Tag Archives: Cava

wine news

Winebits 389: Three-tier, lower alcohol, Prosecco

Three-tier ? Nevermore! What happens when the state booze cops arrest alcohol vendors at a food and wine event? The event gets canceled, and no one is quite sure what happened. That was the case at one of Sacramento’s most popular festivals, when the 2015 event was canceled after the 2014 arrests. Organizers said wine and beer vendors didn’t want to participate this year, given the threat of arrest. Why were the vendors arrested in 2014? Something to do with what are called tied-house laws, which regulate the relationship between alcohol producers and alcohol retailers and are integral to three-tier. The story is fuzzy about exactly what happened, but tied house enforcement can be capricious and over stupid things — even something as simple as a retailer using a producer logo that he or she got from the producer, and not through the distributor.

? Not just for wine writers: The knock against the push for lower alcohol wines is that it is being powered by elitist wine critics (overlooking the fact that the most elitist of us started the high alcohol thing). The latter insist that consumers either don’t care or like high alcohol wines. Hence the welcome that Australian researchers, working with Treasury Wine Estates and a leading British retailer, are trying to develop lower alcohol wines that consumers will like. Said one researcher: “We would love to produce a wine with zero percent alcohol that tastes like 15 percent, but even if we get a quarter of the way, that would be good. Ten percent or 5 percent is also desirable.”

? Alternative Prosecco: Apparently, there is a Prosecco shortage, though the Wine Curmudgeon has a difficult time believing this when he sees row after row of Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine, on grocery store shelves. In which case, several leading Prosecco producers will make Prosecco-style wines from other countries, showing just how un-wine the wine business has become in its quest to confuse us to make money. One of the brands, called Provetto, is from Spain, and sounds about as tasty as its name implies. It will also sell for about the same as a quality bottle of cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, which raises all sorts of questions that would make me too cranky if I answered them.

 

wine of week

Wine of the week: Vega Barcelona Cava Brut Seleccion NV

Vega BarcelonaOne of the great joys in doing the blog is when I find a wine my mom likes. She’ll print the post, take it to her local retailer, he will compliment her on her good taste, and she will boast about her son. So, for Mother’s Day, the Vega Barcelona cava. Enjoy, mom,

This has been a wonderful year for cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, and the Vega Barcelona ($15, sample, 11.5%) is no exception. We tasted it when we did Spanish wine at my El Centro class, and even the students who only liked sweet wine liked this one. That’s because it gave the impression of sweetness — honey and ripe pear aromas — while tasting bone dry, with some green apple and citrus flavors. The bubbles were tight and the wine was crisp and fresh, two other hallmarks of quality.

How well done is this wine? One of the wine magazines gave it the ultimate backhanded compliment: “… a decent amount of elegance for a $15 wine.”

Highly recommended, and worth the extra $5 it costs compared to other cavas — even if it wasn’t for Mother’s Day. Pair this with most anything for a Mother’s Day brunch or just to toast Mom.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Juv y Camps Cava Brut Ros NV

Juv  y CampsThe Wine Curmudgeon, faced with the prospect of never drinking Champagne again, is not flinching. The bully boys at the Champagne trade council, whose behavior in the Champagne Jayne case is inexcusable on both moral and free speech grounds, can take their wine and water my garden with it.

I am more than happy to drink cava, which is not only a better value but made by people who seem to understand that their product is not more important than Libert , galit , and Fraternit . Hence my the wine of the week for The Holiday that Must Not be Named: the Juv y Camps Cava Brut Ros ($15, purchased, 12%).

Juv y Camps is one of my favorite cava producers, offering a little more style than the $10 and $12 cavas that I like so well, and this rose does just that. Look for ripe, red juicy fruit (strawberry?), made more in the style of a French cremant (sparkling wine from France not from the Champagne region) than most cavas. So it’s a little rounder and richer, which gives the wine a more pleasant and creamier mouth feel.

Drink this chilled on its own or with something grilled or roasted, be it shrimp, chicken, or beef. It’s the kind of wine to serve with dinner, enjoy, and then smile at how much you enjoyed it.

And did I mention it’s not Champagne?

wine advice

New Year’s sparkling wine 2014

New Year's sparkling wine 2014The Wine Curmudgeon won’t be drinking Champagne on Wednesday night or Thursday; the Champagne trade association has taken wine lawsuit foolishness past the point where it’s silly, turning it into a free speech issue. This is the Champagne Jayne case, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago and which has made an Internet splash in the week or so leading up to New Year’s.

The trade group is suing Champagne Jayne, an Australian wine writer named Jayne Powell, because she also writes about other sparkling wine. Her name, says the group, violates the EU’s trade agreement with Australia and if she is going to write about cava or Prosecco, she can’t call herself Champagne Jayne. And the French wonder why they have so many public relations problems.

Fortunately, there’s little need to drink Champagne for New Year’s anymore, given the revolution in sparkling wine. Yes, it may be the best bubbly in the world, but it’s priced out of reach for most of us and the alternatives are better than ever. Hence this year’s recommendations, after the jump, focus on those affordable sparklers that don’t offend the First Amendment.

? Lamberti Rose Spumante Extra Dry NV ($12, sample, 11.5%): Fresh and floral, with red fruit and surprisingly bubbly, this pink Italian is not too sweet or too fizzy. It was a revelation, given how crummy so many cheap spumantes can be.

? J Brut Rose NV ($38, sample, 12.5%): This is always one of my favorite California sparklers, and this edition is one of the best in years. There are layers of flavor, with yeastiness, strawberry fruit, and minerality. Given how overpriced so many $40 Champagnes are, this is a steal.

? Mas Fi Brut Natura Reserva NV ($10, sample, 11.5%): This Spanish wine is more dry and more elegant than many cavas, thanks to a slightly different winemaking process. Look for more white fruits than apple flavors (a welcome change), and a very long finish. Yet another example of how far cava has come.

? Trump Winery Sparkling Blanc de Blanc 2009 ($24, sample, 12%): The former Kluge winery in Virginia makes some of the best sparkling wine in the U.S., and it’s even available in states other than Virginia. This is a chardonnay-based wine, with crisp green apple fruit and more richness than I expected.

How serious am I about my Champagne boycott? I have a $150 sample of Champagne in the wine closet that I’m not going to drink.

More about New Year ?s sparkling wine:
? Wine terms: Champagne and sparkling wine
? New Year ?s sparkling wine 2013
? New Year ?s sparkling wine 2012
? Wine of the week: Castillo Perelada Brut Reserva NV
? Wine of the week: Adami Prosecco Brut Garb l NV

wine news

Winebits 362: Wine sales, Cava, imported wine

u.s. wine sales ? More wine: We’re continuing to drink more wine than ever in the U.S., up about 1 million cases in 2014 over the previous year, reports Shanken News Daily. The percentage increase isn’t much, just 0.3 percent. But that there is growth, despite the after-effects of the recession, shows that wine may have finally established itself in this country as something more than a niche product. As the Shanken story notes, “consumption has increased nearly 80 percent over the past two decades,” and per capita consumption has finally risen past its 1970s levels.

? Bring on the sparkling: Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, has long been a Wine Curmudgeon favorite, but it faces intense competition from Prosecco, the similarly-priced bubbly from Italy. The latter is typically sweeter and fruitier, and the Italians have parlayed that into double-digit growth over the past several years. Freixenet, the biggest Spanish producer and the top imported sparkling in the U.S., saw sales fall four percent last year. Why does that matter? Because exports account for around two-thirds of global Cava sales. Hence concerns that competing with Prosecco on price alone could lead to what happened with Australian shiraz and Argentine malbec — lots of cheap wine of varying quality. I’m not sure that Freixenet’s plan to add more expensive wines to differentiate itself from Prosecco is any better, given that Cava quality is so good at $10 and $15 there is little reason to trade up.

? Bring on the imports: How global has the the U.S. wine consumer become? Imports account for about one-third of the wine we drink, and that figure is expected to increase over the next two decades to as much as 45 percent. In the first half of 2014, though, we drank less imported wine than in the previous year (but the dollar value of the wine we drank increased by five percent). The biggest winner in those six months was New Zealand; the biggest loser was Australia. Sales from Italy and France, the top two exporters to the U.S. were mostly flat, though the dollar amount of what they did sell increased eight and six percent.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Castillo Perelada Brut Reserva NV

Castillo Perelada Brut ReservaNothing illustrates the revolution in cheap wine better than cava, the Spanish sparkling wine. When I started writing about cheap wine in the early 1990s, cava was almost unknown in the U.S., and the only cava for sale, even at many specialty retailers, was the Freixent black bottle.

Today, though, cava is everywhere, and it’s not unusual to see a half dozen labels at a grocery store. And why not? As the Perelada ($9, purchased, 11.5%) demonstrates, cava may be the best wine value in Spain, and Spain may offer the best wine value in the world. That’s a combination that’s difficult to pass up, especially during the blog’s birthday week.

The Perelada fits between Cristalino and Segura Viudas in style — not as simple as the former, but with its crispness, and more balanced than the latter, but with quality apple and lemon fruit. The bubbles, small and tight, are rarely found in sparking wine that is this inexpensive. And, though simple, it’s not stupid and isn’t as showy as the otherwise delicious Dibon.

Highly recommended, and maybe the best $10 cava I’ve tasted yet — impossibly well done for the price. Will join the Cristalino, Segura, and Dibon in the $10 Hall of Fame in January. Buy this for Thanksgiving, but make sure you buy enough, because everyone will want a taste.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Campo Viejo Brut Reserva NV

Campo Viejo brut reservaThe Wine Curmudgeon is always ready to recommend sparkling wine, and even more ready to recommend it given the United States’ 238th birthday this week. So why not mark July 4 with Campo Viejo Brut Reserva NV ($10, purchased, 11.5%), a Spanish cava that combines quality, value, and a history lesson?

That’s because Spain played an important role in the U.S. victory in the War of Independence, declaring war on Great Britain and providing money and supplies for George Washington’s army. Campo Viejo, meanwhile, is a well-known Spanish producer in Rioja, whose wines offer an introduction to Spanish tempranillo at a fair price. The cava, though not what the producer is best known for, is a solid offering somewhere between Cristalino and Segura Viudas.

That means the Camp Viejo has more sweetness than the Cristalino, but not so much as to be sweet. It’s not as polished as the Seguras, but still provides lots of apple fruit and maybe even some peach, as well as some very impressive bubbles. The best way to know this is a wine worth drinking? It will be gone before you know it, and you’ll have to open a second bottle when you watch the July Fourth fireworks.