US$100 — such as the Agusti­torello Mata Kripta Espumoso Brut Na­ture Grand Reserva 2007 — a fan­tas­ti­cally mel­low wine with an amaz­ing marzi­pan nose.

Evans ar­gues that a com­par­i­son with Cham­pagne is moot, even though pro­duc­tion meth­ods are the same. The grapes are some­times the same too — some pro­duc­ers use Chardon­nay and Pinot Noir, or at least blend them with base wines from in­dige­nous grapes. Soil and cli­mate bring a “dif­fer­ent com­plex­ity of fla­vor.”

But crit­i­cally what the wines have, she says, “is a very nice ripeness which you can­not get in Cham­pagne.” She uses the term “gen­eros­ity” to de­scribe the Chardon­nay and Pinot Noir-based wines. This gen­eros­ity, or ripeness, also means that dosage can be kept to a min­i­mum, which helps to pre­serve nat­u­ral fresh­ness. The in­ex­pen­sive Codor­niu Reina Maria Cristina Blanc de Noirs 2013 with its kitchen gar­den nose is a good ex­am­ple of this: del­i­cate and fresh. A popular dosage level is 3 grams per liter, which es­sen­tially amounts to zero, though most would fall into the 8 to 10 grams per liter range.

Cava is usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with Cat­alo­nia (Barcelona is the cap­i­tal city), but it is also pro­duced in pock­ets else­where in Spain such as Rioja. But those from Cat­alo­nia are largely the only pre­mium wines.

About 242 mil­lion bot­tles are pro­duced each year, of which 25 mil­lion are pre­mium. The mar­ket is dom­i­nated by two huge names, Codor­niu and Freix­enet — though it is in­ter­est­ing to note that both are also pro­duc­ing small amounts of pre­mium wines. The Cu­vee de Pres­tige Casa Sala 2006 from Freix­enet comes from the orig­i­nal birth­place of Cava.

Evans sug­gests that the benefits of re­search go­ing into the pro­duc­tion of those high-end wines is trick­ling down to en­try-level wines, thereby help­ing to boost qual­ity even of mass pro­duced, com­mer­cial wines. Where once ba­sic Cava would rarely even have a bronze medal award, th­ese days some are at­tain­ing gold.

Evans com­ments that we seem “to have come full-cir­cle with in­dige­nous grapes: now th­ese are what we want!” She says that Chardon­nay had be­come too dom­i­nant in the Cava pro­file. The star grape for Cava pro­duc­tion seems to be Xarel-lo, which can also be re­garded as one of the best white grapes in Spain. It has thin skin, shows an ex­cel­lent bal­ance of sug­ars and acids, and gives Cava its age­ing abil­ity. It is also highly aro­matic.

Xarel-lo is typ­i­cally blended in vary­ing pro­por­tions with Par­el­lada and Macabeo. Cava has a broad di­ver­sity of styles and aro­mas. But the com­mon fac­tor is their del­i­cacy, their cool-cli­mate feel, and their bal­ance and re­straint.

One wine al­ready cer­tain to achieve Cava del Paraj Cal­i­fi­cado is the Re­caredo Brut de Brut Gran Reserva 2006, a wine from a bio­dy­nam­i­cally farmed sin­gle vine­yard be­long­ing to Finca Ser­ral de Vell. A 50:50 blend of Xarel-lo and Macabeo, it is a wine of star­tling fresh­ness and a truly in­di­vid­ual ex­pres­sion of pre­mium Cava. Stephen Quinn writes about wine for a va­ri­ety of pub­li­ca­tions in the re­gion. From 1975 he was a jour­nal­ist for two decades with the Bangkok Post; BBC-TV, The Guardian, ITN, the UK Press As­so­ci­a­tion; TVNZ; the Mid­dle East Broad­cast­ing Cen­ter in Dubai and a range of re­gional news­pa­pers in Australia. Dr. Quinn be­came a jour­nal­ism ed­u­ca­tor in 1996, but re­turned to jour­nal­ism full time in 2011. He is based in Hong Kong and is the au­thor of 17 books.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.