Cavatast is Coming Again

As summer is closing to it’s end, at least here in Sweden, I like turning my attention to what will be happening in the fall. The highlight is of course Cavatast, the festival to celebrate all that is to do with the spanish premium bubbly. Cavatast is a festival for everyone: locals, professionals as well as tourists. In recent years it has taken a  bit of a gastronomical direction as well with an increasing number of food vendors participating in the festivities. As every year, there is no information regarding this festival in English, so I have used my nonexisting skills in spanish to make educated guesses on what is in store for us. The only thing I can be quite sure about is the dates: 7th to the 9th of October.  Continue reading “Cavatast is Coming Again”

Cavatast Info: Prices, Exhibitors and More..

Cavatast is approaching and I am getting very excited. Not only is there an abundance of good cava to sample, but it is a relaxed event with potential for warm weather and delicious Catalonian snacks. Cavatast is for everyone, not only professionals; and this makes it even more inviting (professional events can occasionally be a bit stiff).

Every year I, however, run into the same problem: there is very little information about the event available in English. I mainly have the same questions every year: what are the exact dates, who will be there and what does everything cost? As we are talking about Spain, things can also change without much notice. So I always hold a healthy skepticism to all of the information out there, and remain flexible if case it is needed. After doing some research online, I have been able to find what I was looking for, so I thought I would share it here with you to save you from the trouble.

Is Cavatast for everyone?
Yes it is! It is like a town party with a mix of wine-tourists and professionals here and there. People bring their whole family, children included, to the event and enjoy the festivities, lectures and of course the excellent cava.

Who will be represented at Cavatast?
In the below picture you can see the participants for this years Cavatast. Our friends from Cellers Carol Valles and Rimarts Cava are also joining, so make sure you stop by their stands for a taste. We recommend also trying out Vilarnau, Pere Ventura and Naveran who are excellent in their price class.

The producers represented at Cavatast Photo: Turisme de Sant Sadurni d'Anoia
The producers represented at Cavatast Photo: Turisme de Sant Sadurni d’Anoia

What are the prices?
At Cavatast you buy tasting coupons always four at a time. Depending on the cava, a glass costs you from 1 to 4 coupons. For 2015, four coupons plus a tasting glass (that you can keep) costs 6,5€. Further coupons cost 5€ for four. For food: pinxtos, charcuterie and other snacks sold in food trucks, there is a similar ticket system. Four food tickets cost 6€ and get you various snacks throughout the day.

How to prepare?
The most important question of all, what else should one take into account before going to cavatast? Three simple steps will save your day:

Step 1. Bring a bottle of water, or two. You should hydrate yourself in between the cavas, otherwise the festivities will come to an end earlier than needed.

Step 2. Bring some wet wipes and napkins. It is inevitable that you need to use the toilets at the event. During the day, paper runs out and the cleanliness of the restrooms deteriorates. You will be fine if you just bring your own paper and own means of cleaning up.

Step 3. Take a backpack: The cavatast shop is like a gold-mine. You can buy all of your favorite cavas for very reasonable prices, so you want to be prepared to carry some bottles home.

So now all that is left is to enjoy the festivities. Hope to see you there cavalovers!

Save the date! Open House Tasting on the 12th of September

One of my favorite days of the fall is approaching, the day of our big open house tasting in Stockholm. Our tasting events are a good opportunity to try out our wines before making a purchase decision (who wants to buy a pig in a bag..unless you know it’s Iberico pork). During the event we also have a chance to talk more about the people behind the wines, their production methods and philosophies. We have felt that our open tastings are the key to building a loyal and interested customer base, and we also have a lot of fun in the process. And what’s best, the open house events are always free (yay!). The tasting will take place on the 12th of September between 15:00 and 18:00 (pop by any time you like). If you are interested in joining please send an email to info@thewinecurious.com, and we will send you the address.

You might recall that we arranged one in May as a kick off for our new Portuguese selection (more about it here). This time focus is naturally on our fall selection of red wines which means that we will be sampling some of the great wines from Quinta do Escudial, Quinta de Saes, as well as one of our new potential producers Almeida Garrett. Bubbly moments will be guaranteed by our trusted cavas from Llagrima d’Or, Rimarts and Cellers Carol Valles. We will hold samples of the rest of the selection under the counter if someone is interested in the other products.

At the tasting we will also be opening our early fall order window. This possibility to top up for long and dark October weekends end on the 20th of September and the wines will be in Stockholm within a week. How exciting is that!!

Our selection is available for browsing on www.thewinecurious.com

Cavas at the May tasting
Cavas at the May tasting

Guide to the best cava – Part 2: Mid-range

Earlier this week I started a series of posts that are on the best cavas available in different price ranges. The first part of that series, the entry level, up to 130 SEK (approx.. €14) can be found here. The next level is from 131 SEK to 200 SEK (€14 to €22) and it is sort of a mid-range. To recap for those who did not read the first part this will not cover cava sold anywhere but rather available to consumers in Sweden and Finland.

In this area I will be recommending a lot of cavas that we are ourselves selling but there is a pretty good explanation for it as well. One of the main reasons we even started selling cava was the lack of high quality options in general but in this price range specifically. While it is slightly better today, especially in Sweden, it is still pretty limited offering for the person who wants to buy from Systembolaget or Alko and especially if you do not want to order it in advance.

In our round-up in the mid-range we are actually not really recommending anything from Alko but for those who are interested both Llagrima D’or and Peret Fuster Rosé cava can be bought in Finland. It is a bit disappointing to see that Alko are not including some more high quality options in the mid range. I would for example like to see the cavas from Vilarnau being made available there (as they offer the basic Vilarnau it should not be that difficult to also have some of their other cavas). There are also a few good cavas (for example some from Castell d’Age) missing from the list below as these have been out of stock for such a long time that they cannot really be seen as available.

In general this price range provides a lot of value for money. To me all of the cavas listed here are usually much better options than going for a ‘cheap’ champagne. All of these cavas are excellent quality and while some of these are a bit over-priced in the Nordic countries I would still be inclined to say that these are some of the best value for money one can find in sparkling wine in Sweden (and Finland). All of these are also at least Reserva cavas (so aged at least 15 months) and a few also Gran Reservas (aged for at least 30 months). For clarity I wish to mention that I in this post, as well as the previous one in the series, list the cavas in alphabetical order.

Augusti Torelló Mata Reserva Brut from Augusti Torelló Mata: 154 SEK at Systembolaget. This may be one of the basic cuvées from Agusti Torelló Mata but they are a solid house and this cuvee shows that they know their stuff. The cava is light straw color with small persistent bubbles. The aromas are a mix of apple, toastiness with hints of mineral and herbs. The taste is fruity ripe apples with nice acidity.

Gramona Imperal Gran Reserva from Gramona: 199 SEK from Systembolaget. Gramona has grown to be one of the fairly big producers of Cava and while not the size of some of the bohemoths it is still readily available in many places. It is in general not my number one producer but they do make very solid cavas and I am happy that it is often available in restaurants. This is their Gran Reserva and it is a nice blend of Xarel·lo (50%), Macabeo (40%), Chardonnay (10%). Aged for three to four years. This has notes of citrus, mineral and apple. Nice nose of toast and apples. Works well with jamón iberico and other dried cured meats. A good cava but a bit overpriced (should more be around 150-175 SEK).

Guillem Carol Gran Reserva Brut Nature from Cellers Carol Valles: 175 SEK at thewinecurious. This is one of the Gran Reservas from small family producer Cellers Carol Valles. It is made from Parellada (40%), Xarel-lo (40%) and Chardonnay (20%). This is without dosage but they also makes one cuvée with the same grapes and a small dosage . For me the zero dosage one is however the best one (for those who want a touch more of sweetness, still very little, the extra brut may be better). This cava is golden straw colored with fine and persistent bubbles. Soft notes of aging and reduction, fine bakery, yeast and notes of citrus and white flowers. Fresh and creamy on the palate, with excellent acidity and long finish.

Llagrima D’or Brut Nature Cava from Llagrima D’or: 175 SEK from thewinecurious. Made from the traditional cava grapes and with no dosage this lovely cava is one of my old favorites. It has pleasant acidity and mineral in the flavor. Some nice toastiness and roundness adds complexity, all in all a lovely cava.

Olivia Brut Nature Reserva from Castell d’Age: 171 SEK at Systembolaget. A lovely 100% Chardonnay cava that has been aged for around 20 months. Very fine and delicate bubbles and the color is bright golden. The chardonnay gives this more of champagne feeling so the nose has a mix of brioche, dried fried and nuts as well as freshness to it. The taste has nice mineral mixed with some yellow fruit.

Peret Fuster Rosé Cava from Peret Fuster: 183 SEK from thewinecurious I am not usually a huge fan of rosé cavas but this 100% Trepat is lovely. It has a very small dosage but is still very dry and has lovely red berry flavor. Perfect as an aperitif.

Recaredo Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2008  from Recaredo : 189 SEK at Systembolaget.. Blend of 46% Xarel·lo, 40% Macabeo and 14% Parellada. Recaredo were among the first  to start with craft production of cava and they are still among the best producers. Aroma of yellow apples, brioche, nougat and hints of orange. The flavor is dry fresh with toastiness, hints of yeast and yellow apples and orange and pleasant acidity. A good cava  from one of the top producers in Spain.

Rimarts Brut Reserva 18 from Rimarts: 167 SEK from thewinecurious. It is made from a blend of Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada this entry level cava has been aged between 18 and 25 months. It has a bright lemon color. Mid-sized bubbles, elegant and lasting. Strong aroma, fresh and flowery. Full in the mouth, creamy, a touch of fresh sweetness with a good balance between sugar and acidity. It is ideal an aperitif but can also be enjoyed with a variety of dishes.

Rimarts Brut Reserva 24 from Rimarts: 175 SEK from thewinecurious. This Brut Nature cava is made from  Xarel·lo, Macabeu and Parellada and has been aged between 25-30 months. It is dry with less than 2g/l of residual sugar. Golden yellow color. Small, persistent bubbles. Complex with a nice intensity. Intense aroma of ageing, ripe fruits, toasted grassy notes. Nice mouth-feel, well-structured with a long, enjoyable finish.

Rimarts Brut Nature Gran Reserva 40 from Rimarts: 200 SEK from thewinecurios. In addition to the traditional grapes Xarel-lo, Macaveo and Parellada this cava also contains Chardonnay. It has been aged between 36 and 42 months and this produces an amazing result. It has bright gold color with very fine, persistent bubbles. Aromas of ripened fruit, notes of ageing, toasted nuts mix with hints of yeast and brioche. Perfectly balanced with a long and pleasant finish. It is one of these cavas that makes you understand why the Catalans enjoy sparkling wine not only on its own but also with bbq, stews and all types of food. 

In this category there are many fine cavas but if I would select my favorite one it is fairly easy. The Rimarts Gran Reserva is one of my all-time favorite cavas and is then my choice. That said all of the cavas presented here are really good so if you find them somewhere there is no need to hesitate just try it.

Stay tuned for the third part in the series coming soon. There we will be presenting some of the more high end cavas available. 

Guide to the best cava – Part 1: Entry-level

As spring is here (at least if you look at the calendar) and summer is nearing many people start drinking more sparkling. While I am not at all opposed to drinking sparkling wine all year round I still thought it is a great time to write a series of recommendations on good cavas in different price ranges (for those of you who are not familiar with cava I can recommend reading this introduction or for more in-depth information the web site of the cava lady, http://annawallner.se/cava-facts/). This post was inspired by the great series of post on the Talk-a-Vino web site on the best Spanish wines in different price ranges (the first post in that series is here: http://talk-a-vino.com/2015/03/24/spanish-wine-recommendations-part-1-wines-under-20/).

There is an enormous range of cava on the market and it is available from many different suppliers and prices vary greatly from market to market so to make it a bit manageable I have set up some ground rules for the selection. As Sweden and Finland are currently our home countries we have only included cavas that can be found here (either at the monopoly or through one of the online wine merchants). We have also excluded cavas that are only available to consumers at restaurants (and frankly looking at what they charge for wine at restaurants in the Nordics it would not really make a difference in the recommendations here).

The recommendations will be split into three parts. The first one (the one you are now reading) is what I like to call entry level cava and that will be cavas prices below 130 SEK (or approximately €14). The second will be cavas priced from 131 SEK and up to 200 SEK (€14-22) and the third one is above that.

Even for entry level cava there is an abundance of wonderful options. In general these will not have the same complexity as some of the more expensive wines but many of these provide excellent value for money and to me there are better options here than for substnatially more expensive Champagne and other sparkling from France and other parts of the world. Even more so I think it is well worth spending a bit more than the absolute minimum that buys you the cheapest cavas (I am thinking the likes of Freixnet and Codorníu) and get something actually drinkable

Anne Marie Reserve Brut Nature Reserva from Castell d’age: 127 SEK at Systembolaget
Castell d’Age is these days run by Olivia Junyent, the third generation of women from the family making cava and other wine. This specific cava is made from 40% Macabeo, 40% Xarel.lo, 20% Parellada. It is a brut nature so dry but it has clear notes of ripe fruit, apple and citrus. Nose has hints of toast, fruit and nuts. Lacks a bit complexity and not as elegant as more high-end cavas but at this price it is a great cava.

Castell de Vilarnau Brut from González Byass: €9.73 at Alko.
Vilarnau is one of the estate I am very fond of. Not only do the make great cavas but they are also incredibly friendly. Unfortunately not yet available to consumers in Sweden (one of the restaurant wholesalers offer this specific cava so it is possible to find it in some restaurants). It is made from 55% Macabeo, 40% Parellada and 5% Xarel-lo. While it is a not a brut nature it still dry. The flavor is fresh with hints of citrus and apple. The nose has notes of white flowers and green apples. Pleasant to drink and good value for money.

Cava Blanc de Noirs 1+1=3 U Mes U Fan Tres from 1+1=3 U Mes U Fan Tres S.L: 99 SEK at Systembolaget.
85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. This is not a remarkable cava but as it is priced under 100 SEK it deserves a mention here. It is dry with fairly pleasant notes of red apples, orange, nougat and a bit toastiness.

Parellada i Faura Reserva Brut Nature From Cellers Carol Valles: 125 SEK at thewinecurious.com / thewinecurious.tictail.com
This entry level cava is from small family producer Cellers Carol Valles and it really proves that all the cavas from them are really good. The Parellada i Faura Reserva has been aged for between 15-18 months. It has been produced with the traditional grape varieties used for cava production Parellada (60%), Macabeo (30%) and Xarel·lo (10%). It has no added sugar. This is an amazing value for money cava. It competes in quality with sparkling wines that are twice the price or more. It is dry with fine and lively bubbles. Ripe and savory aroma of peach, melon and apple. Flavors are fresh with hints of citrus. Clean and vibrant palate with long finish.

Segura Viudas Lavit Brut Nature 2012 from Segura Viudas: €12.49 at Alko
Macabeo 60% and Parellada 40%. It has nice nose of apple and citrus and on the palate it is dry with hints of buttery notes and dried fruits. A nice entry level cava from one of the bigger of the mid-sized cava producers.

Cellers Carol Valles
Parellada i Faura Brut Nature Cava

These are my top picks in the entry level category. The two last ones are the ones I hold as the best in the category but all of these are good cavas that I would enjoy a glass or two of. What is interesting to note is that out of the ones I have listed only two (the 1+1=3 and the Segura Viudas) are available to buy in the store. All others have to be ordered, and speaking from experience that is also often true of the ones that should be available off the shelf. That is however the way the monopoly can play things and there are not really any options for the consumer when it comes to physical stores. There are however luckily good options online.

This was the first part of the best cavas. Two more to follow but if any of the readers have your own recommendations please do share.

The Road So Far and a New Selection

When I started this blog, it was meant to be about the business. The business of selling wine that is (Introduction to the journey here). Along the way I started writing more about other wines and restaurants. I like getting tips about new places, so it was mostly about sharing it with fellow foodies and the wine curious. There is not that much to write about the company to really fill a blog (yet). However, today I would like to move the focus back to the business and write about something exciting, our new selection.

Our business started around one excellent product, the Llagrima d’Or cava. We did our research on the Swedish market and came to the conclusion that this product would fill a gap. A premium cava was not unheard of, however the selection was (and is) weak. The selection may still satisfy the masses, but not the quality conscious consumer who does not want his/her cava pumped up with sugar to hide the compromises made with the production. Small producers are often artists, they make something that they can be proud of and want to have on their own table every weekday and the weekend (in Spain cava is an every day drink). These small producers however do not have the volumes to make it into the shelf’s of (one of) the worlds largest buyer (Systembolaget).

After two years of planning, sampling, paperwork and some personal investment, we have moved forward. Next week our updated web shop will feature five new and exciting producers from Spain and Portugal: Rimarts, Cellers Carol Valles, Antonio Madeira, Quinta do Escudial and Quinta da Pellada. All of our new partners are small, family owned vineyards with a vision and a passion for making honest wines. With honest we mean that the wines have a minimal amount (if any) added sugar, they are mostly produced without any oak (or at least without excessive use of it) and often with as natural processes as possible. The focus is on good ingredients and no compromises on the time or effort that it takes to make the wines. We have visited them all, roamed around their vineyards and spent hours studying their production. Not to mention all the hard work we have done with trying out their wines (*smirk*). So here are a few teasers on our upcoming selection and we will be writing more about each producer the coming weeks.

1. Rimarts is a company owned by two brothers, Richard and Ernest. They have learned the fine art of making cava by following in their father’s footsteps and are today using the same equipment for their production as he did back in the day. When touring the Rimarts cellars, Ernest was joking about all the other kids going out to play football while he and his brother had to sit in with their dad and bottle cava. The Rimarts wines are disgorged by hand and all except for the the 18 month cava (which has a very small dosage) have no sugar added. Our initial selection will feature three different bubblies from them, the Rimarts 18 month (Brut Reserva), 24 month (Reserva Brut Nature) and 40 month (Gran Reserva Brut Nature) cavas.

2. When we pulled into the drive way of Cellers Carol Valles, we felt like we were entering someones home. That’s because we were. Joan Carol greeted us with the family dog and a boy from the neighboring house to translate from Catalan to English. He had fit a very impressive production line in the cellar of his family home and greeted visitors in a small tasting house next to the living quarters. He told us that most of his cava is sold at that property with hundreds of locals stopping by every now and then to fill up their cellars. He houses an impressive selection where even the entry level wine is a Reserva Brut Nature. Our selection for the summer will include the Parellada i Faura (Reserva Brut Nature, the Guillem Carol Extra Brut and Brut Nature (Gran Reservas) and the Guillem Carol Gran Reserva Barrica (a cava with a light oaky flavor).

Rimarts Cava
Tasting wines at Rimarts
Rimarts Cava
Ernest showing us how to bottle cava
Cellers Carol Valles
Cellers Carol Valles

3. A Frenchman with a Portuguese descent Antonio Madeira is the rising star of Dão. He currently sells just one wine (more are coming) and he makes it well with natural techniques (no additives or pesticides). Antonio has a vision, he wants to bring out the terroir in his wine and he seeks out old vines to do this in the best manner. Our selection will feature, surprise surprise, his best (and only) wine, a light and sophisticated red made from old vine. As with many older vineyards in Portugal, there is an abundance of grape varieties growing in the field so the exact number of grape varieties is not easy to get to.

4. Feeling that there was something missing from the market, Quinta do Escudial is producer making solely no-oak wines. It is a family business to the core. The wine is made by the father of the family, the finances are handled by his wife and sales by their son. Our selection will be featuring their Branco (white), Tinto (red) and the Vinhas Velhas (old vine red). When we visited them we sampled the full range of wines and these are truly extraordinary wines that really proves that it is not necessary to use oak to make fine Portuguese wines. These wines are really nice in the way that they are all great on their own as well as with food.

5. Alvaro Castro, the owner of Quinta da Pellada is ‘The’ winemaker who brought Dão back on the wine-map. Originally a civil engineer he inherited his family’s vineyards in the 1980s and changed profession awakening a family tradition that had been dormant for a generation. Today his daughter Maria is also very much active in the business and she will ensure to carry the family tradition on. Our selection will be featuring wines from the vineyard the family lives on, Quinta de Saes. We will have the Saes Red, The Quinta de Saes Rose (for the summer) and the Encruzado White. They also have several other brands and we hope to expand our cooperation with them in the future as their high-end wines really deserve an audiance and once tasted it is difficult to not just want more of them.

All in all, we are increasing our selection from two excellent wines to 17: nine cavas, five reds, two whites and one rose. Some wines are available in very limited quantities (due to the small production) so orders will be processed in the order they come in.

All in all, I think we have managed to create a good selection. We have a working supply chain, a logo, website and enough samples. What you can really see is that this company has been put together by two procurement professionals, with a high emphasis on the back end of the supply chain, contracts and working partners; and an entertaining lack of focus on sales. So now we are really stepping out of our comfort zone and introducing to the world what we have done. We are hoping that good quality will sell it’s self, and in time our customers will learn to trust our judgement.

However, this will not come free and to give it a push we are arranging an open house tasting next week Saturday in Stockholm to introduce our wines. In case you are interested in joining, then send us a message to info@thewinecurious.com. This will be the best sales period (yet) for our company yet, and I am looking forward to all of the feedback people can give us about our new selection.