Cava de Paraje Calificada!




In the stunning setting of the Gaudi designed Palau de la Música Catalana, it wasn’t just the exquisitely played Bach that was music to my ears! The Cuarteto de cuerda de la Orquestra de Cambra del Penedés (the Cambra del Penedés Orchestra’s String Quartet) played Bach and Eduard Toldrá at the conclusion of the official inauguration of the new Prestige Single Estate Cava designation. It’s the official approval of this exciting innovation, that also brought music to my ears!


It’s been a long time coming!


Two years ago I was invited to the DO Cava HQ, where I met and interviewed the President of the Consejo Regulador DO Cava, Señor Per Bonet. Some readers may remember my subsequent article – if not you may like to find it here click Articles and scroll downwards, as it will give a little more background to today’s Cork Talk.

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With Señor Bonet (again, it’s in the archives as above), I toured Bodegas Segura Viudas – a most fascinating and illuminating visit; enjoyed a sumptuous lunch paired with magnificent, perfectly chosen Cavas, of different styles; and of course had the opportunity to learn from the President, exactly where Cava was going, under his direction. As I left, the charming Sílvia Grimaldo Martinez, styled, Cava Manager, assured me that I would be kept informed re developments. As anticipated, Sílvia was as good as her word, and the moment the news broke about the planned change having finally been Governement approved, as discussed with Señor Bonet, she sent me an invitation to the rather grand (formal dress – in June, me!!) launch.


The Denomionación de Origen concept in Spain is designed to protect special food/drink producing areas, where tradition and excellence have been the hallmarks for many years. There are DOs for Cheese, Meats, Olive Oils and other foodstuffs, and of course there are DOs for wine. Establishing a DO is a lengthy operation, with many hours of research, reams of official reports, much canvassing, many meetings, a considerable financial input, and so on. Eventually, the application is made to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and, as is the way of Government, there is of course a time consuming process through which the application must travel.


You can therefore imagine that when the President opened the inauguration, it was with a real sense of relief that he said, in Spanish, something to the effect of, “Welcome, at last, to the launch of this new designation . . .”.


The logo, which you will soon start seeing on certain, special bottles of Cava, is cleverly designed – it says it all. As you can see from the photo, it’s a lower case ‘p’, where the rounded part is a ‘c’, back to front (standing for cava), leaning on the straight part, which in fact is the number 1. Essentially, the design is telling us that this is Cava at it’s absolute best, the top of the quality pyramid, the number one style of Cava.


So what does it all mean? Well, there weren’t just officials of the National Government present, nor just those of the Catalan Government, nor, indeed members of the Consejo Regulador, to explain the significance. There were two Masters of Wine (one, Spain’s only MW, Señor Pedro Ballesteros MW, via a phone link, from, I think London) and the also charming, Lenka Sedlackova MW, from the Czech Republic, who has only recently been elevated to this top echelon of wine experts, making her one of the newest MWs, and probably the youngest too!


Plus, Guillermo Cruz, Mejor Sumiller de España 2014, which is just one of his several awards, whom I also heard presenting a tasting at Alimentaria this year. And, making up the quorum on stage, Yvonne Heistermann, Champagne Ambassador of Germany, which again, is only one of her impressive titles!


All were in favour, with perhaps Guillermo being the most gung-ho, and Lenka, taking a more pragmatic standpoint, also adding some words of caution. The general consensus, amongst the panel members, the Government Officials, and indeed the whole assembly, was that this was a move in exactly the right direction. And, as you’ve probably gathered, I’m also very positive about it.


The idea came about as a response to some sustained criticism of a few years ago where producers within the DO, and commentators outside, expressed concerns about consumer perceptions of Cava. It’s been a long, and at times painful, story, which has been told before. However, DO Cava has responded to the complaints with an on-going and successful campaign to raise the international status of Cava.


A major ‘offensive’ where DO Cava is at pains to promote the concept of Premium Cava, which essentially means Reserva and Gran Reserva styles of Cava, and indeed how such sparkling wines can be paired perfectly well with the varied dishes served throughout a dinner, continues. Readers will remember the Cava Dinners that I presented, with this promotion in mind.


Now there is another strand – the concept of the Single Estate Cava, Cava de Paraje Calificada, which, as discussed, will be considered the very top level of Cava. Certain stringent rules will have to be satisfied before producers will be allowed to use the coveted title for some of their Cavas.


Firstly, of course, all the grapes will have to have come from a single vineyard, or indeed a single plot within a vineyard. The idea of this is that such plots will clearly have but a single soil type and micro-climate, therefore the resulting Cava will be representative of that terroir. This answers very nicely a criticism that has always been leveled at Cava, from those who are lovers of just Champagne. Now there will be a definite sense of place.


Also, the vines have to be a minimum of 10 years old, though most will be many years older. The older the vine, the fewer the bunches, but the better quality and richer the grapes. Yields will be strictly controlled. Also these superior grapes must all have been picked by hand and must undergo strict analysis in the bodega, with only the  very best being selected to make the base wine, that eventually becomes sparkling Cava, after its second fermentation, provoked, of course in bottle.


As part of the quality control there will be a panel tasting of both the base wine and, following the second fermentation, a tasting of the Cava straight after disgorgement, with only those which tick both boxes being passed! Disgorgement, by the way, will only be allowed after a minimum of 36 months, that’s three years, ‘en rima’ – which will of course ensure depth and complexity in the finished article.


To conclude, I’ll leave it to the very grounded, ‘tell it like it is’, Lenka Sedlackova MW, who said that there is still a way to go in educating the buyers and through them the public about this niche market, but who also concurred that this impressively tightly defined new concept, Cava de Paraje Calificada, will elevate Cava to the same level as Prestige Champagne!

Well, after all that we needed some Cava, claro, and excellent tapas too!
Well, after all that, we needed some Cava, claro, and excellent tapas too!

The first bottles should be on the market by Christmas 2016 – I’ll let you know!


Colin’s next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91·8 and will be on Sunday 26th June from 18:30 – 20:00 hrs. Sponsored by DO Yecla and the Swiss Hotel Moraira.

NB Then, rather than the two week wait for the next programme, I’ll be on again on Sunday 3rd July, same time!