Cava Tips for the Finish market!

Sweden and Finland have many things in common. Lots of Cava fans and a Monopoly on alcohol are two of them. For you not living with a monopoly like we are, I can tell you that it is a strange thing… but like all other things it has both good and bad sides.

Some time ago I got the question from a finish cava lover what tips I had when he was going to order cava at Alko (the monopoly in Finland). Now it struck me that there are of course more Finish cava fans out there that might like to get these. So here is what I recommended.

-Anything from the house Gramona, who is a terrific producer. 

Segura viudas Heredad, is a lovely Gran Reserva worth a try.
Recaredo is always a safe bet with wonderful 100% ecological cavas.
Raventós i Blanc is also a fantastic producer, altough no longer within the DO Cava.
Freixenet Elyssia, both blanc and rosé are nice creations.

Albet i Noya have also left DO Cava, but make lovely things all the same.
Mont Marcall is also a good producer, with a good range normally.
-Pere Ventura has a great design that is loved by many, and so is their cavas.
-Juv’e y Camps makes good things straigt through their portfolio, although Cinta Purpura is their base line.
For you who can read swedish I have left the exact and mor detailed ansver below.

Happy Friday everyone!! 

Ni har ju på Alko något annorlunda sortiment än vad vi har på vårt monopol i Sverige, men många av husen som finns att tillgå på Alko känner jag väl till och många är goda vänner till mig, men jag har inte testat dem alla som finns på Alko.
 
Rent allmänt vill jag säga detta om några av dem:
-Gramona är ett mycket kvalitétsorienterat hus, som nu håller på att konvertera alla sina odlingar till biodynamiska. Deras Imperial, som finns på Alko är deras “signatur” cava och en av mina långvariga “go to” cavor.
-Segura viudas är ett hus som ägs av Freixenet, men som drivs helt separat och har gamla anor. De har guldkorn i sin portfölj och Heredad är väl värd att testa. Flaskan brukar också imponera på många. 🙂
-Recaredo är också ett “kvalitéts hus” och odlar helt enligt den Biodynamiska läran. Allt de gör är av hög kvalité. Deras “top cava” Turó D’en Mota är mycket speciell och motbevisar alla som säger att cava inte går att lagras. Du kan läsa mer om den på min Blog om du har intresse. http://annawallner.se/2015/11/29/turo-den-mota-maybe-the-best-cava-ive-ever-had/
-Raventós är formellt sett inte längre Cava då de lämnade DO Cava 2012. Men den görs på exakt samma sätt, ligger granne med Codorniu och drivs av samma familj som startade och drev Codorniú fram tills det bolagiserades. Generellt gör Raventós mycket bra grejer och deras De Nit har länge varit en av mina sommar-rosé-favoriter. Men självklart varierar årgångarna.
-Freixenet är ju för många synonymt med cava och ofta billig cava. Säga vad man vill så är det otroligt att de kan producera så kvalitetskonstanta produkter i sådana mängder, år efter år. Sedan kan man ju ha en åsikt om stilen såklart. Men även Freixenet gör guldkorn. Elyssia är en sådan enligt mig. För ovanlighetens skull baserad på chardonnay, för Freixenet är annars väldigt inriktade på traditionell stil. Elyssia är frisk, fruktig och ett bra alternativ om man vill testa något annat än den “svarta flaskan”.
-La vida Al Camp är faktiskt producerad av Raventós. Det är den enda de producerar under DO Cava och det har väckt mycket debatt bland cavaproducenterna. “Antingen lämnar man eller så är man kvar under DO Cava” är det många som tycker. Deras första La vida al camp var “vit” och en mycket bra bascava. Jag har inte testat deras rosé, men utgår från att även denna borde hålla måttet vad gäller kvalité kontra pris.
-Albet i Noya har likt Raventós lämnat DO Cava och producerar under DO Penedés, men åter igen är det samma område, druvor, metoder osv. Även Albet i Noya är biodynamiska. De gör trevliga grejer över lag även om jag personligen inte tycker att de kommer upp i samma kvalité som Recaredo och Gramona.
-Mont Marcal gör välgjorda och vanligen lättdruckna cavor i alla stilar. De som finns på Alko är inte de mest komplexa i deras portfölj, men helt klart välgjorda.
-Pere Ventura gör även han bra grejer och just hans Roséer brukar vara av en mycket tydlig “medelhavsstil” dvs mycket fruktiga och intensivt röda, vilket som du vet skiljer sig mycket from champagnes bleka laxrosa varianter. Jag gillar båda stilar, bara de är välgjorda.
-Juvé y Camps är också ett hus som gör mycket bra grejer, dessvärre verkar ni bara få deras basvariant Cinta Purpura och dessutom i en söt variant… kanske inte något du kör i första provningen. 🙂

Where does the Cava de Paraje Calificado grow?

In the beginning of July the first sites of the new cava classification were chosen. Better late than never I guess, because it has been a very slow process.

If the road that the D.O. Cava have chosen, to promote themselves, will be successful is yet to be seen. But personally I’m hopeful that Cava de Paraje might help to spread awareness about the long aged cavas among the more interested consumers. But we need to remember that the production of these bottles is very low and the crowd that buys them small.

The first 12 sites that has been accepted for the “Cava de Paraje Calificado” (insane that there is no English translation) are spread out both among the big producers and smaller premium houses.

Recaredo´s Turó D’en Mota is of course among the sites and if you want you can read more about this special vineyard in earlier posts here on the blog. Also the house of Torelló have their old vineyards of Can Martí on the list which is happy news, although not surprising. I won’t comment on all the houses but just say that I think it is great that this becomes a reality and I hope that the list will grow in the future.

The 12 Cava sites, and the houses that own them:

  • Vinyes de Can Martí – Torelló
  • Turó d’en Mota – Recaredo
  • Serral del Vell – Recaredo
  • Vallcirera – Alta Alella
  • La Capella – Juvé i Camps
  • Can Sala – Freixenet
  • La Pleta – Codorníu
  • El Tros Nou – Codorníu
  • La Fideuera – Codorníu
  • Can Prats – Vins el Cep
  • Font de Jui – Gramona
  • Terroja – Castellroig

I’m really looking forward to trying all these wines when they are out in store. Even though some already are although not under the new classification.

Top Of The Pops among Cava and Champagne

It is not every day you get the chance to try a line-up like this, so I must admit I had been excited for weeks beforehand. And it really was just so interesting and exciting as I thought. This is my thoughts about the experience…

For you who are not really aquatinted with these cavas and champagnes I can just give you the very brief details.
Cavas: 
ENOTECA BRUT NATURE 2001: 75% Xarel-lo and 25% Macabeu, from Gramona.
LA CAPELLA 2005: 100% single vineyard Xarel-lo, from Juvé y Camps.
TURÓ D’EN MOTA 2005: 100% single vineyard Xarel-lo, from Recaredo.

Champagnes:
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL CUVÉE 2000: Pinot noir and chardonnay, from Pol Roger.
DOM PERIGNON 2006: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot munier, from Moët & Chandon.

To start with we compared the two younger cavas with Dom Perignon of nearly the same age. And after that SWCC and Enoteca.

Before we started I really thought that the notes coming from the aging would be predominant and have made the sparkling wines more similar. Although all wines had very distinct aged notes there was a huge differens which I had not counted on.
What struck us all was how very vibrant and alive all the cavas were compared to the champagnes of nearly the same age. The cavas had together with the aged notes of bread, nuts and biscuits ALSO a great balance of fruitiness left in them. The Champagnes were broader, softer and had both clearly more oxidized notes of yellow apple to them, that the cavas did not.
I love them all for their own uniqueness, but it was truly striking that all the cavas still felt so young after all this time!

Especially Enoteca 2001 (being so old) is truly amazing in its vibrant freshness!

I have always liked “old” wines, because I love what the aging does with the wine. Hence I have for a very long time had Sir Winston rated at the top of my list.  But to be honest… to get both these fantastic aged notes together with a freshness and elegance shown by Grsmona’s Enoteca is amazing.

This same is true for the younger bottles of Turó d’en Mota and La Capella compared with Dom Perignon. The cavas are still super fresh and complex, while the Dom is more rounded and of course complex, but more bombastic than elegant.

One thing that might explain this is something I learned from Xavier Gramona, when he visited Stockholm in March. He explained that Xarel-lo is a perfect wine for aging since the variety contains the highest levels of antioxidants of any white grape. Maybe it is these antioxidants that keep the cavas so fresh after all this time?

I promise I will write a blogpost on all the cavas, all in due course. They deserve nothing less!

“To uproot one would be to uproot ourselves” The story of a vineyard

Since I will have the great opportunity to host a very special prestige tasting on Wednesday, where Turó d’en Mota will be one of the cavas we will taste. I thought I’d publish the article I wrote on this extraordinary cava for Glass of bubbly last year.

“To uproot one would be to uproot ourselves” The story of a vineyard

The first time Ton took us up to see Turó d’en Mota, I did not want to leave. There is something very special about this vineyard and it cannot be explained, you have to go there. Some people would perhaps say that it is a blessed place, spiritual or full of positive energy, if they experienced what I do when I go there. I will just say that it is something very special about this vineyard that makes me relate to it in a way I have never done, to any other patch of earth planted with vines.

Turó d’en Mota means “the hill of the Mota Family” and was planted in 1940. The vines are crocked, thick and seems to have lived a good but hard life, and every one of them has an appearance and personality so they could easily all have individual names. The plot is not big, only 0.97 hectares and a couple of years ago the vines growing there were sadly and abruptly decreased.  
Apparently it had been raining that night, and someone was out “skidding” with their car on the muddy roads around the vineyards and crashed into Turó d’en Mota, taking about ten vines with them in the crash, if I remember correctly. Unfortunately these vines were not as lucky as the driver to make it out of this crash alive.
How do you explain to someone how much these vines mean to the family that owns them, how do you explain what they are worth, how irreplaceable they are? Ton once said that “To uproot one would be to uproot ourselves”, which might give a glimpse of what he must have felt when he found out about what had happened.

I’m glad though that this vineyard has lived 76 years this year and that most of it is still intact, because that means that we will be able to continue to enjoy the wonderful cava coming from its vines. It is, my friends, something out of the ordinary.
About 3000 bottles comes out of the approximate 4 400 kg of xarel-lo grapes harvested yearly by hand. Fermented first in oak for two weeks and later aged for a minimum of 120 months in the Recaredo cellars, this cava is unique in so many ways. When the first vintage (1999) came out, it was the first single vineyard cava ever made, and also the first monovarietal cava made from the xarel-lo grape. It is a perfect expression of the land it grows on, and you can clearly smell and taste the calcareous soil, the rosemary, thyme and fennel growing on the hill just next to the vineyard, and even though it is aged for over ten years, it is still fresh and vibrant.
So for all narrow-minded people who say that cava cannot be aged… they have clearly not tried Turó d’en Mota. 

Now it has been at least three years since we last visited this fantastic plot and I must honestly say that I miss it. Every time this year when we have driven passed the exit road leading up to Turó d’en Mota, just outside Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, I have thought that “Next time” we will take that exit and just drive up to say “hello” and see how the vines are doing. But no, that never happened, and now I sit here in cold Sweden with -15 C outside and can’t stop thinking if my friends the vines by the hill, will see any snow this year? I think they would like too.

“Turó d’en Mota is a way of explaining our history; it is a memory, a way of relating to each other, of getting to know one other. Above all, it is a chance to appreciate a landscape.” -Ton Mata

I love diversity, that’s why I love cava

The diversity within the DO Cava is both a blessing and a curse, and many people working with cava would agree on this. I choose to see the positive side. So what is actually so great about it?

Well let me explain…

xarello grapesThe biggest reason for the great diversity among cava is the fact that nine grape verities that can be used, more to choose form right there. Xarel.lo, macabeu and parellada are the most common verities and make up the backbone in traditional blends. Many people would say that this trio is the soul of cava and what makes it so special. But you also have chardonnay and malvasia among the white grapes allowed. When it comes to the red verities there are trepat, garnacha, monastrell and of course the very popular pinot noir. Since it is now allowed to make blanc de noire also in the DO Cava, with trepat as only exception, the possibilities are many. In my opinion all these red grapes make a great spread of rosé cavas, from the elegant salmon pink to the fruity bright raspberry coloured, that can be enjoyed and used in combination to endless types of food.

Bottles in rimaThe three age classes from the minimum ageing of nine months, to the reserva at a minimum of fifteen months and the gran reserva at thirty months or more, are also one aspect that widens the range of choice. Unfortunately many people only know the very young products and think that this is the only way to have cava. Numerous times I have met wine people and even fellow sommeliers that think that cava cannot be aged, and nothing could be further from the truth. Some even say that the local grapes don’t have the structure to age in a good way, and to those I can very much recommend a trip to the cava houses of Gramona, Recaredo, Juvé y Camps or Castell San Antoni, just to mention a few.

Vine yards at RecaredoOne other aspect that contributes to the wide spread of choice with in the cava family is the price range, and this is a very debated subject. Mass produced or high end, the choice is yours. I’m not saying that this wide spread is all good. But if you exclude the very cheapest bottles from the discussion, I do think it is great that you can find a cava that suits your taste, the occasion and your wallet. Because to be honest, most of us are not made of money and can’t drink 50 Euro bubbles every day, at least I can’t. And one thing that you can be sure of is that you very often get extremely good value for your money, since the land prices and production costs are so much lower in Penedès then say Champagne.

So my dear friends, if you have not already dived in to the sea of great cavas out there and enjoyed the diversity. I highly recommend you to do that as soon as possible and I’m absolutely positive you will find some favourites.

Cheers and happy hunting!

Anna and cava