Tag Archives: Cava

Winebits 549: Wine and health, wine lists, and cava

wine and healthThis week’s wine news: Evidence that the WC was right in banning and wine and health news from the blog, plus intimidating wine lists and another cava producer sells out

Not on my blog: The Wine Curmudgeon has banned wine and health news on the blog since 2011, when an Italian study revealed that men get women drunk so they can have sex with them. Now, evidence that I’m not the only who feels these studies are foolish, flawed, or both. Reports Agence France Presse: There is a “a known but persistent problem in the research world: too few studies have large enough samples to support generalized conclusions. … But pressure on researchers, competition between journals and the media’s insatiable appetite for new studies announcing revolutionary breakthroughs has meant such articles continue to be published.” In other words, even studies in first-class academic journals – at least for health – must be viewed with skepticism. Because who needs a study to know that men get women drunk so they can have sex with them?

Intimidating wine lists: Almost three-quarters of British wine drinkers are intimidated by restaurant wine lists. More shocking study news, yes? Still, if this isn’t surprising, at least it will remind restaurants why they have so much trouble selling wine – something I see almost every time I eat out. Because, as the study noted, about one in three only buy when when it’s marked down and one in four buy the wine from the same region every time they buy it.

Codorniu gets out: Codorniu Raventos, another well-known cheap cava producer, has sold itself, following Freixenet’s sale earlier this year. Codorniu sold a majority stake to a hedge fund, The Carlyle Group, for €300 million. Its brands include the self-named cava, as well as the Zaca tempranillo. Again, not good news for those of us who appreciate quality cheap wine, as another large producer finds it’s not big enough to compete in the 21st century wine marketplace.

prosecco

New Year’s sparkling wine 2017

New Year's sparkling wine 2017Four New Year’s sparkling wine 2017 recommendations that combine value and quality

Champagne, the sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, has returned to the blog this year for New Year’s sparkling wine 2017. The good news is that I found some that weren’t the same old stuff and are worth drinking. The bad news is that it’s almost impossible to find quality Champagne for less than $35.

Having said that, there is still lots of value in the blog’s New Year’s sparkling wine 2017 suggestions. This includes California bubbly, usually overpriced but where prices have become almost reasonable. That’s because of grocery store wine sales; the competition they offer has lowered prices.

Also handy: The blog’s annual wine gift guidelines and the sparkling wine primer.

Monistrol Seleccion Especial Brut NV ($9, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish sparkler shows cava’s greatness and ability to deliver value. It’s less than $10, and you’d never know tasting it blind. Look for bright red apple fruit, pleasing acidity, and a softish finish.

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut NV ($16, purchased, 12.5%): This California sparkler is one of the world’s great bubbly values — always fresh, always consistent, always enjoyable. Look for lemon and green apple flavors, some stone fruit aromas, and a creamy finish with very tight bubbles. Highly recommended.

Astoria Prosecco NV ($12, sample, 11%): This is one of the best Italian sparkling wines — more than just sweet and soft. Look for lemon and apple fruit, enough sweetness to make you wonder if it is sweet, soft but long-lasting bubbles, and even a sort of minerally finish, which is completely unexpected.

Champagne Collet Brut NV ($39, sample, 12.5%): This is priced like entry-level Champagne, but the quality is much more than that. It’s classic in style, with the brioche aroma, citrus fruit, and a little caramel in the finish. Very well done for the price.

More on New Year’s sparkling wine
New Year’s sparkling wine 2016
New Year’s sparkling wine 2015
New Year’s sparkling wine 2014
Wineof the week: Francois Montand Brut Rose NV
Wine of the week: Juve y Camps Brut Rose NV

Wine of the week: Segura Viudas Brut Reserva NV

segura viudasThe Seugra Viudas cava shows that $9 can buy top-flight sparkling wine for the New Year’s holiday

The blog is more than a decade old, and I’ve been writing about wine for more than twice that long. In all that time, the Segura Viudas cava ($9, purchased, 12%) has never let me down. How often can one say that about wine?

This Spanish sparkling wine, made with the three traditional cava grapes — no pinot noir or chardonnay, thank you — has aways offered  more value than its cost. A lot more value. That it has done so for more than 20 years reminds me that not everyone who makes wine chases scores and trends or charges higher prices just because. Some, like the Ferrer family and its Segura Viudas cava, understand that  wine quality matters the most. If you do that, the rest falls into place.

This would be terrific wine even if it cost $15, and is just the bubbly for New Year’s sipping, toasting, and brunch — bone dry, with tart green apple flavor that is balanced by a little tropical fruit, the yeastiness that you expect from more expensive Champagne-style wines, and delightful bubbles. In this, the mark of great sparkling wine, no matter where it’s from or how much it costs, are the bubbles — tiny, compact, streaming to the top of the glass. You can get those bubbles in Dom Perignon for $200, or you can get them here for $9.

Highly recommended, as always, and it will take its place in the 2018 $10 Hall of Fame next.

Cava: The best sparkling wine value in the world

cavaCava is cheap, well-made, and enjoyable– so why do we overlook it when we talk about sparkling wine?

How much value does cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, deliver? A friend brought a bottle for dinner the other night, and he doesn’t care about wine, particularly like wine, or drink much wine. Hence, he usually makes his decision based on price.

And the $10 bottle he brought was excellent – crisp and fresh with very tight bubbles, fruity and enjoyable. Plus, I had never heard of it — Monistrol, apparently a private label — and I know most stores’ cava inventory better than the employees do. In this, it was one more example of how you can buy almost any bottle of cava and get more than your money’s worth.

I’ve been drinking and writing about the joys of cava for more than 20 years, but it’s still seen as something less than Champagne and Prosecco, the Italian sparkler. Why is this?

Cava offers more value and quality, almost always for less than $15, than any other sparkler in the world — something to keep in mind this holiday season. But it still can’t get any respect. I tasted two bottles of $17 bubbly from Bordeaux in France; both had gone flat, while one was medicinal tasting and the other had barely any taste at all. But they had snazzy French names, so they had to be good, didn’t they? And cava, well, that’s just from Spain.

Cava delivers for three reasons:

• The land is less expensive than almost anywhere else sparkling is made in the world, which means the wine is going to cost less.

• The wine doesn’t get much respect from the geeks, and even one of the world’s best wine critics told me he thought it tasted like hay. So if you make cava, you have to offer tremendous value, or or you won’t sell any.

• Weird grapes. Chardonnay and pinot noir are more common these days, but most cava is still made with the Holy Trinity – xarel-lo, macabeo, and parellada. These are Spanish grapes, unknown almost anywhere else in the world, and the Spanish know how to get the most out of them.

More about cava
Happiness through cava and bratwurst
Celebrating without Champagne
Wine of the week: Casteller Cava NV

Father's Day wine 2014

Father’s Day wine 2017

Father's day wine 2017This year, as we ponder the wine to buy Dad for Father’s Day, I’m struck that so many people will assume Dad wants only big, manly wines. Because he is, after all, Dad.

Oh ye of little faith. Dad may like many styles of wine, and limiting him just because he is Dad does both of you a disservice. Wine is not a pair of cuff links, after all. The great joy of wine is that there are so many different kinds available, and Dad may want a change.

Hence the blog’s Father’s Day wine 2017 post. Keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.

This year’s Father’s Day wine suggestions:

Leese-Fitch Firehouse Red 2015 ($12, sample, 13.5%): This California red blend a Big Wine company shows that it’s possible to combine margins with enjoyable wine. There’s a touch too much smoothness (leave the merlot out of the blend next time) among the black fruit, but it also has soft tannins and enough acidity for all for the fruit.

Domaine des Cassagnoles Côtes de Gascogne 2016 ($10, sample, 12%): This white blend from France’s Gascony is consistently excellent the wine. There is more lime citrus than the white grapeiness I prefer, but it remains fresh, clean and enjoyable.

Vilarnau Cava Brut Reserva NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): Very well done Spanish sparkling wine made with the traditional cava blend that gives it depth and apple and lemon fruit. It’s not as tart as many cheaper cavas.

Georges Vigouroux Pigmentum Rose 2016 ($10, purchased, 13%): Yet another well crafted, solidly made French rose, this time with malbec. Much fruitier (ripe strawberry?) than the previous vintage, but still fresh and clean.

More Father’s Day wine:
Father’s Day wine 2016
Father’s Day wine 2015
Father’s Day wine 2014

 

Mother's Day wine

Mother’s Day wine 2017

mother's day wine 2017Four suggestions for Mother’s Day wine 2017

The same lesson applies for this, the Wine Curmudgeon’s 11th annual Mother’s Day wine post, that applied to the previous 10. Buy Mom something she will like, and not something you think she should drink. Our Mother’s Day wine gift giving guidelines are here; the idea is to make her happy, not to impress her with your wine knowledge. She’s your Mom – she’s impressed already.

These Mother’s Day wine suggestions should get you started:

Pewsey Vale Dry Riesling 2015 ($16, sample, 12.5%): Australian rieslings are some of the least known quality wines in the world, because who associates riesling and Australia? This white shows why the wines offer so much quality at more than a fair price: dry, crisp, lemon and lime fruit, and a certain zestiness. Highly recommended.

Cristalino Rose Brut NV ($9, sample, 12%): Every time I taste this Spanish cava, or sparkling wine, I am amazed at how well made it is, and especially how well made it is for the price. No wonder it has been in the $10 Hall of Fame since the beginning. Tight bubbles, red and citrus fruit, and perfect for Mother’s Day brunch.

Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2016 ($10, sample, 12.5%): This South African pink is tighter and more closed this year, and the weight of the cabernet is more obvious. Having said that, it’s still a fine, fresh rose, with dark red fruit and a little spice and what could even be tannins in the back that add a little interest.

Bravium Pinot Noir 2015 ($30, sample, 12.5%): This California red is nicely done, a varietally correct pinot from the well-regarded Anderson Valley and more or less worth what it costs. Some earth, red fruit and even a hint of orange peel.

More about Mother’s Day wine:
Mother’s Day wine 2016
Mother’s Day wine 2015
Mother’s day wine 2014
Wine of the week: Anne Amie Cuvee Muller Thurgau 2015

prosecco

New Year’s sparkling wine 2016

New Year's sparkling wineFour New Year’s sparkling wine recommendations that combine value and quality

If you want Champagne recommendations for the New Year, you’ll have to go here. Champagne? We don’t need no stinkin’ Champagne.

In fact, even without the Wine Curmudgeon’s Champagne boycott, the sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France keeps getting more expensive and doesn’t show any real improvement in quality to match the higher prices. And the bargain Champagnes on the market, the ones that cost around $20 or $25? When a $20 wine is touted a bargain, that’s all you need to know.

Hence my sparkling wine 2016 recommendations, which focus on affordability and value.

Also handy: The blog’s annual wine gift guidelines and the sparkling wine primer.

Camino Calixo Brut NV ($10, purchased, 11.5%): Very lemony dry Spanish bubbly with tight bubbles and crisp finish. Think of it as a softer version of Hall of Fame standby Cristalino. It’s more of a food wine than I expected, so consider this for a New Year’s brunch.

Carpene Malvolti 1868 Extra Dry NV ($16, sample, 11.5%): This Italian Prosecco isn’t as sweet – extra dry means sweeter than brut, which means dry – as some brut Proseccos. Very well done, with lemon fruit and a creaminess you don’t usually find in this price of wine.

Valdo Prosecco Brut NV ($12, sample, 11%): This year’s bottle was more Champagne-like than last year’s, which wasn’t a bad thing. It was firmer, with more structure, less sweet citrus fruit, and an appealing character that said, “This is more than a cheap Prosecco.” Highly recommended.

Gérard Bertrand Brut Rosé Cuvée Thomas Jefferson 2013 ($16, purchased, 12%): This French cremant (a sparkling wine from a region that isn’t Champagne) had tight bubbles and cherry fruit. It’s an intriguing wine, made with chardonnay and pinot noir just like Champagne. I would have preferred less chardonnay, which made it rounder, and more chenin blanc, the third grape in the blend.

More on New Year’s sparkling wine
New Year’s sparkling wine 2015
New Year’s sparkling wine 2014
New Year’s sparkling wine 2013
Wine of the week: Segura Viudas Brut Rose NV
Wine of the week: Vega Barcelona Seleccion NV