The Still before the Fizz!

All cava producers start out as makers of still wine first . . .



All cava producers start out as makers of still wine first. Short of buying in still wines made by another producer (a practice that I haven’t actually heard of and one that I’m not sure would be permitted anyway, though I do know of at least one producer who does the reverse – makes the still wines and asks another to finish the fizz) how would they come by their base wines?


It’s the base wines that are the obvious prerequisite of all sparkling wines. The second fermentation, provoked by the addition of sugar and yeast, can only take place if there are already been a first fermentation! This is the making of the still wines that are to form the base for the sparklers to come.


Such wines are generally far too acidic to be be drunk simply as still wines – their purpose has already been decided. It’s this often quite fierce acidity that will eventually mellow sufficiently to provide the freshness of the finished fizz during the sparkling wine process.


So, it’s clear that the principles of still wine making are well known to all Cava producers and if this is the case, then why not adapt the still wine making procedure to make, not harshly acidic wines, but easily drinkable, aromatic, full flavoured still wines? This will of course provide the producer with another market as well as increasing cash flow to tide them over during the long process required to make cava, where the wines are left to develop in the cellars, bringing in nothing to the coffers until their release.


Now, bear in mind my last article (archived here click Articles) about Bodegas Cuscó Berga one of whose cavas, for example (the excellent, gold medal winning, Gran Reserva, rests in the cellars for a full four years, earning precisely nothing, and you’ll see how crucial are still wines for the cava houses!


Bodegas Cuscó Berga’s still wine portfolio is not large, it majors in Cava after all, but it’s good, also earning medals and plaudits too. I tasted three offerings – a white, a rosado and a Crianza red.


Different commentators find different, sometimes contrasting, attributes in wines and indeed in grape varieties. Different aromas, flavours etc – it’s a bit baffling I know, but it’s all part of the mystique of wine! (Incidentally if you’d like to know more about the methodology of wine tasting, the way the professionals do when they are just starting off you might like to go to and download the E-Book that I wrote for my pal David of Avina Wine Accessories – you’ll be asked to supply your e-mail aiddress, but don’t worry, I’ve done it and you don’t suddenly become inundated with sales pitches!).


For me, Xarel.lo, the variety of choice for Cuscó Berga’s white still wine, and also, of course, one of the three most commonly used in Cava, provides body, fullness and richness – presence in a wine, in a rather Chardonnay-esque way. This attribute, often found in cavas that have a high proportion of Xarel.lo in the blend, like Champagnes made with more Chardonnay.


This attribute is understated in the Cuscó Berga Xarel.lo Selecció. There’s a slight nutty aroma, blanched rather than roasted, with a little jasmine fragrance. It’s not overly fruity on the nose or the palate, but it does have some body and good acidity. I’d enjoy this wine with some seafood salads and fish dishes, as well as a simple white to serve for a nice drink!


Their Merlot Selecció Rosado 2015 is another monovarietal made with the French variety Merlot, though some distance away from its natural habitat, the great vineyards of Bordeaux! It’s a chameleon of a wine, sending out mixed, and therefore all the more interesting, messages to the taster!


On the palate it has and immediate fruit-sweet quality, as well as some weight. However as one is about to conclude that it’s an off-dry rosado there suddenly arrives an acidic lift which makes one reassess. Then, just as quickly the ripe, soft red fruits that are noticed on the nose, are morphed into, initially, early picked strawberries, the day the local – ‘Pick Your Own’ farm first opens its doors, and then underpinned with a rich raspberry compote!


Add this to the fruit laden finish with another refreshing acidic note as you finally swallow, and you have something of a conundrum! But don’t worry, just enjoy it – particularly, for me, with the sometimes slightly sweet Chinese cuisine, as well as salmon roasted with Indonesian style sauces.


Finally, the Bodegas Cuscó Berga Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend (talking of Bordeaux!) is a Crianza, where the different varieties are fermented separately, aged in oak barrels for 18 months (quite a time for a Crianza, as the minimum by law is 6 months), and then blended before bottling.


There’s a slight menthol note on the edge of the blackcurrant fruit, with a little vanilla and a slight reference to coconut coming from the barrels. The wine is at once easy to drink and yet complex and deeply flavoured enough for it to be complementary to meat dishes, grills, BBQs and for me, super with a casserole, where the wine’s good fruit delivery will enhance the flavour of the sauce. In fact, if you can spare it, why not use a little of the wine when cooking?! ( where they’ll be able to tell you where you can buy their wines as well as give you info about their wine tourism possibilities).

Saturday 19th November I’m presenting a special pairing event – Japanese Cuisine (hot and cold) with selected Spanish Wines – plus wonderful music from soprano Claire-Marie ( [website unfinished but you’ll get the idea!]). Price – just 25€!!

Just e-mail to reserve!

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