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!

Wine Review: Vilarnau Xarel.lo Castanyer Reserva Brut Nature Cava

During our last trip to Barcelona, we visited Caves de Vilarnau, an interesting sparkling wine producer in the capital of cava, Sant Sadurni (read about visit here). Vilarnau had been on our minds since the last Cavatast and we wanted to sample the full selection. As we toured the cellars our friends at Vilarnau told us about their new products and experiments, one of them being a 100% Xarel.lo wine aged in traditional chestnut barrels. They explained that that chestnut was the way wine was aged in the old days in Catalonia. That already sounded delicious, so my curiosity was on a high, not to mention that the bottle looked inviting to the eye. I think our friends at Vilarnau could see my excitement as we received a bottle as a gift before we departed from the cellar.

Beautiful design of the bottle
Beautiful design of the bottle
Light golden color
Light golden color

Last week we finally popped open the bottle of the Vilarnau Castanyer and yes it was indeed delicious. More like a white wine with bubbles, it had charisma and a light chestnut flavor. The nose had some tropical and balsamic notes with a hint of chamomile and custard (even the idea of soft cheese in the scent was thrown around). Creamy and soft on the palate yet fresh. This cava is a beautiful pairing with some traditional Catalonian foods, tomato bread, grilled vegetables and cheeses.

This cava is something different. The bottle and the design of the label are beautiful, and the light golden color of the cava fits that really well. I would love to see this wine in our selection (perhaps I someday will). All in all I give it a 4 in quality. Value for money it is difficult to say as it is only sold through Vilarnau’s own sales channel for 14.50 €. I would gladly pay this price and perhaps even more to have it available here in Sweden.

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.

Visiting the Vineyards of Vilarnau

A few months back (more like four) I posted a wine review of Vilarnau Grand Reserva 2010. At that time the producer was just a name amongst others, however, with a style of wine that I am very fond of (chalky, minerally with hints of fruit). Then I was complementary of the Cava, but I knew nothing about its maker. After the review was published, Vilarnau contacted me and invited us to visit their vineyards if we were ever in the area. Well, of course we took the chance as soon as we could and cruised to the estate of Vilarnau on our most recent visit toBarcelona.

The Vilarnau bodega stands out from the local style. Or better said, it does not stand out too much! Vilarnau has constructed their site to blend in with the surrounding vines and nature. There is a modern or perhaps even Scandinavian style about the building with its straight lines and wooden exterior. Pine trees are growing in the yard, its almost like coming home to Finland (but just much warmer). I felt very comfortable when stepping in the doors. The Bodega as well as some of the bottles are designed by Antoni Miro.

The Bodega
The Bodega
Water reserves
Water reserves
Pine trees around the vineyard
Pine trees around the vineyard

We were greeted by Georgina, who was in charge of showing us around and telling us about the production. She walked us through the vineyards and told us about the organic methods used at Vilarnau. They are perhaps not certified as organic, but you could have fooled me. Many precautions were taken to make sure to avoid use of pesticides, water was circulated from soil and rain and extra irrigation was provided only to the grape varietals that were not indigenous to the region (like Chardonnay) and needed it. The soil is clay and limestone which ventilates water well without leaving the ground soggy after heavy rains. A large part of the grapes come from Vilarnaus own vineyards, where they tend to them with care, focusing on quality, not highest possible yield. The house of Vilarnau being very popular, are however in the situation where their own grapes are not enough so they also buy from some well selected local growers.

After the tour, it was time for the tasting and there we were joined by Damià, one of the head winemakers. All together we tasted six different wines

In tasting order:

  • Vilarnau Cava Brut Nature Vintage
  • Vilarnau Cava Gran Reserva Vintage 2010
  • Vilarnau Cava Brut Reserva
  • Vilarnau Cava Coupage Prive Reserva Brut Nature(100% Subirat Parent)
  • Vilarnau Cava Rose Brut Reserva (for the domestic market)
  • Vilarnau Cava Rose Brut Reserva (for the international market)
  • Vilarnau Xarel.lo white (white wine)
All the wines we tasted
All the wines we tasted
Lights snacks with wine
Lights snacks with wine
Good quality corks
Good quality corks

I will review the wines individually in later posts, but there are a few I would like to mention already now. I general the Vilarnau selection is very fresh, dry and with flavors of peach, apricot and minerals (from the clay and limestone soil). The longer the ageing the nuttier the aromas get with hints of brioche and butter. Very well made, traditional Cavas! What stands out is the Coupage Prive made from 100% Subirat Parent. This is a grape variety that is indigenous to the are surrounding the town of Subirat. It is unfortunately quite susceptive to disease, so a risky grape for growers. So naturally it is not that popular. But oh my the result, it is worth the risk! The scent of this wine is of tropical fruit, pineapple and mango; but the taste is fresh and dry. It is very different from the other Cavas.

Another interesting feature about our tasting was that we tried out two versions of the “same” Vilarnau Rose Cava. The difference between these wines was the time that the grape juice has spent with the peel of the grape. If you look at the pictures, the difference is quite outstanding just by adding a few hours to the process. Vilarnau explained that the lighter version was for the international market, as the darker red is associated with sweeter tastes (although it was not sweet at all). In Spain however the darker Cava is more popular, as it is how Rosé is “supposed” to look like. There was no difference in the sweetness of the wines, but you could taste the difference created by the extra 4-6 hours with the peels. For me, the lighter Rose tasted very much like a “white” Cava, with the main distinction being the light pink color (very pretty). This would be a perfect aperitif on a hot summer day. The darker Rose had a hint of more body  and I could imagine it pairing well with food, some barbeque for example.

We also tasted an interesting white wine made from 100% xarello that had been aged in chestnut barrels. Very different white with some tropical aromas (mango) and flowers combined with a hint of chestnut. Very pleasant indeed! I cannot wait to taste the Cava made out of the same wine (Yes, there is a Cava!).

Coupage Prive 100% Subirat Parent
Coupage Prive 100% Subirat Parent
The Roses
The Roses
Me, M and Damià
Me, M and Damià

All in all we had an absolutely wonderful day at Vilarnau. The vineyard is beautiful, the Cavas are tasty and the people lovely! They have a shop and they arrange nice tours around the vineyards, so I warmly recommend giving Vilarnau a visit if you are in the area. We will for sure keep in touch with our new friends, and we hope to score some of the more special Cavas into our selection some day.