Cava producers are gearing up to launch a new classification rank for single estate wines, but will it be enough to change consumer attitudes to Spain's best known sparkling wine? Amy Wislocki reports from a recent tasting in London.
Image credit: Cava regulatory council
It takes a fair bit of confidence on the part of Cava producers to host a London tasting at Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, with wines accompanied by a five-course tasting menu. Would the food at the Michelin-starred restaurant, which specialises in cooking from the Basque region, upstage the wines?
The food was memorable, both weird and wonderful, but the gamble paid off.
Cava is preparing to introduce a new top tier in its classifcation for single estate wines, named Cava del Paraje Calificado. The head of the Cava regulatoy council, Pere Bonet, reminded guests that of a 250m bottle annual production, only 30m bottles fall into the premium Cava category.
Reserva and Gran Reserva Cava is ranked as ‘premium’ by the trade body and these wines represented 11% of Cava exports in 2014, according to council figures.
It’s a shame, but I suspect that most consumers will never taste a premium Cava. Most will never realise what the wines are capable of in terms of complexity and – well, it’s not a scientific term, but – deliciousness. Cava has become a dirty word. Yet, on the evidence of this tasting, it’s time to shake off those prejudices.
It’s true that Cava is dominated by two companies, Codorniu and Freixenet, which between them account for 70 to 80% of total production. But, they make smaller quantities of top wines, as do the other producers, that are a world away from the neutral bubblies that are ubiquitous on supermarket shelves.
A change in mindset is needed. We can accept that wine can be both a thin, vinegary, three-euro-a-bottle montrosity and a scented, rare Burgundy. Why can’t we see that one Cava can be both a characterless, acidic, enamel stripper but another can be a complex sparkling wine that equals Champagne in quality?
There were many stars on the evening, but if you’re looking to try just one, I’d recommend Recaredo’s Brut de Brut Gran Reserva Brut Nature. I tasted the 2006 vintage and it was well worth its £35-or-so price tag.
Written by Amy Wislocki