Cava’s new top tier

Spain’s very best Cavas – a tiny per­cent­age of to­tal pro­duc­tion – are fi­nally to re­ceive of­fi­cial recog­ni­tion, as Sarah Jane Evans MW ex­plains

Decanter - - NEWS -

The new Cava de Paraje Cal­i­fi­cado clas­si­fi­ca­tion is long-de­served recog­ni­tion for the best sin­gle-es­tate wines, says Sarah Jane Evans MW

TER­ROIR, AND WHETHER and how to recog­nise sin­gle-vine­yard wines, is the hot topic in Spain. While the de­bate is on­go­ing in Rioja, Cava plans to re­lease its first sin­glevine­yard cat­e­gory wines by the end of this year. It’s not be­fore time given that Cava, de­spite be­ing a tra­di­tional-method wine, has lost out to Pros­ecco in sales, and ur­gently needs to es­cape its low-price, low-qual­ity rep­u­ta­tion.

The new cat­e­gory, Cava de Paraje Cal­i­fi­cado (CPC), means ‘cava from a spe­cific place’. The rules state the vine­yards must be at least 10 years old, and the wines must have been aged for 36 months min­i­mum (the min­i­mum for gran reserva Cavas is 30 months). There must also be three years’ worth of trace­abil­ity records. The first can­di­dates eas­ily ex­ceed these re­quire­ments.

When the Cava DO was de­lin­eated in 1986, it un­usu­ally took in spe­cific ori­gins out­side Cat­alo­nia. All these places, which had a his­tory of sparkling wine mak­ing – in La Rioja, Zaragoza, Va­len­cia, Bada­joz – will also be el­i­gi­ble for CPC sta­tus. Pro­duc­ers will sub­mit sam­ples and an­a­lyt­i­cal data. The wines will then be tasted (at least once blind) by a panel of na­tional and for­eign ex­perts, which is a step for­ward from the tra­di­tional, lo­calised ap­proach in many Euro­pean ap­pel­la­tions. Fi­nally the wine­maker will need to present the wine to a com­mit­tee in per­son. The Cava Reg­u­la­tory Board es­ti­mates that CPC wines should ac­count for 1.5 mil­lion bot­tles – to­tal pro­duc­tion in 2015 was 244 mil­lion bot­tles.

At the time of writ­ing, 10 pro­duc­ers have sub­mit­ted ap­pli­ca­tions – the pro­duc­ers listed op­po­site, plus Juvé y Camps (with La Capella Xarel.lo 2006) and Vins el Cep. Ana López Lidón, Gra­mona’s ex­port man­ager, is pos­i­tive about the fu­ture: ‘It will en­cour­age con­sumers to take an­other look at Cava. They’ll see that there can be Cavas of re­ally high qual­ity.’ Gra­mona has sub­mit­ted six wines, while Re­caredo has sub­mit­ted one, and ex­pects to put for­ward an­other two soon. These pro­duc­ers have been mak­ing sin­gle-vine­yard wines for a num­ber of years. Un­til to­day there has been no way to recog­nise their ex­cel­lence.

In ex­as­per­a­tion, some pro­duc­ers had al­ready left the DO – in­clud­ing Raven­tós i Blanc, which cre­ated the DO Conca del Riu Anoia. A num­ber of pro­duc­ers have gath­ered un­der the um­brella of DO Clàs­sic Penedès. This has a much more strin­gent set of rules and, uniquely among sparkling wine DOs, re­quires mem­bers to work with or­gan­i­cally grown grapes.

The lat­est news is that Tor­res is not join­ing Cava. The launch of its first sparkling wine, later this year, would un­doubt­edly have boosted the im­age of the DO. But at the last minute Tor­res has de­cided that its wine, though made

‘Un­til to­day there has been no way to recog­nise the ex­cel­lence of these wines’

to the rules of the DO, will be nei­ther Cava nor Clàs­sic Penedès. Tor­res wants the flex­i­bil­ity to source from cooler ar­eas out­side the DO.

Nev­er­the­less, some su­perb wines are among the first CPC re­leases. What can we ex­pect of them? All are vin­tage wines – and some, like Gra­mona’s Enoteca and Re­caredo’s Turó d’en Mota, will have had a decade or more of age­ing on the lees. Not all will have so many months’ age­ing and the quan­ti­ties avail­able will be gen­er­ally small. Celler Car­les An­dreu has set aside 3,000 bot­tles of its 2011 for CPC re­lease later this year. Brut na­ture styles – zero dosage – are com­mon, re­flect­ing the ter­roir and va­ri­eties. The white Cavas all high­light the re­vival in pres­tige of the local va­ri­eties, es­pe­cially Xarel.lo, which lends it­self par­tic­u­larly well to bot­tle age. I’m told that in the fu­ture the DO will per­mit blends of sin­gle vine­yards, which will en­able to Codor­níu to in­clude its 456 and Jaume Codor­níu blends.

Cava des­per­ately needs this recog­ni­tion. The pow­ers that be pri­vately recog­nise that ‘Cava’ (mean­ing un­der­ground cel­lar) was never a par­tic­u­larly in­spir­ing name. Will they look back and say the same about ‘Paraje Cal­i­fi­cado’? Its ini­tials may be the same as premier cru, but the words just don’t roll off the tongue. That said, the ini­tia­tive is clearly an im­por­tant step in the right di­rec­tion.

Above: Gra­mona’s Cava vine­yards lie in the hot and dry Alt Penedès re­gion, 30km from Barcelona

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