Slapped with bubbles and feeling good! Why grower Cava is worth every penny.

30 Dec

Champagne BurstMost casual wine drinkers would shudder at the notion of paying upwards of 200 dollars for a bottle of bubbly. A certain other few would willingly hand over the coinage for a vintage bottling of Champagne worth having…Champagne that is. And why not? Over the past two centuries Champagne has become the name in sparkling wine production. A precedent which nearly every style of fine bubbles the world around is modeled after. It is the gold standard of sparkling wine that often takes the form of extravagant shelf pricing.

What about Spanish Cava? Would Champagne aficionados feel compelled to pop the cork of a Cava they knew was just as good (and for the same price)? In terms of international recognition, Cava is rarely (if ever) thought of as an equivalent—sort of like the Junior Varsity squad for sparkling wine production—bearing talent and potential but, lacking the experience and refinement to make the starting line-up (not entirely true). A better observation would be that though Cava represents a considerable amount of modest wine, sound and suitable for everyday drinking, it is also capable of producing remarkable bottles.

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Several months back, during the pith of the summer heat spike, Adam Segura (general manager of The Vineyard Wine Shop) and I jumped ship to a grower-sparkling wine tasting at Boulder, CO’s The Kitchen. That ship being Matt Austin of Natural Wine CO’s air conditioned Volkswagen; he was nice enough to let us carpool.

At first glance it appeared to be a fairly standard trade tasting. Importers, distributers, experts and the like behind their tables, eager to sell their wines to guys like me and Adam who work the frontlines of retail. The show was anything but standard. Actually, the Cavas we tasted were anything but standard, the kind of stellar sparkling that would beguile the most discerning connoisseur.

Recaredo was the word of the day, also the name of a Cava house founded by Josep Mata in 1924, which even among the range of wines on display proved a name one ought not forget.

Recaredo Brut Nature 2007RacaredoBrutdeBrutThe first wine we tasted was the 2007 Brut Nature, a steal at $45 shelf price, reminiscent of ripe lemon and orange zest with a gorgeous layer of lavender. My eyes went wide as a turned to catch Adam’s reaction. He looked as though he had been slapped…and liked it, which is often the only way of describing one’s reaction to winemaking of that caliber.

Next we tasted the 2004 Grand Reserva ($67) which spent 100 months sur lie in bottle. Yikes! Adam got slapped twice with this one, not minding it a bit. Complex? Think creamy limecicle with undulating veins of flower, toast and chalk. Did I mention the acidity in these wines is undeniably structured and vivacious? Because it is.

The 2003 Reserva Particular followed, smashing a home run to left field. Similar to the Grand Reserva but with slightly higher pedigree of fruit (the grapes used were appraised at a higher value). I found the Particular a bit creamier and slightly more intense. Roughly $120 on the shelf, about the same as Pol Roger’s 2002 Blanc de Blancs. What could be better?

It got better. The crescendo of this symphony of Cava came with the tasting of Recaredos 2002 Turó d’En Mota, which almost had Adam in tears…imagine seeing Franz Shubert conducting his famed Symphony No. 8 while Caravaggio paints his portrait. Mota is not only harmonious, complex and utterly enchanting; it’s all that and a bag of truffle fries that sees 112 months of lees aging. It’s a true masterpiece that should require no introduction.

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The same meticulous efforts that go into fine Champagne production are also employed for Recaredo’s Cava. The vineyards are dry-farmed without use of pesticides, with organic fertilizer used only sparingly. Every step leading to final product is done by hand: harvesting, riddling and disgorgement. The entire process is elaborate, time-consuming and laborious, making the price tags modest in comparison to efforts exerted and number of resulting bottles. Turó d’En Mota for example, is limited to 2,704 bottles, each individually number.

Cava Recaredo has more than earned its place on the world stage and undeniably deserves to be held in the same regard as the finest sparkling producers around. If one’s curiosity is abundant, one ought to buy them, cellar them, drink them, bathe in them, just don’t let the opportunity pass. So grab a bottle for your next celebration (New Year’s Eve)—just be prepared for all senses to be slapped in the face. And you’ll love it!

-Jordan Garcia

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