WE’RE TALKING FIZZ!
You’re never far away from Cava in Barcelona. It is, of course, the capital of Cataluña where some 95% of all cava is made (remember that Cava is the only Spanish Denominación de Origen that has more than one geographical area of production – cava, for example, is also made in part of Valencia).
So it’s not surprising that the aperitif drink of the city is cava, it’s an integral part of the undercurrent ‘fizz’ of such a happening city. Indeed many of the hotels lay on splendid buffet breakfasts headed always by an open, nicely chilled bottle of cava – often next to the fresh orange, perhaps in a gesture of appeasement to those of a more temperate nature? Probably not, Barcelona is anything but politically correct!
No surprise then that at this magnificent metropolis’ biennial Wine and Food fair, Alimentaria, there is always a plethora of cava houses happy to show off their wares. And, as part of my mission there this year was to research just how good is Spain’s answer to the perhaps more distinguished sparkling wine of France, I was in the right place!
The names Codorniu and Raimat are interchangeable, though the controlling company is the former of the two. Their stand was alluring (like their cavas, I was soon to discover) even though I was one of the first visitors to the huge Intervin Pavillion as the clock touched 10:00 am. Although the fair officially opens at 10, those on the stands don’t expect any visitors so they use the time for meetings, staff training etc. Sure enough, when I spoke to the charming young ladies I was told that the man I needed to speak to was in fact in a breakfast (with cava, claro) meeting on the other side of the large stand.
However the observant gentleman in question (I’ve lost his card unfortunately) saw me hovering and asked if he could help. I explained for whom I was writing, and the meeting was adjourned!
There is a fear in the wine world that the bigger the company the less quality is produced – I’m sure it’s true in some, maybe many cases – but certainly not at Codorniu. I’ve been to the bodega, tasted wines in their custom-designed tasting room an impressive 100 metres above the cellers where millions of bottles of cava peacefully repose waiting for their fifteen minutes of fame, and it’s clear that here, big is beautiful!
Raimat operates under the auspices of DO Costers del Segre as well as DO Cava, I’ll explainwhy in a moment! Their 100% Chardonnay Vino Espumo (what’s in a name? …) Brut was our starting reference point, and a fine cava, oops, it is – straw coloured with some lime hints, full on the nose, medium weighted with a touch of buttery toffee.
Raimat Gran Brut Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend, may not in fact say the magic word ‘cava’ – another of the ridiculous red-tape rules at which the New World wine-makers scoff. Up until fairly recently Cava did not allow the use of Pinot Noir as one of its approved varieties for blanco cavas. But don’t worry, it’s the same thing (he’s said it again!). By any other name this is a super glass of fizz, fine mousse with a distinct and endearing slight sparkling cider nose to it.
Now officially a cava, because it obey all the rules, their Brut Nature is made with local darling Xarel.lo and French Champagne variety Chardonnay. Aperitif dry with a touch of butter on the palate, this is a wine for amuse gueule. Lovely.
Interestingly I was then given a taste of their still white wine, made with the same varieties as the above sparkler but without the second fermentation in bottle. It is a very approachable and aromatic white wine, dry and fresh yes, but quite full flavoured with measured acidity. I’m starting to have renewed respect for Xarel.lo, this wasn’t the first nor the last white wine I tasted in Barcelona made with this indigenous grape which when allowed to fully ripen, yet picked early to maintain acidity, can be a super drink.
Anna de Codorniu Blanc de Noir (white cava made with Pinot Noir, a black grape, by keeping the skins away from the must to avoid any colour transfer) is a product of our age, Cava’s slightly more enlightened age as they now allow this wonderful Champagne variety to make white cava. There’s a tiny amount of colouring from the skins, an extremely pale onion skin colour, but there’s nothing sour about this wine, and of course it’s widely available and well priced.
One of their top, flagship cavas is Reina Mª Cristina Reserva 2008. It’s a Blanc de Noir (watch out for this wine and this style as it seems to be becoming more prevalent, which is all to the good) and is elegance and finesse combined with full flavours and aromas plus a long finish. Excellent!
PS You are still in time to reserve for our final Ethnic Cuisine Meets Spanish Wine – A Marriage Made In Moraira evenings, if there are places remaining! We are at Restaurtante Bajul the wonderful Indonesian Restaurant, Weds. 16th May; and at Restaurante Himalaya, superb Nepalese/Indian cuisine Tues. 29th May. My job is to match good Spanish wines with the restaurants’ individual specialities! Please call 629 388 159 for more details and to reserve!