Now that summer is finally here (ish), it could be time to turn back the tide on all the prosecco that’s hit our shores in recent years, with a fresh look at an old favourite: cava. This sparkling wine from Spain can compete with champagne in flavour and taste but is far cheaper. There is, of course, nothing wrong with prosecco but, hey, cavas sparkle up summer meals a treat too. Enjoy it as an aperitivo or as an outstanding partner for a selection of tapas.
1. Castell D’Olerdola Brut Reserva NV, 11.5%: £9.99, Adnams
Produced in the traditional cava method, where secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle with 12 months on the lees – the leftover yeast particles which add texture and flavour to a sparkling wine. The end product is wine with a toasted and fruity aroma that’s as easy on the tongue as it is on the purse.
2. Francesc Ricart Brut NV, 11.5%: £5, Uvinum
Hints of honey and spring flowers on the tongue from this cava, which spends 14 months ageing in the bottle. Made from the traditional Spanish grape varieties xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada, its dry finish makes it a splendid aperitif for a warm summer evening or a superb accompaniment to a light fish dish.
3. Recaredo Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2009, 12%: £30, Organic Wine Club
From the cava-producing heartland of Alt Penedès in Catalonia comes this royal among wines. Rich and complex with layers of apple, fruit and herbs and a very dry finish, it’s one of the jewels of the family-run Recaredo winery founded by Josep Mata Capellades in 1924. Now fully biodynamic, the grapes are grown without chemical fertilisers, herbicides or fungicides.
4. Waitrose Cava Brut Castillo Perelada, 11.5%: £7, Waitrose
Made in partnership with respected cava-producers Castillo Perelada, this is a delicate and elegant wine that benefits from a higher proportion of the parellada grape variety. Crisp and fruity with hints of nuttiness, it’s ideal for summer barbecues and at this premium price you won’t break the bank either.
5. Mas Macia Cava Brut NV, 12%: £9.50, All About Wine
A product of the family-run Can Macia estate in Odena, north of Barcelona, this is a creamy and structured cava with layered flavours of apples, nuts and fruit, and a hint of creamy yeastiness from its time on the lees. It’s great on its own or as an accompaniment to a selection of tapas.
6. Codorniu Semi Seco Cava, 11.5%: £11.99, Wines Online
Codorniu winery can trace its origins back to the 16th century. It began making cava in 1872, sealing its position as a frontrunner with the “Cathedral of Cava” wine cellars at Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, Catalonia – one of the gems of early 20th-century architecture. This “semi seco” non-vintage cava is off-dry with a beautifully creamy finish and notes of fruit and herbs.
7. Tempus III Cava Brut NV, 12%: £10, Virgin Wines
From one of the biggest producers of cava outside the Penedes region, the Valencia-based Torre Oria winery produces a lively and exhilarating fizz, made from the macabeo grape with notes of citrus and apple and a toasty complexity. It’s produced in the traditional way with a second fermentation in the bottle.
8. Vilarnau Brut Reserva, 11.5%: £10, Spirited Wines
This is a knockout bottle with a limited edition “trencadís” mosaic pattern, inspired by the great Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. The cava from this winery, which is not far from Barcelona, is pretty classy as well, with apple and lemon flavours to fore, soft bubbles and a long and elegant finish.
9. Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvee Brut, 12%: £15, Ocado
This is an internationally known Spanish cava, sold in more than 100 countries by the fifth generation of a family that started producing the sparkling stuff before the First World War. This prize-winning example combines traditional macabeo and parellada grapes with chardonnay and pinot noir to produce a rich and creamy cava that goes well with roasted peppers or manchego cheese.
10. Booth’s Cava Rosado, 12%: £9, Amazon
This northern-based supermarket chain offers a fine range of wines including this splendid rosado cava with it’s refreshing notes of soft red fruit balanced by an underlying acidity that make it an ideal summer drink. Reasonably priced, it’s one to savour with an al fresco lunch or a summer barbecue.
11. Campo Viejo Cava Brut Reserva, 11.5%: £10, Drink Supermarket
A silver-medal winner at last year’s International Wine & Spirit Competition, this reserva cava is aged for a minimum of 18 months, producing a top-class wine that’s as easy on the tongue as it is on the pocket. Bucketfuls of citrus and apple flavours combine with a zestful vitality to make it a perfect summer staple.
12. Segura Viudas Brut Gran Cuvèe Reserva, 12%: £21, Tannico
We’re talking extra special here. A superb Brut Gran Cuvèe Reserva from a centuries-old estate near Barcelona where the grapes are picked by hand and the wine is aged for 15 months, giving it depth and texture, with layers of citrus and tropical fruits allied to an effervescent acidity. The Gran Cuvèe Reserva is made only in the years when conditions are judged to be perfect. Enjoy as an aperitivo or as an accompaniment to seafood, pasta or Spanish cheeses.
13. Asda Extra Special Marques de Portola Cava Brut 2013, 11.5%: £6, Asda
A stonking cava at a stonking price. Loads of citrus and fruit flavours with a rich creaminess and notes of thirst-quenching acidity that puts this vintage reserva cava in a class of its own. This cava goes particularly well with light summer dishes such as salads, fish or tapas.
14. Tesco Cava Rose Brut, 11.5%: £5, Tesco
This is a beautifully balanced rosado cava that screams summer. Intense strawberry and soft fruit flavours with fine bubbles explode in your mouth with this one – it’s a cava that’s perfect for long sunny summer afternoons. For a fiver! It also goes well with chocolate or fruit desserts.
15. Musso De Casarojo Cava , 11.5%: £12, Tannico
Made entirely from macabeo grapes, this 100 per cent organic brut cava is straw yellow in colour and tastes like sunshine – think notes of citrus and soft fruits and a pleasing toastiness. As the label suggests, it’s a splendid accompaniment to shellfish or light fish dishes, or simply enjoy it by itself as a summer aperitivo.
The Verdict: Cavas
Our best buy is the exhilarating Castell D’Olerdola Brut Reserva – it’s summer in a bottle. But at prices well under a tenner, you also can’t go wrong with the Asda Extra Special Marques de Portola Cava Brut or the summery rosados from Tesco and Booth’s. If you want to go organic, there’s the excellent Recaredo Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva or the outstanding Musso De Casarojo Cava.