A MARRIAGE MADE IN MORAIRA
DO CAVA TAKES THE MARINA ALTA BY STORM!
Whilst it is true that Claire and I spent our Wedding Night in Moraira’s elegant Hotel Swiss, this is not the eponymous marriage to which I refer. Perhaps it’s best that we keep that to ourselves, dear readers!
No, the maridaje I’m talking about here is one of a gastronomic nature – the pairing of different styles of Spain’s wonderful sparkling wine, Cava, with the varied dishes of a top class, four-course dinner in a highly rated restaurant, that of the Hotel Swiss. And what a night it was!
I remember way, back during the dying embers of August when dining on a superb lunch in the beautiful 11th Century fortress that is home to Bodegas Segura Viudas, discussing, with my host ,the President of the Consejo Regulador, Denominación de Origen Cava, Señor Pere Bonet, the possibility of presenting a Cava orientated dinner. It was an honour to be asked to present such a dinner, albeit a little nerve-racking as the President was to be in attendance on the night in question!
I was very excited about the prospect – you see it’s the concept that I love, as well as the the protagonists, quality Cava and haute cuisine. I once went to such a dinner twenty-plus years ago, in fact in the UK, where the sparkling wine is question was a lesser one, it’s true – a French fizz, named Shampoo or something like that(!) and enjoying it immensely.
Like my fellow invitees on the night, it was a fascinating to learn that, whilst there can be no better celebratory drink than sparkling wine, celebration is not it’s only raison d’etre. When a balanced, full dinner is served with a well chosen Cava styles, the effect is something of a revelation. I felt it my duty to illustrate this to the full house who arrived in their finery, befitting such a venue!
But what do I mean by ‘the different Cava styles’?. Well, probably most of us buy Cava Brut, and probably the young versions of this classic ‘style’ of fizz. Such a sparkling wine is legally defined as having no more than 12gms of sugar/litre as well as having had a minimum of nine months ‘en rima’ before it is released on to the market.
‘En rima’ means the wine is left with its lees (the dead yeast that was added to the base wine in order to facilitate the second fermentation, that which creates carbon dioxide bubbles) whilst in the inverted bottle. So the different ‘styles’ of Cava are derived from variations on these themes – the amount of permitted grams of sugar and the length of time ‘en rima’. These variations result in Cavas of very different styles – that’s: flavours, aromas, body, depth, complexity and more.
When this is understood, it doesn’t take a degree in the science of food pairing to realise that these differing styles of Cava will therefore suit a variety of different dishes. And that’s exactly what we all enjoyed at Hotel Swiss, just at the end of November.
The first of the styles we tasted was a Joven (young) Brut Cava. Made from the three most commonly used traditional grape varieties, Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel.lo, 33+% each. The wine delighted us all with its clean, refreshing acidity and its pairing with the amuse bouches and innovative first course of salad with jamón serrano, pear, lettuce leaves and baked cherry tomatoes plus dressing. A good start, and in fact for several tasters, their favourite of the four different styles we were to taste!
The Cava served with next course, a perfectly cooked and presented fillet of sea bass, upped the ante in terms of depth of flavour, whilst retaining that oh so important freshness, the foundation on which all styles of Cava should be based. The Reserva Cava we tasted here had, had two months longer than the 15 months minimum time spent on its lees (en rima) in order for it to qualify as a Reserva.
For many of us it was clear that we were experiencing a deeper, fuller and more complex sparkling wine with a greater mouthfeel and weight. The 50% Macabeo made it’s presence felt in terms of the required acidity and slight green apple aroma and flavour, whilst the 35% Parellada added elegance and an understated floral and slightly earthy nose. The Xarel.lo in the blend was just enough to ensure a full and long finish. I thought it excellent!
Having experienced a meat course served with a Gran Reserva Cava when in Cataluña, coincidentally on the opening day of the 2014 Cava harvest, I knew that such a style of Cava, in this case a Brut Nature, the driest possible style of sparkling wine with a maximum of only 3grams of sugar per litre, would manage the challenge set before it. This Cava took part in an elegant dance of flavours, body and richness, served as it was with Magret de Canard.
A Gran Reserva Cava has to have had a minimum of 36 months en rima – this weighty and yet noticeably elegant, full-flavoured and enticingly perfumed venerable Cava has enjoyed, rather regally in my view, an ageing of 45 months before its release. It’s a wine that, whilst complementing such a flavoursome dish, also needs to be savoured on its own. A wonderful Cava!
I’d like to acknowledge here the advice that my UK based colleague; Fiona Beckett of www.matchingfoodandwine.com, gave me regarding the final pairing – dessert with a Brut Rosado Cava. A number of ideas were circulating my small brain but it was Fiona’s recommendation that we paired this wine with a cheesecake that focussed myself and the Head Chef of the Swiss Hotel.
Made with Trepat, Monastrell and Garnacha (all black grape varieties, of course) and having had a full 15 months en rima, this Cava has balanced freshness, fruit aromas and flavours as well as depth. Red cherries, raspberries and redcurrant, with a passing nod to pomegranate seeds, abound, complementing rather nicely the black forest fruits of the cheesecake. Lovely and pretty too!
And the prevalence of all the cavas we tasted on this rather special evening – well it’s actually a secret, that hasn’t been revealed to me either! The Consejo Regulador has generic examples of all the different styles of Cava (we’ve considered just four in this article – there are more) made specifically for them as a backbone to their promotional activities all over the world. Therefore advertising that which Cava generally can provide, rather than that which specific bodegas make.
So, now that you hopefully have a better understanding of Cava and all its possibilities you can seek out bodegas making the many styles of Cava whose wines suit you personally. And let’s face it – such research isn’t exactly a hardship! Enjoy!