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Tag Archives: Cava

Winebits 362: Wine sales, Cava, imported wine

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u.s. wine salesMore wine: We’re continuing to drink more wine than ever in the U.S., up about 1 million cases in 2014 over the previous year, reports Shanken News Daily. The percentage increase isn’t much, just 0.3 percent. But that there is growth, despite the after-effects of the recession, shows that wine may have finally established itself in this country as something more than a niche product. As the Shanken story notes, “consumption has increased nearly 80 percent over the past two decades,” and per capita consumption has finally risen past its 1970s levels. 

Bring on the sparkling: Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, has long been a Wine Curmudgeon favorite, but it faces intense competition from Prosecco, the similarly-priced bubbly from Italy. The latter is typically sweeter and fruitier, and the Italians have parlayed that into double-digit growth over the past several years. Freixenet, the biggest Spanish producer and the top imported sparkling in the U.S., saw sales fall four percent last year. Why does that matter? Because exports account for around two-thirds of global Cava sales. Hence concerns that competing with Prosecco on price alone could lead to what happened with Australian shiraz and Argentine malbec — lots of cheap wine of varying quality. I’m not sure that Freixenet’s plan to add more expensive wines to differentiate itself from Prosecco is any better, given that Cava quality is so good at $10 and $15 there is little reason to trade up.

Bring on the imports: How global has the the U.S. wine consumer become? Imports account for about one-third of the wine we drink, and that figure is expected to increase over the next two decades to as much as 45 percent. In the first half of 2014, though, we drank less imported wine than in the previous year (but the dollar value of the wine we drank increased by five percent). The biggest winner in those six months was New Zealand; the biggest loser was Australia. Sales from Italy and France, the top two exporters to the U.S. were mostly flat, though the dollar amount of what they did sell increased eight and six percent.

Wine of the week: Castillo Perelada Brut Reserva NV

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Castillo Perelada Brut ReservaNothing illustrates the revolution in cheap wine better than cava, the Spanish sparkling wine. When I started writing about cheap wine in the early 1990s, cava was almost unknown in the U.S., and the only cava for sale, even at many specialty retailers, was the Freixent black bottle.

Today, though, cava is everywhere, and it’s not unusual to see a half dozen labels at a grocery store. And why not? As the Perelada ($9, purchased, 11.5%) demonstrates, cava may be the best wine value in Spain, and Spain may offer the best wine value in the world. That’s a combination that’s difficult to pass up, especially during the blog’s birthday week.

The Perelada fits between Cristalino and Segura Viudas in style — not as simple as the former, but with its crispness, and more balanced than the latter, but with quality apple and lemon fruit. The bubbles, small and tight, are rarely found in sparking wine that is this inexpensive. And, though simple, it’s not stupid and isn’t as showy as the otherwise delicious Dibon.

Highly recommended, and maybe the best $10 cava I’ve tasted yet — impossibly well done for the price. Will join the Cristalino, Segura, and Dibon in the $10 Hall of Fame in January. Buy this for Thanksgiving, but make sure you buy enough, because everyone will want a taste.

Wine of the week: Campo Viejo Brut Reserva NV

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Campo Viejo brut reservaThe Wine Curmudgeon is always ready to recommend sparkling wine, and even more ready to recommend it given the  United States’ 238th birthday this week. So why not mark July 4 with Campo Viejo Brut Reserva NV ($10, purchased, 11.5%), a Spanish cava that combines quality, value, and a history lesson?

That’s because Spain played an important role in the U.S. victory in the War of Independence, declaring war on Great Britain and providing money and supplies for George Washington’s army. Campo Viejo, meanwhile, is a well-known Spanish producer in Rioja, whose wines offer an introduction to Spanish tempranillo at a fair price. The cava, though not what the producer is best known for, is a solid offering somewhere between Cristalino and Segura Viudas.

That means the Camp Viejo has more sweetness than the Cristalino, but not so much as to be sweet. It’s not as polished as the Seguras, but still provides lots of apple fruit and maybe even some peach, as well as some very impressive bubbles. The best way to know this is a wine worth drinking? It will be gone before you know it, and you’ll have to open a second bottle when you watch the July Fourth fireworks.

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