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WBW 74: Value Sparkling Wine

by Tim Elliott on February 15, 2012

Sparkling wine is thought of by most American’s as a luxury to be consumed on special occasions like weddings, graduations and New Year’s eve parties. And that’s a shame since sparkling wine is so versatile at the table, pairing with a wide variety of food, made all over the world and available at every price point. Perhaps it’s just too difficult for most wine consumers to get their heads around this wine as the best examples tend to be delicate and acidic with yeasty minerality that takes some getting used to. But the rewards are worth the effort to really get to know, and love, sparkling wine as it brightens up even the most challenging day.

This is the 5th time I’ve hosted Wine Blogging Wednesday and I’d like to write my theme was calculated to take advantage of the bubbly consumed yesterday for Valentine’s Day. It actually had more to do with my desire to find some new values in sparkling wine to enjoy this spring and summer where I intend to drink (and blog) a bottle each week. I chose the $25 price point to keep the wine selections inclusive of the entire world knowing this might be a challenge, but doable, even in Champagne. But it was the under $10 price point that most interested me since this means “everyday” to most of us.

Albero Brut CavaSo my search took me to Trader Joe’s, the value grocery store that has a reputation as a decent place to find wine values. While TJ’s might not deliver great wine values since they became the house of Two Buck Chuck, their sparking wine selection is still pretty solid. So after looking at their Crement de Bourgogne choices I have had, and enjoyed before, I picked up a Cava for just $7.99 as my choice tonight.

Albero Brut Cava ($8) is an exclusive of Trader Joe’s here in the U.S. made by Bogedas Iranzo, the oldest Spanish winery dating back some 677 years. Before you think Christoper Columbus drank sparkling wine from this estate, a quick aside to the history of bubbly.

Although wine with bubbles has existed since antiquity as a by-product of fermentation, it was only until glass blowing technology could withstand the pressure in the bottle before this style really emerged. Counter to the legend that this wine emerged in Champagne from the cellar of monk Dom Pérignon, sparkling wine was actually first made on purpose in Italy in 1622. But it was glass blowing technology developed in England in 1662 that made this country the true founder of sparkling wine almost 80 years before Dom Pérignon first drank “stars”.

Cava is the name given to sparkling wine made in Spain. It mostly comes from the Penedès region in Catalonia, just south of Barcelona. Like in Champagne only certain grapes are allowed in Cava but until recently these have only been native Spanish varieties. Keeping it old school, the Albero Brut Cava is a blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo.

The wine is golden straw color with a medium bead of fine bubbles that dissipate quickly in the glass. It has green apple, stone and baking bread aromas. Bright apple and citrus flavors finishing dry with hint of minerality and nice acidity on the finish. A nice crowd pleasing sparkler at a good price.

11.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

Thanks go to Wine Blogging Wednesday founder Lenn Thompson for asking me to host again. I’m looking forward to next month already.

Canals Nadal, Brut Rose, Reserva NV

by Tim Elliott on January 1, 2009

Canals Nadal Brut RoseOne of my New Year’s resolutions is to drink more sparkling wine so I’ll start 2009 with a review of a Cava made from an obscure native Spanish red variety.

This wine was one of the bottles I purchased on my trip to Spain in 2007 but had not yet tasted. I picked it up in a store in Montsant along with a few other interesting choices based upon wine style or varieties I have not tried. I think Ryan from Catavino also picked up a bottle of the same wine for similar reasons but haven’t seen his review yet.

This sparkler is made from Trepat, a native red variety from northeast Spain almost always used to make rose in Conca de Barbera and Costers del Segre zones. About 3,700 acres of this variety are grown in these Spanish wine zones today with some producers starting to make red still wines from the variety.

Tasting Notes:

Canals Nadal, Cava Brut Rose, Reserva NV ($14) – Quite a deep shade of ruby for a rose with vigorous, fine bubbles. A reserved nose of candied cherry and strawberry makes you expect an austere wine. Not so on the palate with full red raspberry and strawberry fruit flavors finishing bone dry with a nice mineral, lees note. Very nice balance for a sparkling wine at this price point. Enough body to pair with more hearty fare than most sparklers.

12% ABV
Composite cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

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WBW28 – Sparklers!

by Tim Elliott on December 13, 2006

A great Cava value
It’s Wednesday and (fairly) early in the month, so it must be time for another edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday. This time out, Culinary Fool is hosting and has chosen the theme of sparkling wine. Avid readers will remember only a couple of months back we sampled Champagne for this event. This month the only rule is the wine has to be sparkling and can’t come from France’s Champagne region. I really like this because December is a very festive month where most sparkling wine is sold and consumed. And, on the occasion I pop a cork of bubbly, 90% of the time it’s from Champagne (the other 10% from California, mostly Roederer Estate).

So if the theme is to explore the world of sparkling wine outside of my normal places, I wanted to really think different. I looked for Sekt from Germany or Austria, but couldn’t find a bottle I thought would be a good choice. Then I looked for sparking Shiraz from Oz but didn’t find one example in the stores I visited (I know there is some in town, because I’ve seen it before). So after briefly considering Prosecco, I decided to revisit Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain.

Cava and I go way back to my early days of wine geekdom. In fact, right after I graduated from Korbel Brut, there was always a black bottle of Freixenet in reserve at Casa Elliott. This inexpensive sparkler provided many of the same flavors of California wines at a fraction of the price. But like many other wines, my palate developed and only Champagne or higher end California sparklers would do. To make my final choice for this evening, I ventured into Solo Vino and asked for their recommendation.

The bottle I ended up with was Cava Avinyo Brut Reserva made by the Esteve Nadal family of Avinyonet del Penedès in Spain just outside of Barcelona. This Cava is blend of Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel-lo grown with biodynamic and organic methods (although not certified as such). These three grapes are native to Spain and the only that are legally permitted to be blended into Cava (some producers are now lobbying for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to also be approved). The wine is made using the méthode champenoise with 18-22 months of bottle aging before disgorgement.

Tasting Notes:

Cava Avinyo, Brut Reserva, Penedes, Spain NV ($14) – Light straw with a green tinge and medium-sized bubbles. Aromas of green apple, grapefruit and the slightest hint of yeastiness. In the mouth, there is the initial impression of citrus and bracing acidity, then nice and dry with some peach on the finish; very fresh and satisfying. A fairly complex sparkler at a bargain price; highly recommended.

11.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 90

Thanks again to Culinary Fool for a great seasonal theme and a nice discovery just in time for the Holidays and New Year celebrations. It will be interesting to see what other bloggers came up with this time and if founder Lenn resisted his temptation to taste a New York sparkler 😉