Tag Archives: Cava

Valencia Hosts 4th Cava Fair…..Cavas from Requena and Espumantes from Alicante.






D.O.Cava, Spain’s equivalent of Champagne is rather different to it´s French neighbour. Champagne is a region in the North of French and only wines from this area made in the `traditional method´ may be called `Champagne´.

In Spain wines made from the `traditional method´may be called D.O. Cava, the name invented to delineate Spain’s wine from Champagnes after the courts ruled that only wines from Champagne could bear that name. In Spain these wines come from five or so quite specific regions which have proved that they can produce quality Sparkling wine. The best known are Penedes and Catalonia but the town of Requena and its hamlets…….and specifically seven or so bodegas, have the right to make their own Cava.


The Public Enjoy the Event!

The Public Enjoy the Event!


There are other rules which apply such as the permitted grape varieties and the time the wine must remain in contact with the yeasts in the second fermentation.

Essentially the `traditional method´ consists of a primary fermentation, usually in stainless steel deposits but sometimes ( for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ) in barrels. A second fermentation then takes place in the bottle and after this finishes the bottles are laid down in the cellars and allowed to rest either for nine months, up to 18 months ( Reserva) and 24 months ( Gran Reserva). However there are some bodegas who will increase these latter two periods to improve the wines….some for up to 4 years. Effectively although the yeasts die after the second fermentation reasonably quickly they then start to break down, and as they do so they impart proteins into the wine which give better quality cavas and champagnes the buttery, patisserie bouquets and creaminess into the flavour.

Needless to say cheap cavas generally have had the least time in bottle and are often described as green and acidic. The longer the wine has been in the bottle the smaller and more persistent the bubbles will be and the better the wine will taste for a year or two ( Cava does not generally keep much more than a year or two after release unlike Champagne which can improve in bottle for many years.)

Paella is Available Too!

Paella is Available Too!

Requena won the right to make Cava in the early 1980´s and over the last four years have held pre-xmas promotional fairs in Valencia allowing the public to taste local Cava before filling the supermarket trolleys for the festive season! It would also be fair to say Cava from Requena has been gaining in recognition and breaking the hegemony of their Catalan cousins in both quality and awards at wine competitions!

The fair has moved from its original site in the old University building to the Plaça Arbol, in the Carmen district where the XIIIth century cellars of the Islamic period have recently been discovered, preserved and placed on display.

Chozas Carrascal, the family bodega, was my first stop to chat with Maria-José. The cava is a Brut Nature Reserva from 2010, a blend of Chardonnay and Macabeo with 15 months in bottle. The wine is straw yellow in colour, clean , bright with golden flashes and fine ( very small) persistent bubbles. The nose is intense, fruity, floral and with patisserie in the background. Green apples and pears, apricots and perfume. In the mouth fresh, full, a good attack as the bubbles run across the palate, good balance, elegant. This is a cava to enjoy with food ( paella and seafood rice dishes). Widely available in Valencia and even in London now!

With Chozas Carrascal.

With Chozas Carrascal.

Each year before the fair, Els Bodeguers,  independent  wine sellers of Valencia meet to taste the wines and award prizes to their favourite three.

First Prize went this year to Bodega Vinya Natur from Castellon Province. ( Hang on, I hear you say, that is not Requena?) Correct, but the bodega have access to plots of vines in the Requena area and use a third-party bodega who have the right to make cava to elaborate their wine, in this case Torre Oria. This is one of the peculiarities of the rules. Their `Babel´also from the 2010 vintage is a Brut from Macabeo with 12 months in bottle. This is very clean and bright, pale yellow with good crown and persistent bubbles. A floral nose is followed by a good mouthful, fruity and easy to drink. Good for aperitifs this one, should suit all tastes!

Ist Prize. Babel.

Ist Prize. Babel.

Beso de Rechenna is made at UVÉ, the big bodega owned by the Catalan firm Freixenet. It is a trademark name but a very good cava for all that. 80% Macabeo and 20% Chardonnay with 15-18 months in bottle this is a Brut Nature Reserva. Straw yellow with golden flashes, clean , bright and good bubbles. On the nose fragrant, white fruits, apple, pear, with hints of patisserie and citrus fruit. In the mouth a good attack, well-balanced with a slightly bready, yeasty flavour. easy to drink. Good with fish and white meat dishes.

UVÉ also make cavas for several clients outside the D.O. ( that is to say other bodegas). Their trademark cavas sell as Vega Medien and you may well find them in supermarkets or the Xmas hampers that are the prizes in every raffle at this time of year! The wines may be blends of Chardonnay, Macabeo or even the traditional Catalan varieties Xarel-Lo and Parellada which are transported to Requena ( yes, that is allowed under the rules as well!) Vega Medien Ecologico won second prize, for the record. For me the best wine they produce is Lagrima Real, a Millesimé wine ( from a single vintage ) in this case 2008. This is a well crafted wine, the first fermentation is followed by six months contact with the lees before the second fermentation in bottle and a further three years in contact with the yeasts.

Needless to say we are talking about a serious creamy and rich cava. Straw yellow, reflecting its age, with persistent very fine bubbles the nose has strong white fruit flavours, almond and peach stones and lots of patisserie with custard notes. In the mouth very creamy, hints of apricot fruit and a long finish. Very elegant. Not cheap at around 14-15€ a bottle but we are talking a classy wine for eating with meat dishes.

Wines From UVÉ, Lagrima Real, Centre.

Wines From UVÉ, Lagrima Real, Centre.

Next two Rosado Cavas from Pinot Noir. The first is from Dominio de la Vega and a real favourite. Pinot Noir well made produces fresh fruity wine and this is no exception. A deep pink, rose wine with fine bubbles, on the nose fresh, red fruits such as strawberry and red currant. In the mouth, light, fresh, fruity, very good balance, easy to drink with a long finish. Ideal as an aperitif or with seafood paellas. Around 12€ a good buy from El Corte Ingles.

The second is Hispano Suizas Tantum Ergo which has already been named the best cava  Rosado in the world , the highest scoring in the Parker, Penin and Sevi guides. At around 20€ not the cheapest but that reflects its quality and scarcity value. Pale rose in colour, fine persistent bubbles, with a nose consisting of nuts, toasted vanilla and red fruit. In the mouth, very clean, fresh, great attack, creamy with a long fruity finish. 15 months in bottle….just long enough, lovely!

Murviedro produce a wide range of wines, many of them available in British supermarkets as well as here. Last week I reported on their new Corolilla Chardonnay. Luna de Murviedro took third prize at the fair but I went for the Expresion Solidario Cuvee which is also 100% Chardonnay. When it is poured the first thing to strike you is the dense crown of bubbles and then the golden-yellow colour. On the nose it is intense, white flowers and mature white fruit, vanilla and almonds. In the mouth, powerful, creamy, well-balanced and with a long finish. A brut Nature with 15 months in bottle this is another quality wine.

Tantum Ergo Rosado. Hispano Suizas.

Tantum Ergo Rosado.
Hispano Suizas.

Finally in Cava I tasted Toni Arraez´s A2 Brut Reserva. The bodega is in Font de Figueras in DO Valencia but again he has used a qualifying bodega to make his wine….as neighbours Daniel Belda do.

Th wine has 20 months in the bottle, is pale yellow, clean, bright, with good m, fine persistent bubbles. On the nose fragrant white fruits, mature white fruit and plenty of patisserie and citrus notes. In the mouth, good balance, yeasty, bready flavours, full and with a long finish, this is again a wine which accompany many different dishes.

Dominio de la Vega.

Dominio de la Vega.

Finally Bocopa, the Alicante based Coop showed a range of their espumosas, wines which are not Cava and not usually from the traditional method and being much lighter in alcohol at around 7%-10%ABV. Three wines in the Marina range, a Moscatel, a Brut from Macabeo, Chardonnay and Merseguera and a Rosado from Monastrell all impressed as light fresh ,fruity, refreshing, easy drinking aperitifs or just fun wines.

Representation was down with the absence of Vera de Estenas, Belda, Coviñas, Pago de Tharsys , Sybarus from Torroja and Sebiran but there was a superb range of wines to taste and demonstrate the quality of Cava from Valencia. There is much to enjoy and not just for Xmas!


Ruzafa Market, An Oasis of Quality Food in Central Valencia!

Carnes Filo.

I am often asked where you can buy good food from reliable producers, sometimes even specialist growers and butchers. In Valencia there are several places where you can buy gourmet foods without having to visit the supermarkets or pay  El Corte Ingles prices. In the past I have written about Las Añadas de España but this is a specialist store and delicatessan. Many of those asking were about to cater for friends and wanted to know where they could find a good range of meat, fish, fresh vegetables and cheeses, all under one roof.

Now of course the easy answer is to visit the Central market where you can buy just about anything under the sun….the problem is parking nearby is not easy and these days no-one actually wants to carry heavy bags of shopping!

Selection of meat, sausages and hamburgers.

There are however a number of other markets, just as good as that in the centre of the tourist district of the city.

One such is barely a kilometre away in Ruzafa, just a stones throw behind the bull-ring and with its own underground parking which you can even get discounted!

To illustrate the point, this week we hosted a meal, a wedding anniversary celebration, for some friends. So we drove directly into the city and into the car-park at Ruzafa taking the lift to the market hall itself.

This hall holds a wealth of different stalls, many of them generations old, with butchers, grocers, fishmongers, bakers, cheese specialists, jamons and all manner of spices etc allowing you a reasonable choice and and access to the finest of fresh, quality produce.

One example is Carnes Filo, a fifth generation specialist butcher with a philosophy for providing quality at reasonable prices.

Ernesto at his stall.

Ernesto Vilar Puig is the current generation working still with his father at a stall the family have held in Ruzafa for about 50 years, having also a modern premises in Pobla de Valbona, where the bulk of the work and distribution to commercial clients is done. Whilst I talked to Ernesto over a plate of sausages in the market cafe, a steady stream of clients were buying high quality meat. Ernesto explained that they worked directly with farmers and knew the direct provenence of each individual animal. These animals are carefully reared and the meat is drug and chemical free.

The farms are all over Spain ( Laon, Asturias and Galicia ) and some in central Europe which allows in particular for the best beef to selected……not supermarket ternera but  beef which is richly marbled with fine vein fat to ensure the best results when cooking. This is a centre for fine beef and Ernesto stocks two types of Kobe beef one directly imported from Japan and the other kobe `style´. This beef sells for around 2oo pounds a pound  in the UK, here you can buy it for about  180€ a kilo. If you want  rib of beef on the bone for slow roasting in the English manner this is the place to come.

Carnes Filo select the variety of pig, a Duroc, which is a cross between the Iberico and a white pig from Teruel. They also have the young lamb, Cordero Lechal, sobrasada with pumpkin, goat and much, much more including some own brand specialities.

From the Hamburger Selection.

Under a distinctly Germanic looking lable they produce  four würsst style sausages, in fact from top quality meat, which are ideal for barbecuing  and which were full of flavour and had a good texture….unlike the horrible rusk and rice flour varieties offered by many of the supermarkets none of which have seen an animal.

And if you are a burger aficionado then you must beat a path to this butcher immediately. They produce around 130 varieties from different meats, including some exotic varieties such as kudu, venison, wild boar or ostrich, which you can have mixed with herbs, cheese etc, to create your own style. For the record we tried wild boar, ostrich and a pork with cheese which respectively were meaty with a good flavour, delicate with a fine texture and the cheese mix was subtle. They sell around 50kg daily of these burgers!

In future when the town hall gets its act into gear they hope to expand into the next door stall and set up a outlet where you can taste the burgers and sausages before you buy, accompanied by a glass of cava perhaps. Cava do I hear you say?

Over the last eight years, as I have learn´t about Valencian Cava (D.O. Cava)  I have come to appreciate that many are better  to drink with food than as aperitifs. The reasons for this are not difficult to understand but you have to put cava from Valencia……or more correctly from Requena… into its proper context.

Cava Filo….for meat!

Catalan cava is largely made from Parellada and Xarel-Lo, grapes which to my mind tend towards acidic wines than those  wines from Chardonnay. By contrast good Cava from Requena is almost exclusively Chardonnay and Macabeo, grapes which whilst complementing each other well also have other properties.

These properties are enhanced by a determination amongst almost all Requenense Cava makers to produce wines with some age, long contact with the lees and a balance which complements food rather than simply producing a cheap , sparkling wine for quaffing.

But a Cava to go with meat, especially quality beef?

The wine of course is not made around the centre of Valencia even if that is where the market is! The wine is made in Requena, by UVE, the cava bodega set up specifically when Requena won the famous court case challenging the then hegemony of Cataluña.

The grapes are all from parcels in the Requena area. The deposits at UVE contain wines from many different parcels, of different ages and when Ernesto met with winemaker Pepe Hidalgo and discussed the project, it did not take long to commence a process which started with a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Macabeo with around 15 months on the lees which led to the first wine. In fact , over several tastings, this blend changed and the first wine to wear the Filo label is a blend of 50% each of Chardonnay and Macabeo,  but still with 15 months ageing.

At its recent launch , Cava Filo was received with acclamation from the invited guests and I can confirm that it goes very well with Kobe beef!

More info from facebook, carnes filo.

Solo Queso.

Another specialist stall is Solo Queso, brainchild of  a Frenchman , Bertrand,  who imports cheese from across Spain. He has a wide range of goat cheeses as well as sheep and cows milk varieties, some creamy, some harder and some aged giving the purchaser a hard choice. We picked a Peral sheeps cheese from Vallodolid and a Blau de L´Avixton, a goats cheese from Lleida. Both were creamy and relatively mild, an excellent choice for the end of a meal! More information from facebook Bertrand SoloQueso.

There is much more to Ruzafa than space allows time for and the market will remain a quieter and effective alternative for catering for special occasions!

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