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Question for the lovers of sparkling wines . . . .

OK, I'll confess . . . I'm surprised that no one has posted a comment regarding this article -- http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-new... -- and so I'm beginning to wonder if anyone here (on Chowhound and in the U.S.) even drinks CAVA.

There are some truly excellent sparking wines produced in Spain, but CAVA *does* have -- at least in my mind -- something of a tarnished image . . . not as bad as Charmat-process (aka bulk process, aka cuve close) sparkling wines -- think André, Cook's, etc. -- but cheap and low-end nonetheless. Yes, prices have increased over the years, but I have a hard time shaking the image of Frexeinet ("the black bottle bubbly") and Paul Cheneau at $3.99 . . .

Then again, I look at Francis Ford Coppola's "Sophia" -- the sparkling wine, not his daughter -- and I cannot for the life of me understand how a bulk-process sparkling wine produced from Chenin Blanc can be so expensive. What do I know?

Anyway, DOES anyone here drink Spanish sparkling wines? What do you think of when it comes to CAVA and $$$ -- value? high quality? bargain? substitute for something more expensive, or something worthwhile in its own right?

Inquiring minds . . .

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  1. Honestly, I don't ever drink it.

    I buy Korbel for mixing in champ cocktails like french 75 or 76's and mimosas.
    Misc French Champagne and American sparklers for drinking, apps,dinner, holidays.
    Vino Verde, Lambrusco (the semi's) or Prosecco for fun and with snacking/brunch/lunch.

    For me, Cava is not worth drinking on it's own but doesn't have the right taste for cocktails, so I don't tend to buy it.

    1. Not so much. Even some of the "better" higher-end ones still lack the complexity (usually missing some mineral component) and are a bit too much on the sweet side for my taste. The best one I've had has been Privat Cuvee Laieta, but I'd still rather drink Champagne.

      1. Sure why not? I'll drink almost anything with bubbles and while CAVA may not have the complexity and creamy elegance of champagne, it has it's place as an everyday drinker in mi casa. I probably like Prosecco a bit better. Still it's good to have a little variety and the grapes used (viura, xarel-lo, parellada, or macabeo) while probably not in the same class as pinot or chard, can produce some bright and lively sparklers. Two of my favorite bargains (<$20) are the Vega Barcelona brut reserva, and Vilarnau Brut. Nothing fancy, but solid weekday sparklers. Drink a lot more sparklers in the summer, but with the hot weather we've been having the wife and I opened up a CAVA yesterday afternoon to have with some spicy Thai food.

        1. Frixinet has an upscale cava called Elyssa that I think is very very good. Both in white the pink with a retail about $20,

          1. Sparkling wines seem to hit a tasting blind side for me. I can percieve sweet vs dry but for the most part I can not dectect that much difference in actual flavours. Maybe the bubbles interfere with my tasting. For me the difference is so small that I will not be that picky as long as it comes in at under $25. Gruet, Cava, Prosecco, It all seems to similar to me so I stick with the lower priced stuff. Even the Sparkling Albarino from Bonny Doon which came as part of my wine club leaves me in the dark. I like it but could not describe its flavour. Higher end champagne is wasted on me and I no longer buy it.

            5 Replies
            1. re: budnball

              "The Wine Trials" book has some really interesting discussions on just this topic, and they even mention tasting sparklers once they have gone flat as a way to judge overall quality. Definitely worth reading.

              1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                Might that explain some of the serving suggestions I've seen about using wide body glasses instead of flutes, or even regular wine glasses?

                1. re: PolarBear

                  Exactly! I adore aged champagne for this very reason. With an aged champagne, not only do the flavors mellow and complexity develops (in a good one) but the bubbles "calm down" and become more "fine"...allowing you to taste the more subtle flavors.

                  It is also the very reason I choose Korbel for champagne cocktails. The bubbles are big and strong- and hold up to the orange juice,brandy, creme de cassis, whatever, etc....and the flavor of Korbel (extra dry) is a bit "austere" and "one note" allowing for it to compliment the sweeter mixers.

                  1. re: PolarBear

                    "Might that explain some of the serving suggestions I've seen about using wide body glasses instead of flutes, or even regular wine glasses?"

                    Nope, it's a different reason. The reason to use a regular wine glass to drink champagne has to do with the loss of aromas and flavors when there are lots of bubbles in the glass. The etching at the bottom of the flute creates that line of ascending bubbles we're all familiar with. Carbon dioxide is dissolved in the wine, and the etched nucleation sites allow the CO2 to aggregate and form a bubble. The bubbles rise through the glass -- what we've all seen -- and burst when they reach the top of the liquid. Flavor molecules (esters, acids) hitch a ride on the surface of the bubbles, so when the bubbles burst as described, some flavor is lost.

                    When lots of bubbles aren't formed in the glass -- the case with a regular wine glass without nucleation sites -- bubbles and aromas/flavors are released in the taster's nose and mouth rather than being lost to the air.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      That is probably why I still prefer the coup for most sparklers (except for real delicate ones). I really don't like alot of "fizz" in my nose :)

              2. Sure, I drink cava, why wouldn't I (or you for that matter)? I haven't heard anything bad about Cava, it has no "tarnished image" that I am aware. Why CAVA, ALLCAPS? It's Spanish for cave as far as I know.

                Segura Viuda is a wine that has a long time reputation for value and quality.

                I don't think I've seen Cava at 3.99 since one could buy Cotes du Rhone at the same price.

                3 Replies
                1. re: FrankJBN

                  a) Old habits die hard, and when Cava was first brought into the US, Freixenent, Cordoniu, Paul Cheneau, and others *all* had "CAVA" (in all capital letters) on their label. So, that's how I learned to spell it. A quick check of their website shows that, on the label, Freixenet still spells it in all capital letters, though in the actual descriptive text/web content, it is spelled "Cava."

                  b) As for the "tarnished image," for many decades, CAVA/Cava [u]was[x] considered "crap" in most of the world. Always popular within Spain itself, it was (and in most cases, still is) produced from "who cares" grapes (Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada) in a world where great sparkling wines *always* come from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Heck, both Cordoniu and Freixenet abandoned their own grape varieties in favor of the "hoy trinity" once they each built their own wineries in California, adding to the impression among some that the grape varieties in Spain were somehow "less-than-desireable."

                  c) Despite the fact that there have always been really tasty sparklers from Spain, the specific CAVA/Cava that were exported in large numbers were the low(er) end wines and were sold on the basis of their low price, *not* on their high quality. The result was that some pretty gawd-awful $#|+ came out of Spain, with aromas and flavors that were not familiar to most New World palates, let alone the British (one of the largest markets for "true" Champagne.

                  d) As prices have continued to climb over the years, two more factors have arisen. At $3.99, CAVA/Cava was clearly a leap above bulk-process bubblies like André and Cook's and only $2 more. But as the price increased, they have risen to come into the price point of domestic sparklers (be that U.S., Australia, etc.), and there has been some resistance in terms of sales. " Why buy ________, when I can buy ________ for only a dollar or two more?" is a question that is often heard.

                  I can continue, but there's probably no real point. There truly are some wonderful sparkling wines produced in Spain, but -- in my experience and opinion -- there is a marketing problem when it comes to acceptance. It not that different than what the French experienced when the ONLY term available to the makers of sparkling wine *outside* the Champagne region was "vin mousseaux," a term that included both cove close and méthode champenoise wines, with no way to distinguish the two. Sales of non-Champagne sparkling wines increased when French producers and the CIVC came to an agreement that let the term "Crémant" apply to those "méthode traditionelle" sparkling wines . . . .

                  I can certainly see that some sort of "solution" is needed. Otherwise, CAVA/Cava may (OK, this is slightly over-dramatic) go the way of Sekt -- popular in its native Germany and Austria, but almost nowhere else. Ever have a Russian sparkling wine, or one from Hungary?

                  Cheers,
                  Jason

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Actually, I have had sparkling Rkatzitelli and German Riesling Sekt., both bought in the U.S.

                    About your lack of acceptance idea, you seemingly negate that argument when you note that the price of the product has been increasing. Products that consumers do not accept cannot command higher prices - they in fact will leav e a market, becauase without consumer acceptance, they fail to achieve sales even at lower prices.

                    1. re: FrankJBN

                      Frank, I am not trying to argue with you, but take a look at inflation first. It has played a significant role (though by no means the only one) in the increase in prices over the past 2.5-3 decades. If you adjust for the inflation -- using the BLS calculator -- a $3.99 bottle in 1982 should be $9.57; a $2.19 bottle would now be $5.25; and an $8.99 bottle would be $21.56. Today, Freixenet Cordon Negro is $9.99 (right there with the rate of inflation), André is $5.99 (Cook's, OTOH, is $9.99), and Gloria Ferrer is $18.99 . . .

                2. I still have a soft spot for Freixenet and Cordoniu, because they were the first sparklers I drank -- my best friend and I didn't like cheap crappy beer (read: Budweiser) and we'd already outgrown Bartles and Jaymes, so to us, the next step was cava. If two of us split a bottle, it was no more expensive than a couple of beers, and we never had to worry about someone else drinking our stuff!

                  it still isn't bad bubbles -- I drink cremant or mousseaux or Champagne, simply because I live so darned close to the source now that Cava is harder to find and the same price as the local fizz...but I'd never look down my nose at someone who drinks it.

                  1. For the money I also greatly enjoy the ARIA Pinot Noir Cava from Segura Viudas, but have a very hard time finding it locally (actually have never found it locally -- San Diego). Was putting bottles in my luggage from a wine shop in Oregon that I regularly visit.

                    1. >>"Then again, I look at Francis Ford Coppola's "Sophia" -- the sparkling wine, not his daughter -- and I cannot for the life of me understand how a bulk-process sparkling wine produced from Chenin Blanc can be so expensive. What do I know?"<<<

                      Aw, come on Jason............... you really DO! It's the CAN!!!!!!!! And.............. if the canned version costs that much, no way can they market the bottles for less. Just my 2¢.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Midlife

                        True . . . perhaps I should have said, "I cannot understand how they get away with it!" ;^)

                        1. re: Midlife

                          Has anybody actually tried it? The thought of drinking sparkling wine from a can (even if you pour it into a glass) makes me shudder.

                          (I don't drink soda from a can if I can avoid it because I don't like the taste of the metal. It would be worse with wine!)

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            It's a light simple fizzy drink marketed to Gen X. The demographic is built into the product design.

                            It's not meant to be credible as a sparkling wine -- just a refreshing fun drink that will give you a little buzz if you're under 35.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              Hmm...sounds suspiciously like the way wine coolers were was marketed "back in the day"

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Close. Sofia is Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscat............... so it's rather sweet. The packaging and the Coppola connection make it even more interesting to consumers.

                                  1. re: Midlife

                                    Interesting . . . the website indeed says, "Sofia Blanc de Blancs is a rare blend of Pinot Blanc, Muscat, and Riesling."

                                    When I was there, they told me it was Chenin . . .

                                    STILL, it's a triumph of marketing over winemaking.

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      I was quoting from the shelf-talker made up by the owner of the shop where I work. It was done about two years ago, likely from the website - because the cans say nothing, and I doubt he's checked back for updates since.

                              2. re: sunshine842

                                Yes, and it SUCKS!!! (And, it's amazingly overpriced given its cost of production!)

                            2. I do drink Cava (as well as other types of sparkling), mostly lower/mid level quality (Parés Baltà), good QPR.

                              I find that it does fit the bill when wanting to drink sparkling for no particular reasons mid-week and not wanting to open a more expensive Champagne.

                              I find it hard to go for a higher priced Cava instead of an equivalently priced (lower/mid end) Champagne (at least here with our provincial monopoly).

                              Maybe it is just the inertia of the Champagne marketing that makes me buy a Champagne instead of a Cava (or other type of sparkling) for higher quality wine..

                              Maybe it is just the smaller production of Cava and availabilty compared to Champagne?

                              M.

                              1. In the NYC market, Juve y Camps goes for $15, and both the rose and the regular cava are first-rate. The wines are more refined than Frexinet or Cordoniu. That said, Prosecco has taken the place of Cava in this market and that's apparent by seeing how much self-space is devoted to either category.

                                1. Jason,

                                  As I see it, there are several "types" of sparkling wine fans:

                                  There are those, who know, and greatly enjoy sparklers.
                                  There are those, who see sparklers as some sort of "special deal," whether that is because of the price (think gangbangers buying Cristal), or those, who only see bubbles as celebratory.
                                  Those, who will pay any price to join one of the above groups.

                                  We drink a fair amount of Cava, and also Prosecco, and enjoy each, but do not see either as a replacement for our Champagne.

                                  Hunt

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      Sounds like 'NEW and IMPROVED" type of rebranding scheme.