From the Editor: While wine might not be something we spend too much time on around here, we know that every drink on your shelf deserves attention. Bevvy contributor Stu Lee has put together this beginner’s guide to Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine that offers some excellent bottles for the reveler on a budget. Pour yourself a flute or mix it up in a Champagne Cocktail or a Death in the Afternoon—either way, you won’t be breaking the bank.
We’ve all fallen into the trap of thinking that a bottle of bubbles should cost at least $35 or it’s, well… crap (delivered with a pretentious, fake French accent). But this couldn’t be further from the truth—some of the best sparkling wines start at under $10 a bottle.
If you haven’t already had the pleasure, let me introduce you to Cava. It’s a champagne with a rich tradition (well, technically a sparkling wine with a rich tradition, but I’ll try not to get hung up on the terminology) that has only recently become a topic of international conversation. The vast majority of Cava is produced in Catalonia, Spain. Even though it isn’t made in Champagne, France, it follows the same process, known in Spain as the Metodo Tradicional or Traditional Method.
The name Cava means “cave”, which is where it was aged and preserved in the early days of it’s production, and it comes in all the same varietals as other sparkling wines. What makes a bottle of Cava easier on the wallet than comparable bubbles from anywhere else? The process is refined, and the land and labor are much cheaper than in Champagne or the Napa Valley.
Below is a handy list of bottles that will get you started on your quest for quality Cava on a budget. You may even find that a small collection will begin to carve out a permanent spot in your fridge. Remember that it’s okay to drink bubbles on days that you might otherwise grab a sauv blanc or an IPA—you certainly can’t go wrong (or broke) with these beauties.
Segura Viudas Brut – $7.49 – The overwhelming favorite, not only because of the price, but because of the way it goes down. It’s simple with its citrus, fruit (a hint of pineapple), and mild floral notes. It really finishes smooth, practically disappearing after each sip and reappearing with the next…and then it’s gone again. You get where this is going.
Canals and Nubiola Brut – $8.02 – Definitely the runner-up. Dry and fruity (featuring apple notes) with an effervescent finish that clears the palate and sets it up for more. A great beginning, middle, and end to any evening.
Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut – $9.99 – Notable pear notes and a crisp finish, this is another winner that goes down without a bite.
Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry – $9.99 – Simultaneously sweet and a bit spicy, this is a bottle that is both delicate and round, meaning its flavor is balanced, understated, and clean.
Cristalino Brut Rose– $9.49 – This one is a bit more earthy, with fruit notes like strawberry. It makes for a clean, refreshing crowd-pleaser every time.
Whether you’re looking for some bubbles to toast a grad (‘tis the season), ring in the new year, or whip up a cocktail, all of the above are excellent choices. Cava makes an impression no matter the occasion, and allows the home mixologist to play around a bit without having to resort to cheap swill or risk ruining an expensive Champagne.
Try a classic Mimosa or French 75 at brunch, crack open your favorite stout to make a Black Velvet, experiment with honey and rum in an Air Mail, or mix yourself a Death in the Afternoon and enjoy it the Heming-way. Your wallet will thank you, if not your liver.