Summer in a glass



 

An Old Fashioned may never fall out of fashion, but as summer heats up, Buffalo’s love for whiskey can be shelved for the season. It’s time to consider drink options for summer afternoons.

 

Though Prosecco has cornered the market on sparkling wine requests (the Italian marketing machine has done its job well), if we’re speaking of quality, family tradition, locality, and uniqueness of terroir—we need to talk about Cava.

 

Of the great sparkling wine regions of the world, Spain’s Cava is probably the least known to Americans, but that’s going to change. Many Spanish Cava houses have been producing grapes and wine as long or longer than French champagne producers. On a recent visit to Catalonia, Maria Bohigas said her family has been growing on their estate since the 1200s; that’s nearly twenty generations working the land.

 

When the phylloxera pest began attacking the root stalks of French vines during the mid- to late-nineteenth century, decimating their production, the growers of Catalonia saw an opportunity to transform their business. Using grapes indigenous to their region (xarello, macabeu, parellada) and a few standard bearers from France (chardonnay, pinot noir), they meticulously modeled their sparkling wine production after their French counterparts. Now, with official regulation in place, DO (denominacion de origen) Cava is a naturally produced sparkling wine of indigenous and noble varieties, and the land and people of Catalonia are clearly evident in the wine. The rolling hills of the Penedes/Cava valley—about an hour northwest of Barcelona—are bound in the north by the mountains of Montserrat, which resember the teeth of a handsaw. Clouds surround the range, but never quite creep over. Just beyond them is a small valley and, in the distance, lie the snow capped Pyrenees. These two ranges create a uniquely protected and steady climate, perfect for grapes. You won’t see fields of wheat or pastures for cattle here; it is immediately obvious that the focus is viticulture.

 

I recently had the opportunity to visit three wineries, all family owned; two produce a medium number of cases annually, and the third is one of the largest wine producers worldwide. When we visited Bodega Bohigas, Senor Jordi Bohigas and his dog, Pintxo, met us nearly before we stepped out of the car, with bottles in hand from a recent early morning tasting. He introduced his daughter, Maria Bohigas, gave us a private tour. Maria provided a full accounting of her family from still wine production beginning 800 years ago to the start of sparkling wine and today, and ended the tour in the family room where Jordi was waiting with samples of the bodega’s wine. While the Bohigas still wines are striking, balanced, and delicious, the Cava is the star. Like every winery we visited, Bodega Bohigas sent us back to Barcelona with a case of goodies, a measure of generosity and hospitality that will never be forgotten.

 

As dining slowly becomes more of a bar culture with fewer entrees and more small plates, Cava makes complete sense. The balance of body with mouthwatering acidity, both refreshing and complementary to food, are a perfect fit.

 


 

The wineries

Bodegas Bohigas:

Owners Jordi and Maria Bohigas, completely organic production. fermibohigas.com

Brut Nature ($15): white fruit, citrus peel, white flowers, spice, creamy bubbles

Brut Gran Reserva ($20): bright golden color due to extended aging, extra fine bubble, roasted flavors, dried fruit, spice, intense minerality

 

Llopart:

Family owned since 1385, Cava production beginning 1887. www.llopart.com

Brut Rose ($23): balanced rose, bright acidity, rich fruit, white flowers

Ex Vite ($14): six years of aging leaves this wine rich and robust, strong fresh bread aroma

 

Raventos:

Family owned since 1497, father and son team, founding member of the DO Conca del Riu Anoia. www.raventos.com

Brut De Nit Rose ($16): pale pink, creamy, rich fruit

L’Hereu ($16): gentle citrus, white fruit, fresh yet concentrated    

 

 

Tony Rials is a restaurant consultant specializing in beverage management.

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