Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
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Posts Tagged ‘Cava’

Another New Year Celebration? Bring on the Bubbly!

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

If you’re celebrating the Year of the Horse with the traditional Jiaozi or dumpling recipe that Ann Vogel suggests, nothing says celebrate more than a sparkling wine and the sound of the cork popping.images
Bubblies are so festive and they are also one of the most food friendly wines. They’re perfect both for these delicious dumplings and for the midnight toast!
In a perfect world, I much prefer Champagne, either a Veuve Clicquot or a Bolly, but for gatherings of three or more, the more affordable options out there will make you smile and keep your wallet healthy.
For really good, affordable sparkling wine, look for any word on the label starting with a C or a P  with a few exceptions. I’m talking about a Cava from Spain, Crémant from France or a Prosecco from Italy. These sparkling wines are produced in large quantities from grapes grown in large quantities and therefore less expensive per ton than the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes that make up Champagne.
Generally a Spanish Cava is made with Xarel-lo, Macabeo, and Parellada grapes. Cavas are fermented in the traditional method, fermented once for alcohol and the second time to produce the bubbles.
Crémant is a term the French use for sparkling wines made anywhere in the country but Champagne. So a sparkling wine from Burgundy (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) is a Crémant, a Blanquette de Limoux (mostly the local Mauzac, with a bit of Chardonnay and/or Chenin Blanc) from the Languedoc is a Crémant, the Loire has Crémant (Chenin Blanc) and let’s not forget Alsace! (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Auxerrois or Chardonnay)
Italy’s Proseccos are not usually made in the traditional two fermentations style; instead, the carbonation is added. The result of this less-expensive Charmat method can vary widely. Look for the Valdobbiadene region on the label. They are allowed to use the Metado Classico or ferment a second time in the bottle.
Here’s my list of some old standbys, all $20 or less.
Spain’s Cristalino Cava brut is a favorite for around $6.50, with citrus and green apple fruit, fine bubbles and a clean finish. I have had gallons of this over the years. Very consistent.
Riondo Prosecco garnered 90 from a national review. It sells for $10.
Banfi’s Rosa Regale, while not a Prosecco, and would be perfect for a small gathering at $16. It’s all roses, in the nose, the color and fresh strawberry flavors.
Louis Bouillot Blanc de Blancs Crémant from Burgundy is a blend of Chardonnay with wonderful citrus flavors that would pair well with the dumplings.
St. Hillaire Blanquette di Limoux is fresh and fabulous with crisp apple aromas and around $11.

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Sparkling suggestions for New Year’s Eve

Friday, December 28th, 2012

By now you’ve probably secured your New Year’s Eve plans, but have you finalized what you’ll be drinking?

If you’re like most Americans, Champagne — sparkling wine if it’s made in America, Prosecco if it’s from Italy, or cava if from Spain — is not something you drink every day.

Instead it’s reserved for special occasions, like New Year’s Eve. (Incidentally, in Italy and Spain people drink their sparklers on a daily basis, much like most Seattleites drink coffee every day).

Seeing as we’re not in Italy or Spain, chances are you don’t drink Champagne (or sparkling wine, Prosecco, cava, et al.) except for once or twice a year. If that’s the case, the thought of selecting a bottle, or two, or three, to ring in the New Year may not top your list of favorite things to do.

That’s where we come in. We called David LeClaire, founder and general manager of Wine World and Spirits, located just off Interstate-5 in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. LeClaire is also a certified sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Needless to say, he knows wine.

So what does LeClaire recommend for this year’s celebration? That depends on what you’re looking for, he said.

If you’re planning a party for a number of guests (read: wide range of palates and likes and dislikes), LeClaire recommends serving Italy’s Prosecco.

“Prosecco, to me, is one of the best toasting Champagnes you can get,” he said.

The price is nice too — typically a Prosecco in the $9 to $10 range is going to be good. And it’s widely available.

This wine is favorable for large groups because it has a touch more sweetness to it, without being too sweet. Usually it’s liked by everyone.

If dry wine is more your style, consider cava over France’s Champagne. It’s cheaper, while still a quality wine.

General rule of thumb: look for wines in the $10 range, LeClaire said. Anything below $10 may cause you to regret your purchase, especially if you overindulge this year. That’s because sparkling wines in the $6 range have likely been injected with carbon dioxide, which produces the bubbles and often the headache.

“The saying is: The bigger the bubbles, the bigger the headache,’” LeClaire said.

The smaller the bubbles, the better the wine. During fermentation wine produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct of yeast eating sugar in the grape juice. For non-sparkling wine gas is allowed to escape; to make it tingle on your tongue, the gas is kept in the bottle, producing the bubbles.

If you’re looking for bubbly from France, but don’t want to pay the markup on a wine from Champagne, consider one from the Alsace region that straddles France and Germany.

These wines are available in the $15 price range and are very elegant, LeClaire said. Unlike Champagne, which is made from chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, Alsatian sparklers are made with Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, producing a softer wine. One brand to look for is Lucien Albrecht, which retails between $15 to $20.

A handful of Washington and Oregon wineries also have jumped into the sparkling pool. That includes Yakima’s Treveri Cellars, which was featured in 2011 at the White House for its State Department holiday receptions and was served earlier this year at the James Beard Foundation dinner. Treveri specializes in sparkling wines, offering Pinot Gris, riesling, Gewürztraminer, chardonnay and even Syrah. You can find most of its wines between $14 and $19.

If all this talk about bubbles has your head spinning — and you haven’t even had a sip yet! — don’t stress. Go to your local wine shop or grocery store and ask the wine steward for help. If you’re in Seattle, stop by Wine World, they’ve got wines you won’t find anywhere else, and staff eager to help.

Tell the steward how much you want to spend, what you typically drink and let them do the work. As LeClaire pointed out, most people who ask for advice will walk away with a better wine than what they would have selected on their own.


Spain’s Cava best for Seafood Scampi

Friday, September 30th, 2011

This week for our wine recommendation we’re heading to a European country that has more land dedicated to vines than any other country.

As a result, it’s safe to say this country probably also has more styles of wine than any other country. Along with the traditional dry red, white, Rose and sparkling wines, this country also produces 14 different styles of Sherry.

So where is this magical wine country we speak of?

Spain.

There’s one wine in particular from Spain that we thought would be the perfect match for either of Ann Vogel’s recipes: Cava.

Cava is a medium-bodied sparkling wine from Catalonia, Spain. It was developed in the 1870′s after Cordorniu winemaker Josep Raventos was inspired by a visit to France’s Champagne region.

Taking the information learned from his visit, Raventos used the Champagne method of winemaking but with different grapes.

Traditionally Cava is made from three indigenous grape varieties most people may not be familiar with: Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. And, no surprise here, since it was officially authorized in 1986, Chardonnay is now used increasingly.

Cava has a lovely freshness and distinctive flavor of apples and a hint of earthiness.

It is especially delightful with fish, tapas and fried foods, which is why we recommend it for either the Seafood Scampi recipe or the Langostinos Casserole. And it’s kind to the wallet — about $8.

We recommend the brut from either of these quality producers: Codorníu, the oldest and largest cava producer, with a variety of products available, or Freixenet, another large Cava producer. Their most popular brut is the Cordon Negro.


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