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”
The reason I am posting today as opposed to my usual time on Wednesday is very simple. I was just too busy. Too busy introducing the newest member of the Winecurious family, Torelló, to some of our best clients. This deal has been cooking for a while. We have been in discussions with Torello for almost half a year, and finally all of our efforts have been rewarded. Our first shipment of Torelló wines will leave Spain next week. Continue reading “Say Welcome to Torelló!”
When I started this blog, it was very much just for me. It still is, but it has also brought me some great opportunities to meet new people. In the beginning of the summer I was contacted by Raidel. He is a fellow cavalover and has been actively marketing cava as a premium bubbly in the UK. We agreed to meet at Cavatast, and Raidel also introduced us to a new cava acquaintance, Torelló. We had tasted one fo the Torelló cavas before, their 225 (lightly oaked) gran reserva at Jason Athertons Esquina all the way in Singapore. If you followed this blog when we were in Asia last winter, you might have noticed that we were very deprived of good bubbly, so a glass of the 225 at that moment felt like a gift from God. So we were very excited to receive an invite to the Torelló family estate on the week following cavatast. This producer had made an impression, and we were very curious to find out more.
We were welcomed to the estate by Rosó, the new Export manager for Torelló cava. Born in Sant Sadurni, Rosó has long experience working with the “Champagne of Spain” (eg at the Institut del Cava). She gave us a quick tour of the facilities and an overview of the Can Martí estate that is not only the winery but also partially the family home. The Torellós have an impressive history dating back to the 13 hundreds. The day continued with a tour at the Torelló cellars. Tony Torelló, who is not only a Director at Torelló cava but also the president of the Confraria del Cava (the brotherhood of cava), explained the production process and the philosophy of the house. The emphasis is clearly on premium cava. A good product will sell its self. Torelló has high emphasis on the care given to the land and vines: grooming and picking by hand. Thus Torelló is one of the few houses that use only their own grapes. I have gone through quite many tours of cava production, but the part that stood out most for me was how the coupage (blend) was made. Perhaps you cannot call it a coupage at all. All the grapes going to the cava are pressed together, kind of like what one would do with a field blend. So all the varietals are in together already from the first fermentation. Torelló has also invested in the technology for soft pressing and uses mainly the free run juice in its production. The emphasis was in using verietals indigenous to Penedes. The use of Chardonnay was low in the selection.
After the tour we were treated to a nice Catalan lunch: traditional Catalan tomato bread, cold cuts, cheese and omelette as well as a warm dish of pork fillet (so good). We also sampled “a few” of the Torello cavas to get a good taste for the selection. We started off with the entry level selection: the light Pal.lìd Rose Brut Reserva and the Torello Brut Reserva. It was a hot day, so the cold cava was more than welcome. There was also some white wine available in the ice bucket, but I was so consumed by the food that I forgot about it (silly me). We also sampled some of the more premium products: the Grand Torelló Brut Nature Gran Reserva, the 225 Brut Nature Gran Reserva (aged in barrel), the Rose Brut Reserva and the Soto Special Edition Brut Gran Reserva (with chardonnay). We also sampled the Raimonda red wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It was lighter than expected, so very refreshing in the hot weather. All in all the wines were excellent, however the 225 remains my favorite even though I am seldom a fan of oak.
The day ended with coffees and an interesting discussion on how cava is perceived in each market (there were representatives from UK, Denmark and Germany) and how cava could be promoted for people to understand its full potential. A very interesting discussion with like-minded cavalovers and experts n their own country.
I must say we were very impressed by the quality of Torelló cavas in general. It is definitely something we could imagine having in our selection some day. Right now it seems like there is a distributor already for Sweden, but lets see, you never know what happens. We will most definitely keep an eye on the house. Even if we cannot distribute the Torelló cavas at the moment, we can most definitely drink them. A great big thank you to Raidel, who introduced us to Torelló. And of course to our new friends Rosó and Tony, who arranged this great day and introduction to the estate. We feel blessed that we were treated to such a lovely visit!
If you wish to visit the estate, Torelló opens their winery for guests once a month. You can check the dates and instructions on www.torello.com.
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.
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!
This year, I have decided to start the marketing early. Cavatast, my favorite wine event of the year, is closing in on the first week of October (1.-4.10.2015), and Team Sweden (as we call ourselves) is heading to Sant Sadurni d’Anoia to enjoy the festivities. It might seem that October is very far away, but hey, booking flights and hotels must be done early. To be honest, I think it feels so far away just because we want to live in the moment and enjoy the summer (no one wants to think about the fall), but it is just two and a half months time left (!!).
So what happens in Cavatast? It is an exhibition and festival for all of the cava producers in the village of Sant Sadurni, capital of cava and home to 95% of cava production in the world. The festival is a joyous event with locals and wine tourists alike enjoying the late fall sun and cool and dry cava. People bring their families and hangout at the tables set out on the streets. Everyone does not take part as exhibitors, but I think the whole village comes together for these four days of celebration for the local bubbly. There are around 30-40 large and small Cava houses set up in small tents introducing and sampling their products.
The way it works is that you buy tickets both for food and wine and walk around trying the products you want. The entry level cavas go for one ticket (value 1.5€) and the prestige ones from two to four, depending on the house. If you get peckish you can grab a plate of charcuterie, cheese or some yummy street food. There are also free lectures on cava and the Cavatast shop, where you can pick up the displayed wines for very reasonable prices (I think we dragged over ten bottles back last year). All in all it is a really fun event.
The only thing I would change is that the tickets are always for full glasses of cava. As we are there mainly to “work”, I would appreciate being able to buy half or even quarter of glasses (otherwise I will either throw the rest away or get too drunk). We have solved this by going with a larger group and then sharing glasses. If you are jut tasting, 3-5 people sharing one glass is perfect. This works out, but I would still like to be able to sample the really good stuff for less tickets.
We will be heading to the event on Saturday the 3rd of October with a small group of our friends and customers. Anyone interested are very welcome to join us (just send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org). We will be visiting our current producers as well as mingling with some potential new ones, and trying out a lot of cava of course. Last year, our friends at Peret-Fuster wines also arranged a barbecue to feed the hungry tasters after the event. I hope that they have something similar in mind for 2015.
So drop down your beach towels and start browsing for flights and hotels, Cavatst 2015 is coming!
Being a wine merchant, you seldom drink your own wines. You take a sip in tastings to make sure the wine you are serving is ok, but you do not open a bottle that often to relax. It’s a bit silly, as the wines in our selection are some of the best I know. Perhaps it is just the continuous thirst for new things that seduces me to open something different every time. Last Friday we stayed firm and cooled down several options from our own lot and the one that called out to me most was the fresh and pearly, Rimarts Chardonnay.
I have written to you about Rimarts before (story here). The cava house is owned by two brothers and they do everything by hand. Rimart’s produces true artisanal cavas. They source their grapes from trusted growers and handle the rest of the process by themselves (with a little bit of help from their mother). Bottles are aged to their peak and disgorged (re-corked) upon order. The Rimart’s cavas are perfect to drink now and require no additional maturation. The Reserva Especial Chardonnay has been aged for minimum 40 months and is a Brut Nature with less than 2g/k residual sugar.
Chardonnay is not an indigenous grape to Penedes. It has however become more popular recently with the growth of specialty cava as a premium drink. Chardonnay is a grape often used in the production of champagne, so it’s reputation has made it an attractive option for adding as an ingredient also in cava. Chardonnay, when aged properly, gives sparkling wine some of those brioche and nutty flavors that is one of my favorite characteristics in a good bubbly.
The Rimarts Chardonnay has a fresh nose with some citrus, green apple and baked bread. The taste is bone dry with light acidity and mineral freshness. After some time and air the wine gains some body and the yeast and brioche flavors take over. It is almost worth the price of some bubbles waiting for the wine to breathe. This is a wonderful cava and it resembles more champagne in the taste than other sparkling wines. I would recommend pairing it with some lightly salted snacks, charcuterie or hard cheeses (parmesan, comte or gryuere).
All in all, I give the Reserva Especial Chardonnay a 4 in pure quality and a 4.5 in value for money (242 SEK per bottle/ 1450 SEK per box), from our webshop of course. Our customers seem to agree with me as we actually sold out of this wine immediately when we received a shipment in May. It is a real star in our collection and a given favorite for years to come. Thank you Ricard and Ernest for making such a wonderful wine!
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.
On one of our recent trips to Sant Sadurni d’Anoia we finally managed to visit Rimarts. We have been very fond of this producer of cava for a long time and we are of course ecstatic to be able to add them to selection of wines that we are now making available to our customers in the Nordic countries (see here for our current range).
Rimarts is a family operation to the core with the two brothers Ernest and Ricard running the business that their father Ricard Martínez de Simón started. The business is also named after him. The idea for the founder was to produce high quality cavas using true craftsmanship. Father Ricard was convinced that it is vital to control every step of the production process and that the best way of doing that, and ensuring a high quality, is to do as much as possible by hand. Most of the equipment used today is the same as it was when the business started so it is a really nice experience to tour through the small facilities.
Ernest showed us around the full production and even showed us how to disgorge and cork (remove the temporary cap and put in the natural cork) a bottle by hand. It is a pretty impressive process and I am sure that I would not be able to do it as nicely as Ernest. He reveals that there is however a lot of practice behind his talent. Ernest explained that when he and Ricard were kids they were always upset that they had to help with the production and were not allowed to be out and play as much as they wanted. Today they (and we) are happy that they were made to practice as much as it enables them to produce this great cava. Today Ernest and Ricard are the ones mostly involved in the business but their mother and their single employee also helps when it is time to disgorge and bottle. Just imagine, your bottle of Rimarts being stacked, turned and corked by hand. This process is done upon order.
Here is a short video about Rimarts that also shows a bit about how the productions is done:
The philosophy behind production is the same today as when they started production in 1987. They want to satisfy the most demanding palates around the world. Rimarts strive to respect natural processes, and they have an ecological approach to the production. They also apply a lot of patience in the production and rather age cava a bit longer to improve the taste and provide maximum expression. The cava is ready when it is ready.
As Ernest told us, the passion for the land and the fruit combined with their knowledge of the craft of making cava is what goes into each bottle. They are however not strangers to innovation as for example the Rosae cava shows. It is a most unusual cava that has a bit of smokey flavor – it is like nothing I have tasted before, developed together with a Michelin-starred chef. Interesting and great with some jamon or perhaps even with smoked fish. We have sampled the full range of cava and from their entry level (the Rimarts Reserva 18) up to the most premium one (the Uvae) they are all fantastic wines.
It is hard for me to pick a favorite as I think these are all good cavas but the Rimarts Gran Reserva 40 is perhaps my (and S’s) favorite one. It has bright gold color with very fine, persistent bubbles. Aromas of ripened fruit, notes of ageing, toasted nuts mix with hings of yeast and brioche. Perfectly balanced with a long and pleasant finish. For me it also show cases why cava is a perfect match with lots of food and also shows that the best cavas can compete with almost all other sparkling wines around the world. I will happily have a Rimarts cava for any occasion..
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.
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.