Say ‘salud’ to this trio of sparkling Cava wines from Catalonia

Ahead of ‘Cava Discovery Week’, which runs from November 25 to December 4, Times Drinks Editor James Viner raises a glass to celebrate Spain’s most extraordinary sparkling wine…


In 1972 Cava became enshrined in Spanish law as a protected appellation for fizzy wines made by the method where the secondary fermentation (which creates the bubbles) takes place in the individual bottle – the method used for nearly all of the planet’s finest sparklers.

Traditionally, the wines were made from three homegrown varieties: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, which are just as interesting as Champagne’s trio of three signature grapes. Unlike Champagne, however, Cava (which translates literally as ‘cellar’) is not an actual place but rather a wine style. It’s a speciality of the Penedès region of Catalonia in north-east Spain and centred on the town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.

Cava can be made in several Spanish regions and is extremely important in export markets. Indeed, nearly three-quarters of the D.O.’s total sales are international. Other significant areas allowed to make Cava include Navarra, Rioja and Valencia.  In 2021 over 250 million bottles of Cava were sold, a colossal figure (Champagne’s sales were 322 million).

My selection of three characterful Cavas below has been made with value in mind. There are lots of great examples – including Freixenet’s top range, Gramona and Recaredo – but I’d avoid the industrial, cheap party pop under £10 that is always on discount.

This virtuous Catalan trio showcases different styles and embraces a pink wine and a food-friendly, bone-dry, ‘Gran Reserva’ vintage Cava. Two out of the three have organic certification as well. Serve, ideally in a tulip glass, between 8-10°C.


1)  Must-try, super-fruity pink, organic, vegan-approved Cava

Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rosé Delicat Organic (£11.95-£12, Soho Wine, Ocado, Cheers Wine Merchant; alc 12%)

In 2021 rosé Cava experienced a striking growth of nearly 30%, showing consumers’ continued interest in pink wine. Given the price, this well-composed, finely-tuned organic rendition is far more appetizing and elegant than might be expected (it’s only a little over £10 after all) and would be so easy to love as an aperitif! Red cherry, blueberry, wild raspberry, floral, earthy, herbal (bay leaf) and white pepper scents are welcoming, fresh and vital. The palate is supple and offers a tangy cranberry acid crunch. Surprisingly long, unwavering finish too. Bring on the shellfish paella!

It’s a sassy bargain rosé Cava, with intensely rich, red and black fruits that will woo one and all. The lively acidity and energetic mousse guide this colourful pink wine to a resounding finish. Such an enchanting package (check out the Gaudi sleeve)! Plenty of flavour with terrific balance. 85% Garnacha and 15% Pinot Noir. Suitable for vegans. The Champagne Company is selling this dandy, delectable Cava in a gorgeous gift set for £20 at ¡Viva España!


2)  Seek this one out, it’s a brand new, extremely estimable, wine to the emerging premium UK Cava market

Cune Cava Brut NV (£12.99 mix six, Majestic; alc 11.5%)

What a find! This is an admirably energetic, truly refreshing, beautifully put together, dry Cava that’s easy to love. It feels suitably cheerful and celebratory for this festive season and is a welcome brand-new addition to the UK’s premium Cava scene. It’s made by CUNE (pronounced ‘coo-nee’) – one of Rioja’s great names and has a strong textural element, remarkably lively acidity, a long finish and a modicum of complexity to boot. Lovely drinking and fuller-bodied than many. I applaud the wine buyer who jostled to get this classy vinous Cava that ticks all the boxes on Majestic’s autumn list. Seek it out on your next mix-six purchase and try it with tapas. A real find!


3)  Bone-dry, food-friendly vintage ‘Gran Reserva’ organic Cava from loamy, calcareous clay soils

Juvé & Camps, Singular Gran Reserva Brut Nature Xarel-lo 2016 (£15.83-£21, The Fine Wine Company and Harvey Nichols; alc 12%)

Juvé & Camps owns 271 hectares of 100% organic vineyards and specialises in well-aged varietal wines. Their sparkling vinous output is irreproachable and like many quality Cava producers, the focus is on drier, gastronomic styles. This is a fascinating ‘Gran Reserva’ Cava that showcases 100% local Xarel-lo (aka Pansa Blanca), a fine and distinctive Catalonian white grape variety producing still and sparkling wines with considerable body, some tannin and medium-plus acidity. It’s bone dry and has a distinct greengage, apple, herbal and earthy flavour, a silky mouthfeel, a little tannic grip, plus a suggestion of brioche. Drink now or over the next couple of years. Really appetising but firm enough to be drunk with light dishes: I’m thinking rice, salmon or tuna. Serious texture – thanks to lees ageing – and quite a deep colour, without being too cerebral. Serve this one around 10°C. Delicious drinking!

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