Hello friends. It used to be that if you were willing to tiptoe through a sea of forgettable plonk you could find an incredible source of value in Cava. Though time consuming, that was never a deterrent for us. We have always been willing to kiss as many frogs as it takes to find a prince. However, as of late, the minefield of forgettable plonk has become more and more memorable. We’re seeing vintage Cava from century-old vineyards; up-and-coming Spanish producers making thoughtful, terroir driven juice; champenoise method sparkling that spends years en tirage for a fraction of the cost of contemporaries in other countries.
Today, we have three exceptional examples:
NV Torre Oria Cava Brut
The key to finding a great bottle of inexpensive sparkling is to search for the sweet spot right in between price and palate. I am always on the hunt for sparkling wine that is tasty enough to drink on its own, yet cheap enough to not feel bad about opening or mixing into a delicious sparkling cocktail. Torre Oria Cava Brut fits the bill—and has had a permanent place in the Full Pull warehouse for some time now. Long time list members might remember that this sparkling wine is one of our former FP team member Matt Tessler’s enduring legacies. We have list members who literally buy whatever we have in stock every time they come into our warehouse—and with good reason. This is a ridiculous value for sparkling wine.
The winery, Torre Oria, was founded in 1897 in Utiel-Requena DOC, just east of Valencia. It occupies this wonderful transition zone between the Mediterranean climate of the coast and the continental climate of Central Spain. Using sustainable methods and dry farming for all of their vineyards, Torre Oria is known for exceptionally high value and exceptionally low prices. Made from 100% Macabeo grapes, this wine clocks in at a light and lovely 12% alcohol. It opens with leesy and floral subtleties and continues with a core of creamy apricot fruit, lemon zest, and malty notes. The palate is marked by bright scrubbin’ bubbles. From fish and chips to decadent triple-crème cheese, this is a food friendly sparkler to pair with just about anything. Terrific intensity for the tariff, delicious on its own, and a fine choice for a festive sparkling-wine cocktail (a Negroni Sbagliato or French 75, perhaps?).
2016 Pere Mata Cupada Rose Cava Brut Nature Reserva
The 2015 vintage of this wine was one of our favorite sparkling finds last year. This is the newest vintage, which comes with an even better price tag than the 2015 at $17.99.
Thomas Calder has long been a reference-point export agent for French wines (see this Spectator article to learn about what that means), and now seems to be edging into Spain. As usual, he knocks it out of the park in terms of QPR, bringing over a vintage-dated, Brut Nature Cava Reserva. And even better yet—it’s pink. It’s sourced entirely from estate vineyards on calcareous-clay soils in the heart of Penedès, and blends the three usual suspects in Cava (Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel-lo) with Monastrell for color. After 30 months lees-ageing, it is disgorged with zero dosage. Listed alc is 11.5%, this pours pale pink into the glass, and it begins with a glorious nose of strawberry fruit complicated by yeasty bread, green grass, and rose petals. The palate is nervy as can be—softened only by touches of strawberries and cream. The bubbles cascade; the finish makes your mouth water; it all begs for the next sip or—better yet—next bite of food. I’d suggest these crispy pork chops with buttered radishes from the New York Times.
2014 Alta Alella Cava Privat Laieta Brut Nature Gran Reserva
Alella is the closest appellation to the city of Barcelona. Located just steps outside the city, the history of this wine-producing region goes back to 3rd century BC and Roman rule. Josep Maria Pujol-Busquets and Cristina Guillén, the proprietors of Alta Alella, began growing grapes in 1991, and their vineyards are now 100% organic. The Privat label is their premium line.
First thing’s first: the bottle shape is excellent. It is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Xarello (locally known as Pansa Blanca) and is labeled Gran Reserva, which means a minimum of three years on the lees. Alta Alella more than meets these expectations, disgorging to order to ensure freshness in their bottles. This particular shipment was disgorged in August 2018. It clocks in with 12% alcohol and sees no dosage. Purity is the name of the game here—the nose is focused and bright with lemon, pear, nectarine, stoney minerals, and just a subtle touch of leesy goodness. The palate is ultra dry and carries on the theme of purity with a mirrored profile full of citrus, orchard fruit, and an intense minerality. It’s downright elegant with leesy weight and exuberant bubbles.
Wine & Spirits Magazine: “[TEXT WITHHELD]”
Wine Enthusiast (Michael Schachner): “[TEXT WITHHELD]”