There’s quite a lot of talk in wine circles at the moment, about Grower Champagnes. These are Champagnes made usually by small (the current buzzword is ’boutique’) producers who own their own vineyards, in the officially protected area of Champagne, of course.
Usually such ‘growers’ have held the vineyards for generations and often have simply looked after the vines and their annual production of approved Champagne grapes, to be sold to the larger players. Perhaps the new incumbent has a more entrepreneurial bent, and decides to make his/her own Champagne. Or, maybe, the small family owned holding has in fact always preferred to work solely for themselves, albeit that the expense can be crippling, and of course it’s all done at the mercy of the weather. Though this last problem applies throughout the agricultural world!
Well, the same applies here in Spain, not with Champagne of course, but with Cava. The larger cava producers certainly have their own vineyards, but the production is so vast, and demand so huge, that they have to buy in more grapes to make up the shortfall. Plus, of course, there are also Grower Cavas, whose wholly ‘hands-on and total control’ approach can often be to the consumer’s advantage.
I first came across the Cavas of Cuscó Berga when reading through the impressive glossy ’50 Great Cavas 2016′ publication (well worth buying http://www.winepleasures.com/50-great-cavas/ ). Two Gold medals and a Silver, places all three Cuscó Berga cavas within the 50 Great Cavas of 2016 – now that’s a good starting point!
Plus, a visit to the Cuscó Berga website reveals that they also have a tradition of making still wines too – and guess what, there are medal winners there too! So, I was delighted to receive a selection of their cavas and their wines recently for me to taste and see just why they are attracting such attention.
The Silver Medal winning Cuscó Berga Brut Reserva Ecológic is an organic sparkler with a modernist label, no doubt designed to appeal to the young to convince us all that it’s good to take off the blinkers and try wines that are older than the young cavas that so many of us buy. Such wines, when handled with care will still have that essential freshness, but will also give greater depth of flavour too.
This cava is termed ‘Reserva’, however its 24+ months ‘en rima’ (time spent resting on its lees in the cellar) is far longer than the minimum 15 months required before suc h a cava can legally be called ‘Reserva’. This extra time adds body and complexity too.
Made with the three traditional Cava varieties Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel.lo (which has the lion’s share of the blend) which have been farmed organically with each variety being fermented separately before the base wine is blended together before bottling, the makers also boast that the yeast used to provoke the second fermentation in bottle has been certificated as being clear of any genetically modified substance. The tiny amount of sugar that is also added at the same time is guaranteed to be from natural white cane in organic fields too!
This is a taught cava when it hits the palate, very fresh with acidity to keep it alive and stimulate the senses. Hold it on the palate and feel its weight! You’ll also taste a slight cider-esque flavour, which follows though from the faint apple you will have detected on the nose. The Xarel.lo adds the all important body, and the Parellada some finesse too. Match this cava with some fish, shellfish, salads and also some light chicken dishes.
Cuscó Berga Brut Nature Reserva made with grapes coming from the 2011 harvest is, as you see, labeled as a Reserva, however its 39 months ‘en rima’ qualify it for Gran Reserva status. This shows on the palate and also the after-taste, the length of time that one can still enjoy the wine even after you’ve swallowed it!
Fresh and clean again, after so long in the cellar, this is the driest style of sparkling wine, Brut Nature, often my favourite style. It is as refreshing as a joven, young, wine and yet it also has that greater depth. Green apples from the Macabeo again, but this time a lovely blanched almonds aroma as well, plus that tell-tale fizz aroma of yeasty patisserie notes as if you were passing the shop in the early hours of the morning. Superb with canapés, amuse bouche, starters, fish, shellfish, smoked salmon dishes and salads!
It was close, but my favourite cava was the Brut Gran Reserva made from grapes harvested way back in 2010 and having had the advantage of a very long 50 months en rima. That’s over four years!
So is it giving away its age at all, getting slightly past it? Not a bit of it! This wine is as fresh on the nose and the palate as far younger cavas, with super citrus notes and some sharp green apple. Hold it on the palate before swallowing and gradually its weight and depth with fill the mouth, giving some extra nutty flavours, with a granite minerality and added fresh green, and rounded yellow, melon in harmony too. Wow! (www.cuscoberga.com).
P.S. Japanese Cuisine meets Spanish Wine with Colin at Restaurante I-Sushi, Javea, Saturday 19th Nov. Includes superb music from Claire Marie (www.clairemarie.es). All for just 25€!! Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 629 388 159 to reserve!