Cava has long been the go-to wine for party goers and throwers who can’t quite afford its pricier cousin from France, but they still want to offer their guests a celebratory glass of bubbly. More similar to Champagne than its Italian cousin, prosecco, it is made in both white and rosé by the methode champenoise.
White versions are generally made with macabeo, parellada, and xarel-lo grapes, though chardonnay is also being used. Rosé varieties usually feature pinot noir, garnacha, and monastrell fruit.
Although most cavas come from the Penedes region of Catalonia (which also boasts some great value reds), and the Elbro River valley in Rioja, a number of other regions, from dusty Extramadura to seaside Valencia, are also producing serious contenders.
The following wines, chosen for exceptional value, are well worth investigating for the upcoming holiday season, and are guaranteed to make your fiesta quite festive.
Biutiful Cava Brut Nature NV, $14
Biutiful, a truly elegant macabeo-chardonnay blend, is a knock-out value. From the enticing apple and lime nose to the zesty citrus and mineral finish, this wine delights the senses. Well-structured and balanced, this dry cava’s bubbles are tiny and lively, contributing to the round, sparkling mouth feel.
Situated in an ancient wine-growing region in Catalonia, the winery is relatively new; is has only been producing since 2007. This brut nature is made with the very latest technology and is fermented in the bottle for a full 15 months, without added sugars. The resulting cava is surprisingly complex, and would, I suspect, knock out contenders at three times the price in a blind tasting. A stellar pairing with all manner of shellfish and seafood, from blini with crème fraiche and caviar to a festive paella.
Marqués de la Concordia Reserva de la Familia Brut Rosé 2010, $15.99
This cava, which comes impressively bottled and labeled, is a very pretty salmon pink in the glass, with notable raspberry and floral notes in the nose and raspberry and strawberry on the palate. It has larger, less vigorous bubbles than the other two cavas reviewed here, and a soft and silky finish. First-pressing pinot noir dominates the blend, giving it a decidedly fruit-forward character, while the 30 percent addition of monastrell contributes a slight floral aroma.
I’d serve this wine as an aperitif, tossing a single, perfect raspberry in the glass to complement the wine and underscore its character.
Vallformosa Cava Origen Brut 2011, $19
A traditional xarel-lo, macabeo, and parallada blend — but made with old vines — this wine is far more complex than the Reserva de la Familia rosé reviewed above. A pale straw with a glint of leaf green in the glass, the nose is redolent of crisp apple, ripening to white stone fruit and pear on the palate. There is a hint of almond and hazelnut in the dry and elegant finish. Bubbles are small and lively. This cava has real character and achieves a fine balance of acidity and fruit; it is an exceptional value.
Serve it with anything you’d normally serve Champagne with, from jamon iberico to oysters.