Tag Archives: Cava

The revolution in sparkling wine

Sparkling isn't just for weddings anymore.

Sparkling wine isn’t just for weddings anymore.

Add another change to the wine business, and one that may be even more surprising than moscato and sweet red wine or cheap pinot noir: The popularity of sparkling wine that isn’t from Champagne.

Because, for most wine drinkers for most of the last 60 years, there were only two kinds of sparkling wine — French Champagne and the very cheap U.S. stuff that tasted like flat 7-Up (and that still dominates U.S. sales). There was bubbly from elsewhere, of course, but quality was poor and there wasn’t much of available, even if someone wanted to try it.

That has changed over the past couple of years, as I wrote in a story in this month’s Beverage Media trade magazine — and just in time for the holiday bubbly season, when we drink as much as half of all the sparkling wine sold during the year. In this, it’s not so much that Champagne fell out of favor; rather, improvements in quality, increased availablity, and very good prices helped introduce consumers to the Spanish-made Cava, the Italian Prosecco and even fizzy moscato. And, as with sweet red and cheap pinot, consumers discovered they liked the wines.

Or, as one very perceptive retailer told me: “They really don’t care where it’s coming from, as long as it’s different. They aren’t the same old, same old California sparkling wines or the same Champagne. They’re not the same wines that have been around now and forever.”

The story’s highlights and a few other thoughts, after the jump:

Wine of the week: Dibon Brut Reserve NV

101462How much did this Cava impress me? The bottle had a neck hanger with a Winestream Media blurb, but I bought it anyway.

And why not? The Dibon ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is a sophisticated sparkling wine with layers of flavor that is made more in the style of Champagne than Cava — creamy and caramel-like with candied pineapple in back and not as much tart apple. In this, it's got more winemaking going on than I like, but you can't argue with the results. This is an incredible value for $10.

My guess is that this wine, made by the largish Spanish producer Bodegas Pinord, is a one-off – made because there were so many quality grapes available, thanks to the euro crisis and the collapse of the Spanish economy and its 25 percent unemployment rate. Cava sales in Spain were down six percent in 2012, so it makes sense that some producers would re-label bottles or make wines especially for the export market. The Dibon is not listed on the Pinord website, and even Robert Parker had not heard of it when he reviewed it.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2014 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this chilled on its own or with Sunday brunch or something like a crabcake appetizer.

Mini-reviews 45: Penfolds, Caldora, Brancaia, Paul Cheneau

Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month:

Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2010 ($12, sample): Perfectly acceptable grocery store red blend from Australia — simple and fruity, but not flawed or offensive.

Caldora Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2011 ($9, purchased): Ordinary Italian red with just a hint of Italian-ness and neither especially funky or fresh. More New World in style than anything else.

Brancaia Tre Toscana 2010 ($23, sample): Italian red with lots of sweet red fruit and a bit of tannin and acid, but not especially Tuscan in any way

Paul Cheneau Cava Blanc de Blancs Reserva NV ($10, sample): Very ordinary cava, which would not be a bad thing except that so much cava is so extraordinary. Much better available at this price.

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