Champagne lifestyle on a budget? Go for Cava

Sparkling

It feels like everyone is talking about ways to find value in the sparkling wine market at the moment. From cheap Champagne, to Prosecco alternatives like Progrigio (I won’t be going there now, wait for a review in a later post), it feels like we all want to live a Champagne lifestyle without paying for it.

The biggest problem with sparkling wine is that it is usually lumped in to one category when in fact, most sparkling wines are made in very different ways. Prosecco for example, is not made in the same way and should never be considered as the ‘cheap alternative’ to Champagne. This is why I think people don’t want to pay a premium or over the price of a bottle of Champagne for it. That shouldn’t be the case.

So is there really value elsewhere? Of course there is! And the place I’m finding the most value is in Cava. Ok, I know it isn’t being hailed as the trendiest drink at the moment but that is starting to change with ever-growing trend for Spanish food. The magic of Cava is that it is produced in exactly the same way of Champagne, albeit not always with the lengthy time left to mature.

Here are three I’ve tried recently and are worth giving a go:

Tesco Cava £5: I was hesitant to picking this up after all, it’s so cheap it’s almost scary. But I was surprised at how clean and fresh tasting it is. It’s very pale due to the lack of ageing but it’s surprisingly fresh. It packs more citrus and apple flavours than anything else and I’ve used it countless time as a base for sparkling cocktails, or over a home-made fruit compote.

Waitrose Cava £6.99: Tasting this against the Tesco Cava is a bit mean but you can really taste what spending an extra £1.99 gets you. This has more depth of flavour to it and punches you first with a clean and citrus burst of flavours. Then you get greeted by some deep, nutty and yeasty flavours that this fizz gets from being aged on lees. This is a serious bargain for its price and it’s made by the popular (and dominant) Cava house, Cordinou.

Clos Monistrol Extra Brut Vintage Cava £7.50, Sainsbury’s: I still remember trying this for the first time at a tasting and being completely bowled over. It’s a vintage blend so you can instantly smell it is toasty on the nose. To taste, it’s slightly floral and has more of a grapefruit taste than the lemon/apple styles for the two Cava’s above. But that’s what I like about this, it is different. Each vintage has been different too, I really enjoyed the 2013 if you can get your hands on that. One thing with this particular Cava is that the price has jumped all over the place. If Cava is a hard sell in the UK then vintage Cava is even harder. Grab a bottle when it is at this price.

So what if there is a Prosecco shortage?

Sparkling

Rumours of a shortage in the Prosecco market didn’t come as much of a huge surprise to me. I knew that Veneto, the region in north-east Italy where the Glera ‘Prosecco’ grapes are grown, had a particularly bad harvest and as a result there would be a lower yield. I also knew that all the stories flying around about Prosecco ‘out-selling’ Champagne meant that a story aimed to worry the British Prosecco drinkers would soon to follow.

Whether or not there is a Prosecco shortage or not (spoiler, there won’t be), I see this as a good thing. There are too many wine drinkers stuck in their ways who buy the same bottle of adult pop each week. Never leaving their comfort zones to try something a bit different.

Escape Prosecco and try these:

Clos Monistrol Vintage Cava: I love a glass of Cava but not that crappy budget £4 a bottle stuff. The Spanish make some truly amazing Cava’s and there are hidden gems out there that are a must try. This is made using a selection of the best Chardonnay, Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada grapes and aged for 36 months. It’s cheap, usually around £7 in Sainsbury’s but there is more depth and flavour to it than you’ll get out of some more budget versions. It’s a good ‘oh I drink good Cava, darrrrling’ dinner party fizz. (Sainsbury’s, £7.50)

Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs NV: Thanks to the lovely Susie Atkins for recommending this in her column a few years ago because it’s now a firm favourite on my wine shelf. It’s 100% Chardonnay, light in style with crisp apple flavours and has a really beautiful label. I like it with a cheese board or a simple crab linguini. (Waitrose, £13.99)

Luis Pato Maria Gomes Metodo Antigo NV: I picked this up on a whim in an Oddbins  somewhere in central London ages ago and I still remember it for it’s golden colour and tropical, almost pineapple flavours. This is also good for a cheese board but also works as barbecue fizz. (Oddbins, £14.50)