When I first got the detailed programme of the 8th Edition of IWINETC (International Wine Tourism Conference) 2016 Barcelona, the one session that I was most looking forward to attending was the “Official Grand Cava Tasting” on Day 1, to be conducted by Sarah Jane Evans MW.
Now MW or Master of Wine are two initials which have the power of evoking awe and admiration in the hearts & minds of millions of wine professionals across the world. And not without reason as this title is the greatest achievement in the world of wine. Due to a very low pass rate, there are merely 338 people who have managed to pass this grueling exam, ever since it was first held in London in the year 1953. They say there are more astronauts in the world than there are Masters of Wine.
It was precisely for this reason that I was expecting Sarah Jane Evans to be a very intimidating figure. To my utter surprise and delight, she turned out to be the friendliest, most humble and down to earth person I have come across in this notoriously “snobbish” world of wine.
As expected, her talk “A Sparkling Guide to Cava” on Day 1 of IWINETC (5th April 2016) at Tarragona Hall, Hotel Barcelona Golf Resort & Spa, which preceded the Official Grand Cava Tasting, was chock-a-block. Sarah Jane Evans, who besides being a Master of Wine is also an award-winning wine Cava and food writer and currently Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine, explained in simple language about Spanish sparkling wine “Cava” which means cellar.
Made by the same method as Champagne where the second fermentation is done in the bottle, regular Cava needs at least 9 months of ageing. Reserva requires 15 months plus and for any Cava to be labelled Gran Reserva, it needs 30 months plus of ageing. Just as Champagne is a cocktail of 3 grape varietals Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier, the three varietals which are the mainstay of Cava industry are Macabeo, Xarel.lo & Parellada. However two more white grapes Malvasia & Chardonnay and some reds like Pinot Noir, Trepat (only for rosé) Monastrell & Granacha Tinta can be used for making Cava.
An interesting feature is that Cava D.O is not restricted to a single delimited area and even though more than 95% of all Cava is made in Catalunya, mostly in and around the town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, sparkling wines made in certain municipalities in Valencia, Aragón, Navarra, Rioja and Basque country can also be called Cava.
Now that we all became acquainted with the basics of Cava we were ready for the Official IWINETC Grand Cava Tasting. 8 Premium Cavas were presented by Sarah Jane Evans who explained the nuances of each. She also explained what each of the grape varietals contributed to the cuvee. Macabeo, the most widely planted Spanish white grape adds moderate acidity & floral aromas. Parellada “the delicate one” is gently floral & aromatic, has moderate alcohol and used for drinking young. It is Xarel.lo, the highest quality Cava grape with its high acidity, which is the rising star of the Cava industry as it makes high quality cava that can age very well.
Below is a list of Cavas the delegates of IWINETC 2016 tried out.
Vilarnau Rosado Brut Reserva 2013 (Trepat & Pinot Noir) 2 years ageing, Dosage: 8g/l (Dosage or liqueur d’expédition is a mixture of base wine & sugar which is added to a sparkling wine after disgorgement and just before final corking)
Bohigas Noa De Bohigas 2013 (Pinot Noir 50% & Xarel.lo 50%) 15 months ageing, Dosage: Zero (Brut Nature)
Vallformosa Cava Collecció Brut Reserva 2012 (Macabeo 25%, Xarel.lo 30%, Parellada 20%, and Chardonnay 20%) 2 years ageing, Dosage: Brut 0-12g/l
Codorníu Jaume De Codorníu Gran Reserva 2011 (Chardonnay 45%, Pinot Noir 45%, Xarel.lo 10%) Ageing 45 months, Dosage: Brut
Llopart Gran Reserva Leopardi 2010 (Macabeo 40%, Xarel.lo 40%, Parellada 10% & Chardonnay 10%) More than 2 years Ageing, Dosage: Zero (Brut Nature)
Castellroig Sabate I Coca Reserva Familiar 2010 (Xarel.lo 50% fermented in oak & 50% in stainless steel) Ageing 60 months, Dosage: Zero (Brut Nature)
Gramona Gran Reserva III Lustros 2007 (Xarel.lo 75%, Macabeo 25%) Ageing 100 months, Dosage: Zero (Brut Nature)
Casa Sala Gran Reserva 2006 (Xarel.lo and Parellada) Minimum 96 months ageing, Dosage: Zero (Brut Nature)
The ones which stood out for me and were my favorite were the last two; Gramona & Casa Sala.
Thus ended a fantastic tasting session of some top of the line Cavas chosen from diverse terroirs and at different levels of ageing and dosage. Thanks to Sarah Jane Evans MW for making it so much fun with her easy-going manner and to IWINETC Director Anthony Swift for organizing it all.
By: Lavina Kharkwal
50 Great Cavas by Wine Pleasures is a 154 page illustrated book which is a wonderful guide to discovering Spain’s most exciting Cava producers. It contains details of all the Cavas tasted at Official IWINETC Grand Cava Tasting. Available for Euros 12,95