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.