Cava can be very good. As good as Champagne? That is always the question that sneaks into the conversation.
Over at Corkbuzz Studio, Laura Maniec has launched a Champagne Campaign offering all Champagnes at half price after 10 pm nightly. There are many other reasons to visit Corkbuzz, from the selective wine list to the knowledgeable service to the wine-friendly food. I cannot often get my hands on Champagne at those great prices, and so turn to cava for my bubbly fix.
So many parts of Spain have made great leaps in terms of viniculture and producing great wines, but it has been my experience that in the production of cava, there has been a disconnect. The U.S. marketplace is wrought with bulk cava that has not traveled well, tasting musky as if stored in the corner of a cobwebbed closet under summery conditions. The cheap, bulk product that is so available at every corner wine shop is not indicative of the actual quality that can be produced when in the hands of serious winemakers. Seventy percent of the cavas produced in the D.O. are released after nine months.
Just check any wine list at any restaurants in Barcelona, any you will find several cavas of quality, aged, and of vintage. Many cuvees are without dosage, making for bone dry wines of distinction showcasing the xarel-lo characteristics.
Last week Ana Lidon, from Gramona winery in Penedes, presented on a vertical of Gramona cava ranging as far back as 1997 to the latest release of 2006. The tasting was hosted by Enrique Ibanez of IPO Wines, leaders in Spanish wine importing. The results were extraordinary.
The winery dates back to 1881, becoming officially named Gramona in 1921. Gramona ages cava a minimum of 18 months, and an average of four years. The Gran Reserva Imperial and Lustros III were poured, blends of xarel-lo and macabeo, two of the principal grapes that comprise a basic cava. I have had much experience in tasting and buying these wines for Pata Negra, but had not tasted them vertically.
The wines had a true champagne quality, exhibiting toasty aromas, bright acidity, and great structure.
Much of what Ana Lidon presented had to do with the winery’s efforts to be agro-biodynamic, a self-sufficient ecosystem that generates its own energy, creating an optimum environment with low carbon footprint whose goal is to create the best cava possible.
Then came the showstoppers, the Gran Reserva Celler Batlle, from 1997 to 2002, some of which have been aged nine years on the lees! Featuring the great acidity and structure of the xarel-lo grape, these long aged wines undergo autolysis which produces cava of great quality, elegant, exuberant, focused wines of subtle texture and a celebratory spirit. The ’98 vintage in particular was drinking exceptionally, and my favorite was the bright, racy 2002, lip-smacking, layered and creamy.
While there are other cavas I enjoy, Raventos, Avinyo, Recaredo (to name a few), Gramona is leading the way in crafting long aged, artisanal sparkling wine, that dare I say, is as good as champagne. Slip in a bottle of Gramona Gran Reserva Celler Batlle 1998 with some French bubbly and see how it stacks up for yourself.