Wine Review: Cava Gramona Imperia Brut Gran Reserva

Gramona was one of the first specialty cavas that came my way a good three years ago when we were starting our business. Llagrima s’Or is obviously the first (and my favorite) but the Gramona came soon after. Since that time I have of course discovered many more, but Gramona is one of the cavas that have made it big outside the borders of Spain. And it is one of the only artisan cavas found in the Monopoly standard selection. The price is a bit on the high side though (compared to Spain). But it is a savior if you are in quick need of a good bottle.  Continue reading “Wine Review: Cava Gramona Imperia Brut Gran Reserva”

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. 

Crazy about José

Today I have a special treat for you, a review of one of my favorite restaurants in London. I know I have many favorites, but José is a bit like Matkonsulatet in Stockholm, a place with many fond memories. We used to hang out at this place almost every week. It is actually one of the first places M took me out on a date. What a way to steal a girls heart, offer her some iberico pork and get her drunk on Cava. We are now married, so what else can I say than that it worked.

José is the small and simple cava and tapas bar from José Pizaro who also runs a more upscale (still rather casual) restaurant called Pizarro down the road on Bermondsey Street. He was also before opening these places head chef at Tapas Brindisa. It is almost always crowded but people do not tend sit for long so often the wait is not that bad. Even if you cannot get a table immediately you can stand around and drink a glass of sparkling. The wait goes much faster with a drink in your hand.

There are usually three or four good sparklings (Cavas) by the glass. Currently they serve the Gramona Allegro Brut Reserva and Mas Macià Brut Rose. The wines are decently priced but perhaps not cheap, around £5-7 per glass and £30-40 per bottle (the on-going gentrification of Bermondsey Street has meant that prices are moving up). There are also nine different whites, three rosados and twelve reds by the glass. Food is excellent! The menu is not fixed, it is written on two black boards behind the bar and as things run out they are crossed off. However a few things can almost always be found there: some excellent Spanish cheeses as well as Jamon Iberico and chorizo. The Patatas Bravas, Pan con Tomate and Padron peppers are also some of my usual choices. My favorite is however, without a doubt, the flavorful Pluma Iberico (or when that is not on the menu the Secreto Iberico). Mmm, I would almost kill for that dish. All in all, I dont think I have ever been disappointed with a ny dish at Josè’s.

Service is always friendly and considering that it is always packed things move along smoothly. I also do like the fact that they do not automatically include service on the bill – i am not a bad tipper, but I want to make the choice myself. A tip should be an incentive to provide extra good service, not a part of the normal salary. Thats just my opinion and I wish more places would do that.

After years of testing the quality of food at both José and Pizarro I can conclude that the food is excellent. I think it’s partly due to good quality produce, but also the skill of the chefs. It requires a special talent making simple dishes well. An important element for me is also the no-fuss quality wine list. They rotate the wines now and then so often I find new things to try. José Pizarro is also opening a third place in London this April that I cannot wait to try out the next time I am in London.