Hava Cava


In a recent edition of The Times there was a promotional supplement dedicated to Catalonia. Not a half or whole page but a small paper of 16 pages within a paper.
I’m not too sure if the Times sends someone from HQ or the task is assigned to old friends close to the front, In any case Helen Cranford wrote from the perspective of one who has never set foot in Catalonia before. Logistically confined by foot and train she managed to discover Sant Sadurni, Fray-je-nett and Blancher and the presence of about 20 other firms in Sant Sadurni including one called Codorniu.
It really is a pity that about the only place she managed to visit is also about the only place that doesn’t use grapes exclusively from the DO Penedès or DO Catalonia for that matter, with shameful regard for the length of time its products remain in the cellars. Frays seem to have difficulty keeping their semi-seco (up to 30 gms of sugar to accelerate the second fermentation) in cavas for the required 6 months.
Yes, down the road behind Fray-je-nett and spread out all over the beautiful landscape of Alt Penedès are well over two hundred small and medium sized cavas, almost all of whom produce cava and wine that is far, far better than Fray’s.
Somewhere on the way to the hairdressers Helen missed the real story about cava, the quality of which has been improving without noticeable price increases for the last 20 years, the trend away from liquors towards more natural and fruitier wines, the growing presence of Chardonnay which is an excellent compliment to the native varieties. The introduction of fermentation in the barrel and other natural methods to individualise and create new flavours
Yes Helen did mention the tinto crianza wine and in the space of a small paragraph eluded to its qualities, even comparing it with produce north of the Pyrenees. What a shame she didn’t stick around as she would have been washed away by the quality and diversity of red wines available.
There are I presume a lot of people out there regularly buying and enjoying cava, just as there is a lot of good and excellent cava to be drunk. There are those who always pay half of what they would at home, endeavouring to discover “the bottle” for 2 euros or less. I have a friend, Ginger of brummie extraction who buys on this philosophy and his honest opinion is sparklers at that price is only good for shoving up yer ...and not surprising either.
The more you pay for a bottle of cava the more you get. Over 4 euros you are getting traditional coupage, brut or brut nature with the subsequent reduction in sugar levels and an aging period of at least 2 years. Notice how much finer the bubbles are, the aromas of roast almonds and cake shop. From 6 euros you are beginning to get new coupages including up to 20%Chardonnay, notice the fruitier aromas, increased body and lighter rounder flavour. Cavas sold for 12 euros and more are the result of serious selection of wines which come from older vines and are only produced in years of good or excellent harvests, they will also have the benefit of longer aging, the longer a cava ages the more the yeast remains in the bottle break-up and soften the flavour. I would set the absolute limit at 15 euros pts as from there on up you’re paying for extravagant bottles and packaging which contain virtually the same quality wine.

A few good names to be getting on with? Try any of the following...

Agustí Torelló
Albet i Noya
Nadal
Cavas Hill
Chandon
Colet
Casteller
Eudald massana Noya
Ferret
Gramona
Huguet
Jaume Giro Giro
Duc de Foix
Castellroig
Oriol Rossell
Llopart
Tinnel

Cheers, Paddy Mannion 2006