There is a great deal of cheap Cava available. So much of it is so cheap and always on some sort of implausibly low price deal that you could sometimes be forgiven for thinking that Cava was the Spanish word for cheap sparkling wine.
Strangely it means the exact opposite. Cava actually means cellar and was introduced as the Spanish legal term for a quality Sparkling wine made by the Traditional Method – the same process used in Champagne.
I like Cava, I enjoy Cava and am not aware of ever having drunk a bad one. I have, however, tasted many that were pretty bland, unexciting and lacking finesse – but at some of the prices that Cava sells for it is amazing that it exists at all!
Two producers dominate Cava – Freixenet and Codorníu whose competing wineries face each other in the lovely Catalan town of San Sadurní de Noya/Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Both houses make wide ranges of Cavas and both sell some pretty good examples, however I generally find Codorníu’s Cavas that little bit more elegant. This may be because they champion the use of Chardonnay in their blends which seems to just add that little bit of finesse.
It may be that I am biased, as a teenager in Spanish discos – clubs to the under 30s – Codorníu Benjamin was my drink of choice and probably led directly to me joining the wine trade and it is nice to keep in touch with the younger me sometimes by indulging in a draft of Codorníu.
Codorníu created the first Cava in 1872 and remain passionate about it, however they do not just sit back and revel in their history, but are always trying to make better Cavas – and it shows.
A little while ago I was trying their whole range at a tasting and they were all good. All their Cavas were clean, bright and fresh, but towards the top of their range there was a real leap in quality. Their Anna de Codorníu Brut and Anna de Codorníu Rosé Brut were both terrific easy drinking Cavas. The Codorníu Selección Raventos Brut showed more depth and richness, but what really stood out was:
This Cava is a blend of 50% Chardonnay with 20% Macabeo, 20% Parellada and 10% Xarel·lo.
The nose was enticing and attractively honeyed with developed yeasty notes.
The palate was rich and slightly exotic with soft ripe spiced pear fruit, a lively mousse and good depth of flavour balancing the fruit characters with yeasty/pastry notes and clean acidity. The balance is certainly helped by it being very dry, which gives it a purity that can often be lacking in Cava.
There was real complexity and finesse here and it was delicious too – 91/100 points.
At any of those prices it is a great alternative to Champagne and a nicer drink than cheap Champagnes. Cava is always softer and more fruity than Champagne as it comes from a much warmer place, but this is often a good thing, making Cava very attractive to a wide range of consumers. Codorníu Cuvée María Cristina Brut 2007, however, is a fine example of how good Cava can be.