Prosecco has stolen a march when it comes to the value end of the fizz market – think of all those bottomless brunches, not to mention supermarket shelves heaving with different brands of Prosecco. But should people not be looking beyond Prosecco for their fix of good value bubbles? The answer is surely yes, and the reason why is Cava.
This much overlooked wine, which comes from the region of Catalunya in northern Spain, may occupy the less conspicuous shelves in the wine aisles (and fewer of them too) but there’s nothing inferior about the way it is made. Indeed, unlike Prosecco, it is produced using the same traditional sparkling wine method that Champagne adopts. This means, at no small expense to the winemaker, Cava must be aged in bottle and on lees in a single cellar for at least nine months (or 15 if it’s a reserve Cava).
Prosecco, by contrast, is fermented in a tank rather than bottle. It's a faster, cheaper process – than that in Champagne and in Cava – which, in general, produces a fruit-driven wine that is fresh and ready to drink immediately.
Due to ageing on its lees, Cava adopts the autolytic characters of toast, brioche and cream while still retaining fruit, and it is drier on the palate than Prosecco, though not as dry (or as complex) as Champagne.
But, and this is the key point, despite this long and more expensive production, at roughly half the price of entry level Champagne and strangely about the same price as Prosecco, Cava is amazing value.
While Prosecco is a fab entry point into drinking fizz, Cava has added depth making it a great progression for fizz drinkers as they start to enjoy drier wines. Surely, indeed, Cava is a trend waiting to happen.
Codorniu plays the category leader
At a Christmas tasting of Codorniu wines at Hispania restaurant in Lombard Street, we were able to experience these wines alongside some terrific food.
While Prosecco is made using the Italian grape Glera, Cava is a blend of the native Catalan grapes of Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada. And increasingly Cava winemakers are also using the Champagne varietals of Chardonnay and in some instances Pinot Noir.
Codorníu NV has a fresh fruity and delicate aroma. The Parellada gives hints of apples while the Xarel-lo has a pleasantly savoury quality. All in all, it's a fresh and very satisfying fizz. Buy it at Sainsbury's, RRP £8.
Codorniu Vintage Brut is again crisp and fruity, and balanced with a slightly evolved earthy savouriness and notes of yellow fruit, citrus, honey and toast. Buy it at Morrison's, RRP £11.
The Codorníu Anna Blanc de Blancs Brut is a blend of 4 different grape varieties: all of the regular varietals plus Chardonnay which makes up 70% of the blend. The Chardonnay imparts not only citrus and apple fruit but also acidity and character. Delicious this Chistmas with jamon, salmon and cheese straws. Buy it at Waitrose, RRP £11.99.