The 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 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.
This 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.
• 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.
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.
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.
• 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.
Want value and quality? Then the Perelada Brut Rosado is a holiday must
The wine business, and especially the Champagne part of it, has taught us that sparkling wine matters only if it’s made with chardonnay or pinot noir. The Perelada Brut Rosado is here to say otherwise.
It’s made with garnacha, the Spanish version of the grape that produces a wonderfully ripe, cherry-ish flavor, less subtle than pinot noir’s more elegeant cherry. But it’s perfect for the Perelada Brut Rosado ($10, purchased, 11.5%).
That’s because cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, can be a little tonic-like in the wrong hands. The traditional cava grapes offer freshness, some lemon, and not much else if the winemaker isn’t careful. But the way the garnacha is used here fills out the wine, and makes it even fresher and more fun.
Drink this chilled anytime you want bubbly, whether to celebrate over the next week, or because it’s Tuesday night. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame when it debuts next week.
Who knew this turkey would lend itself to five dinners and five wines?
What do with a 20-pound turkey? Use it to for five dinners paired with five wines
This year, the Wine Curmudgeon’s Thanksgiving turkey weighed 20 pounds. My old pal Jim Serroka, who shares holiday cooking duties with me, wanted lots of turkey for leftovers. Needless to say, we got them – as well as another post in the blog’s wine and food pairings series: One entree that can be turned into five dinners with five wines.
The goal here was to pair quality cheap wine with the leftovers as simply as possible – no wine geek for advice, no examining the turkey’s entrails for wines to drink. My wine and food pairings:
• The Thanksgiving turkey. Roasted with lots of herbs and vegetables, and stuffed with the Kleinpeter family’s traditional chicken cornbread dressing. I picked three wines; two were disappointing, proving that even I can over-think wine and food pairings. But the third was an old pal, the $16 Clos de Gilroy grenache from Bonny Doon. How winemaker Randall Graham gets cherryish fruit, a little earthiness, some white pepper, and a delightful freshness from California grenache is beyond my understanding, but I’m glad he does.
• Turkey rice cake. One of my great cooking discoveries was that rice freezes. Make eight cups in the rice cooker, divide it into 2- or 3-cup packages, freeze, and thaw when necessary. This was chopped leftover turkey, some of the roasted vegetables, and an egg mixed with rice; basically the same thing I did with noodles for the roast chicken post. The wine was a sample, the $25 Markham merlot – dependable and high quality and what California merlot is supposed to taste like – lighter and more approachable than cabernet sauvignon, with dark fruit and subtler tannins. And it didn’t overwhelm the rice cakes.
• Turkey sausage okra gumbo. I’ve been making this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey since I moved to Dallas, so long ago the city had two newspapers. It’s more or less the classic recipe – make the roux, add chopped onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic, stir, add the stock, stir, add the okra, let it simmer, and finish with the sausage and turkey. And no tomatoes – absolutely, positively no tomatoes. The wine was an $8 Rivarey Crianza, a tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain. It was simple and fruity, but with enough structure and backbone for the dark, smoky gumbo.
• Baked turkey Reubens. This is a Siegel family tradition; my Dad made these when I was a kid using Pepperidge Farm brown and serve rolls and leftover Thanksgiving turkey. It’s sliced turkey breast, quality Swiss cheese, canned and drained sauerkraut, and my Dad’s thousand island dressing (his secret ingredient was lime juice). Make the sandwich, wrap in foil, and bake until crusty. And what better wine than rose? The Ned, a $12 New Zealand pink wine, did the trick, and it will be even better in six months. This was a 2016, and had only been in the bottle for six or eight weeks.
• Turkey torte. This sort of baked Spanish-style omelette is usually made with potatoes, but turkey (with sauteed onions and peppers) works well, too. I drank a bottle of cava, a $10 Spanish sparkler called – believe it or not – Lady of Spain. The wine has been inconsistent, but this bottle was very cava-like, with tight bubbles and lemon fruit. And, of course, Spanish wine with a Spanish dish, one of the ways to make pairings work with less trouble.