china daily wine column #29

Cava is considered the most sophisticated of Spanish sparkling wines. Think of it as Spain’s version of champagne — without the high price tag.
Part of the reason French champagne is so expen- sive is because of the labor involved and the fact that even non-vintage champagne sits in the cellar for at least two years.
Cava is made the same way as champagne. It was originally known as champana.
Spanish producers adopted the term “cava”, meaning cellar, in 1970. It refers to the underground cellars in which the wine ferments and ages in the bottle.
Spanish winemakers, inspired by the success of champagne, planted white grape varieties, such as macabeo and parellada. These are still the main grapes of cava, although some producers are experimenting with the traditional champagne grapes chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
Use of the term “cava” is limited to specific areas, although about 95 percent of Spain’s total production comes from Catalonia.
Maset del Lleó in the Alt Penedés region in Catalonia is a winery with more than two centuries of history. It makes high-quality, traditionally crafted cavas. Francesc Massana produced the first Maset cava in 1917.
David Pedrol, the company’s head of sales and marketing for Asia, says the word “haste” did not exist in the cellars at the Maset del Lléo winery, “a fact reflected in the infinity of subtle nuances our wines possess”. The company’s culture was based on “knowing the value of waiting” that resulted in wine that was a “genuine delight”.
Their reserve cuvee Lavi Pau is made mainly from chardonnay grapes, with some macabeo and parellada. It has a dry taste with a fine bead, and those bubbles stay in the glass a long time — a sign of quality winemaking. The chardonnay grapes give the wine a yeasty aroma of freshly baked bread or brioche.
The wine tastes of lemon and lime. It would match well with fresh oysters, steamed dumplings or even lightly fried dishes, because the acid tang would cut through the oil. It should be served cold from an ice bucket to fully appreciate the flavors.
I also tasted a 2004 Maset del Lleó 1977 made from tempranillo grapes.
The year 1777 refers to the period when the vineyard belonged to Montserrat Abbey. Back then, the Massana family had to pay taxes for the right to farm. Since then, nine generations have worked the Maset del Lleó estate.
This red wine had aromas of wild blackberries and cassis, the result of aging in French barrels. The tannins are soft, making the wine approachable now, and the wine feels soft and velvety in the mouth.
David Pedrol describes it as his company’s finest red, a “tribute to the founders of the Maset del Lleó bodega”. It is a fine tribute, indeed.
The cava sells for 180 yuan ($27) and the red wine costs 300 yuan in China.
* “Spain sparkles with its take on champagne” in China Daily, 26 February 2011, page 12. A link to the article does not appear to be available on the China Daily web site.

Categories: Not home, wine

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