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Bubbles of joy: a selection of 15 Cavas to enjoy all year round Photo credits: Y.O.A., A.C., and courtesy of producers

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Bubbles of joy: a selection of 15 Cavas to enjoy all year round

Amaya Cervera and Yolanda Ortiz de Arri | December 12th, 2023

The two exciting days of presentations, tastings and visits we spent at last month's Cava Meeting have allowed us to compile a selection of our favourite sparkling wines from a wide range of styles and grape varieties.

These are terrific recommendations for the festive season, but can certainly be enjoyed all year round, as there is no shortage of complex, dry (brut nature), extended ageing, food-friendly styles. 

With our international readers in mind, we have sorted the wines by grape variety (both varietal cavas and blends in which a particular grape variety plays the leading role) and in doing so we have discovered the wide diversity of choice behind the selection. The acronym CPC refers to Cava de Paraje Calificado, the category of single vineyard sparkling wines that must be aged for a minimum of 36 months.

The usual trio: Xarel.lo, Macabeo, Parellada

This is perhaps the most popular style among wine lovers and the most common blend in Penedès, where the majority of cava vineyards are planted. Xarel.lo is regarded as the grape that provides structure, backbone and prolongs the life of the wines, while Macabeo brings fruit, liveliness and some structure, and Parellada adds floral and delicate nuances. However, all this can be modulated according to where the grapes are grown.

Claror CPC Can Prats 2015 Brut Naure, Vins El Cep
Vins El Cep is one of the first wineries to be awarded CPC status. It is owned by four families with adjoining vineyards in the Espiells region, all of which are certified organic and, in some cases, biodynamic, as is the case with this cava. The winery has also been awarded the Integral Producer recognition, a seal reserved for bodegas that press and vinify 100% of their grapes. Claror comes from the oldest, goblet-pruned vineyards in the Can Prats site. Xarel.lo and Parellada were planted in the 1960s and Macabeu in the mid-1980s. 12% of the cuvée is aged in barrels for five months before the second fermentation in bottle. The ageing is done with cork stoppers. This is a textbook cava with sweet white fruit, fine toasted notes, hints of raw almonds and a floral background of Mediterranean herbs. Balanced and lively on the palate, with good acidity and a cleansing bitterness on the finish. A perfect example of cava as a Mediterranean sparkling wine and of the ageing potential of the blend of the three traditional Penedès varieties in a relatively warm and dry year

Grape varieties: 40% Xarel.lo, 30% Macabeo, 30% Parellada
Ageing: 90 months
Bottles 2,898
Alcohol: 12% abv.
Disgorgement: August 2023
Retail price in Spain: €45

Mestres Mas Vía  2006 Brut Gran Reserva Guarda Superior
After some ups and downs, the 2000s look promising for Cavas Mestres, a pioneering cava producer that registered the region's first Brut Nature (zero dosage) in the 1940s - the brand was Visol, which translates as 'just wine'. However, Mas Vía, one of the company's top sparkling wines, is the only Brut in the range. After 16 years of ageing - and a year in oak casks - it tastes great. The price is fantastic given the length of the process. The grapes come from Viña Damiana, the winery's oldest plot, with some vines dating back to 1954. Expect maximum complexity without losing freshness. There are hints of petrol, candied white and citrus fruit, infused herbs and nuts. On the palate, the wine delivers an excellent combination of creaminess and acidity, with a lush mouthfeel and a lovely saline finish.

Grape varieties: 65% Xarel.lo, 20% Macabeo, 15 % Parellada
Ageing: 192 months
Bottles: 4,396
Alcohol: 12% abv.
Disgorgement: October 2022
Retail price in Spain: €65 

Suriol Collita 2015 Gran Reserva Brut Nature Guarda Superior
Founded in 1985 in the Castell de Grabuac farmstead, built in the 15th century in Font-Rubí, Suriol is a family winery that owns 30 hectares of vineyards and produces low-intervention still wines and cavas with organic and biodynamic certification and with the seal of Integral Producer. 65% of their total production (around 320,000 bottles) is exported.

They use local varieties and vinify them in underground concrete tanks and chestnut casks, like those found in most Catalan farmhouses in the 19th century. With these casks they look for a touch of oxidation to add personality and identity to their cavas.

In the case of Suriol Collita 2015, the varieties come from different plots at elevations between 250 and 320 metres, which vary depending on the vintage, and yields of 8,000 kg/ha. Part of the first fermentation is carried out in chestnut vats while the ageing is done in underground concrete tanks where the wine is left on the lees for four months. With notes of dry grass, ripe fruit and compote, it is a balanced and flavourful cava with a good evolution in the bottle and a great value for money.

Varieties: 40% Xarel.lo, 30% Macabeu y 30% Parellada
Ageing: at least 50 months
Bottles: 4,900
Alcohol: 12% vol.
Disgorgement: June 2022
Price: €19.90

Betting on Xarel.lo

Xarel.lo is the new star of DO Cava for a number of reasons. The most obvious is its high antioxidant power, which makes it the perfect choice for extended ageing cava; many of the oldest examples are 100% Xarel.lo or have it as a dominant grape variety, as in the case of Mas Vía above. From an agronomic point of view, it is perhaps the best adapted to the area and, above all, the most resistant to drought, an important consideration given the extremely low levels of rainfall in Penedès over the last two years. Aromatically, there are always some herbal notes (aniseed, hay, fennel, infused herbs...) that lend it a distinctly Mediterranean character.

Juvé & Camps Milesimé Xarel.lo 2017, Brut Nature Gran Reserva Guarda Superior
Part of the new range of milesimés launched by Juvé & Camps at the end of last year (the house's classic Chardonnay was joined by a Blanc de Noirs and this Xarel.lo), these wines also share the fact that they are all Gran Reserva, single-varietal and single-vineyard cavas. The grapes for Xarel.lo come from L'Olivera, an 8.5 hectare east-facing plot in Sant Llorenç d'Hortons. The extra time on the lees and in the bottle since its release has played to its advantage. It has fine floral and herbal notes, with a hint of petrol lending it character and finesse. On the palate, it is more about tension than creaminess; an austere cava, with fine toasted notes and a really pleasant texture. A great introduction to the personality of this variety.

Grape varieties: 100% Xarel.lo
Ageing: 36 months
Bottles: 16,000
Alcohol: 12% abv.
Disgorgement: July 2023
Retail price in Spain: €30 

María de María Rigol Ordi Gran Reserva 2016 Brut Nature Guarda Superior
Although the family tradition dates back to 1897, it was not until 1987 that María Rigol Ordi and her son Francesc Manobens Rigol started making wine in Sant Sadurní. They do not own any vineyards, but work with growers and focus on long-aged cavas, first-press musts and, with the exception of their Microtiratges line of experimental productions, they work with traditional grapes from Penedès. In addition, all their cavas are organic, the bottles are riddled by hand, the disgorging is done by hand without freezing the neck of the bottle and the ageing is always done with a cork stopper.

This María, the former Gran Reserva and a tribute to the recently deceased founder, comes from a 35-year-old vineyard with gobelet vines planted in La Llacuna, at 300 metres elevation, with a yield of 8,000 kg/ha. Delicate bubbles, aromas of stone fruit and Mediterranean herbs, a creamy texture on the palate, without losing tension, and a saline aftertaste. The finish is expressive and complex.

Varieties: 100% Xarel.lo
Ageing: at least 78 months
Bottles: 7,800 
Alcohol: 11.5% vol.
Disgorgement: September 2023
Price: €21.50

Parellada, not the minor one any more

Parellada is often considered to be a relatively minor variety, more suitable for young cavas or as a complement in blends. But this is not necessarily the case when it is grown in the upper, cooler areas of Penedès, where it is often called Montónega and some producers even claim that it is a different clone, or in the interior of continental Catalonia, as is the case in Serra de Prades (Conca de Barberà).

Can Sala 2013, Brut Nature CPC, Vins Familia Ferrer
The first vintage of this cava was made from 70% Parellada and 30% Xarel.lo. The following year the ratio was reversed and since then the blend has remained stable at 50/50. The 2013 vintage, which is about to be released, fills a significant gap, as this wine has not been produced since 2008. The Familia Ferrer estate, also an Integral Producer, was created to preserve the family vineyards in an independent company following the takeover of Freixenet by the German group Henkell. The jewel in the crown is Can Sala, whose grapes come from vineyards in Mediona and San Quintín de Mediona, at elevations ranging from 500 to 715 metres, where the expression of the Parellada is radically different. The nose reveals very fine herbal and toasted bread aromas. The wine expresses itself with great delicacy. It is subtle, lively, with vibrant acidity and almost crystalline in its expression, with perfectly integrated bubbles and a superb finish with citrus fruit and some salinity. It has a long life ahead of it.

Grape varieties: 50% Parellada, 50% Xarel.lo
Ageing: 120 months
Bottles: 5,400
Alcohol: 12.5% abv.
Disgorgement: November 2023
Retail price in Spain: €70

A bit of attention to Macabeo

With almost 14,000 hectares under vine, Macabeo is the most widely planted variety in DO Cava and is found throughout the different areas of Catalonia, Aragon, La Rioja, Extremadura and Levante. It is a key ingredient in blends, although in recent years it has lost some of its importance to Xarel.lo. For this reason, it is worth remembering that it is the central component of classic extended ageing cavas such as Kripta, described below, or in its day, Recaredo Reserva Particular, a producer that is now part of Corpinnat.

Kripta Gran Reserva 2011 Brut Nature, Agustí Torelló Mata
Making up 45% of the blend, Kripta's Macabeo comes from a goblet-trained vineyard in Sant Pau d'Ordal, planted in 1962 on well-drained gravel at 239 metres elevation. According to the winery, which also holds the Integral Producer seal, Macabeo is "the most delicate of the three varieties, bringing elegance and white fruit notes". It is complemented by Xarel.lo from Sant Saduní d'Anoia and a plot of Parellada planted in 1969 at 650 metres elevation in Sant Joan de Mediona. Interesting post-degorgement evolution since August 2021. Deep golden colour, with spicy notes (cinnamon), liquorice, applesauce and withered flowers on the nose. Dry and serious on the palate, with lively acidity, attractive toastiness, more applesauce and a slightly metallic finish. A really interesting development to explore the limits of cava's ageing potential.

Grape varieties: 45% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, 20% Xarel.lo
Ageing: 120 months
Bottles: 26,190
Alcohol: 11,5% abv.
Disgorgement: August 2021
Retail price in Spain: €60 

Versatile Pinot Noir

With 824 hectares, this is one of the varieties covering the smallest area of the DO, but it is becoming increasingly important, especially in the production of rosés and blanc de noirs. These include super-premium cavas such as Juvé & Camps' La Siberia rosé (€115) or, in the latter case, one of Codorníu's CPCs, which we review below. Pinot Noir was indeed a key variety for this producer, and was first planted at their vast Raimat estate in Lleida.

Codorníu Ars Collecta El Tros Nou 2010, Brut Gran Reserva CPC
Part of the trilogy of Cavas de Paraje Calificado along with La Pleta ("Chardonnay" from Pla de Ponent) and La Fideuera (Xarel.lo from Valls d'Anoia-Foix), El Tros Nou is a 100% Pinot Noir that comes from a plot with licorella soils in Serra de Prades, a very cold area close to Abadía de Poblet, Codorníu's still wine cellar in Conca de Barberà. 

This is a limited edition of a very lively and fresh cava which, according to its winemaker, Bruno Colomer, had an initial ageing potential of 5-6 years. The residual sugar (9 g/l) rounds out the wine overall and wraps up the acidity and the citrus and toasted notes, adding volume to a cava with a round palate and impeccable evolution both in the bottle and in the glass.

Varieties: 100% Pinot Noir
Ageing: 90 months
Bottles: 3,546
Alcohol: 12% vol.
Disgorgement: July 2023
Price: €90 

Avinyó Blanc de Noirs Reserva 2020 Brut Nature
Avinyó is a good example of a traditional Catalan estate built around a family house (masía). The origins of Can Fontanals and its winegrowing activity are documented since the 16th century. When Esperança Fontanals married Adjutori Esteve in 1847, the surname changed, but the family business continued, now in its fourteenth generation. Avinyó has expanded its vineyards, all of which are now organic, and proudly bears the seal of Integral Producer. One of its most interesting wines is this Blanc de Noirs, a fresh, vibrant expression of Pinot Noir from an early harvest. Although it has undergone moderate ageing, it is firm on the palate and has good tension, making it a versatile Cava that can be served as an aperitif or with light to medium dishes.

Grape varieties: 100% Pinot Noir
Ageing: at least 18 months
Bottles: 5,000
Alcohol: 12% abv.
Degüelle: Otctober 2023
Retail price in Spain: €18 

Who doesn’t like Chardonnay?

With 2,875 hectares under vine in 2022, Chardonnay is the fourth variety in DO Cava, only behind the classic trio of Macabeo Xarrel.lo and Parellada, and is present in practically all of the wine producing areas. Authorised since 1986, it is usually found in blends, but there are producers such as Codorníu, Juvé y Camps and Rimarts who continue to make single varietals with this grape.

Rimarts Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2017 Gran Reserva Guarda Superior
Ricard Martínez Simón founded this family winery in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia in 1987 with the aim of making quality, artisan cava. Nowadays, his sons Ernest and Ricard manage the winery following the founder's principles, disgorging and decanting by hand and cultivating their 28 hectares of vineyards organically.

They make eight cavas with the traditional Penedès varieties, as well as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The latter was a choice of the founder of Rimarts, who planted the first vines of this French variety more than 60 years ago. Today, the yield of these vines does not exceed 6,000 kg/ha. Except for two very hot vintages when the acidity did not reach the required level, Rimarts Chardonnay is released every year. This is a cava with notes of white fruit and dried flowers over a toasted base, savoury and with good intensity and a long finish. Expressive, with good structure and perfect to enjoy with food.

Varieties: 100% Chardonnay
Ageing: at least 50 months
Bottles: 15,000
Alcohol: 11.5% vol.

Gemma Gran Reserva 2019 Brut Nature Guarda Superior, Oliver Viticultors
The Oliver family has a long viticultural tradition, but in the mid-1960s they abandoned winemaking to concentrate on growing and selling grapes. The change happened in 2011, when they decided to return to their origins and come full circle by vinifying and bottling their grapes at Cal Xic de l'Agustí, the family estate in Subirats. They have planted up to 14 different varieties on their 55 hectares of land, from which they produce organic and biodynamic still wines and Demeter-certified cavas, most of which are sold in Catalonia.

Gemma Gran Reserva is the winery's longest-aged cava and is named after the mother of the winemaker, Sadurní Oliver, a seventh-generation member of the family. We tasted two of Gemma's vintages. The 2019, now on the market, has integrated bubbles, white flowers and fine yeast aromas, as well as the structure and expressiveness that the Xarel.lo variety provides. The 2012, the first vintage of the wine, maintains its balance, with a beautiful harmony between the ripe fruit notes, the fine toasted notes and the acidity that it still retains.

Varieties: 50% Xarel.lo, 35% Macabeo and 15% Chardonnay
Ageing: at least 45 months
Bottles: 2,800 
Alcohol: 12 % vol.
Disgorgement: September 2023
Price: €14.65

Mallerenga Gran Reserva 2017 Brut Nature Guarda Superior, Cellers Carol Vallès
This winery, located in the Can Parellada farmhouse in Subirats since 1996, was owned by the grandparents of Joan Carol, the founder of Carol Vallès. After the recent retirement of Joan and his wife Teresa Vallés, their son Guillem Carol has taken over the reins of the family business. The estate covers 13 hectares under vine, all of them organic, and is mainly planted to Xarel.lo and Macabeo, but there is also some Parellada, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

Mallerenga, which is the Catalan word for the common coal tit, is one of the birds that inhabit the region. The Carol family, mindful of the estate's natural surroundings, decided to name one of their cavas, which combines Chardonnay and Xarel.lo, after this bird. Both decanting and disgorging are done by hand for this cava with herbal and fine aromas and fine lees as well as toasted notes from the ageing of part of the Xarel.lo grapes in oak barrels. With fine bubbles, good structure and acidity, it is a very pleasant cava to enjoy with food.

Varieties: Xarel.lo and Chardonnay
Ageing: 50 months
Bottles: 4,770
Alcohol: 12% vol.
Disgorgement: under request
Price: €23

The relevance of the sub-zones

Many of the sparkling wines we tasted at the Cava Meeting had the new back labels showing the zones and sub-zones, along with the Guarda Superior mention and the ageing categories. Although the Valls d'Anoia-Foix sub-zone (Penedès), where most of the production is concentrated, is still too large and has peculiarities that deserve to be pointed out, producers working in other areas have welcomed the new zone designations.

Mirgin Exeo CPC Vallcirera 2017 Brut Nature, Alta Alella
Located in the new Serra de Mar sub-zone, Alta Alella has been emphasising its distinctive features for some time. Essentially, its location by the Mediterranean (the estate is an amphitheatre overlooking the sea), the sauló soils (decomposed sand on granite) and the specific adaptation of the Xarel.lo variety, known locally as Pansa Blanca. The Pujol-Busquets family has also championed the expression of Chardonnay in this terroir, especially in the Vallcirera site. Fermented and macerated in oak barrels before the second fermentation in bottle, this cava has an unmistakable saline backbone and a distinct sapidity that makes you salivate and offsets the toasted and opulent flavours of the ageing process. Like all the wines from this winery, which is an Integral Producer, it carries the organic certification.

Grape varieties: 60% Pansa Blanca (Xarel.lo), 40% Chardonnay
Ageing: 36-48 months 
Bottles: 2,000
Alcohol: 12% vol.
Disgorgement: October 2023

Retail price in Spain: €56 


The category has been growing in recent years, driven by increased demand for all types of rosé, whether sparkling or still. It has risen from almost 21 million bottles produced in 2015 to a little over 25 million in 2022. Diversity has also increased, both in terms of the varieties used and the colour hues and styles.

Rosa Cusiné Gran Reserva 2019 Brut Nature, Parés Baltà 
While its name is a tribute to grandmother Rosa, the style of this sparkling wine, first produced in 2008, focuses on the freshness of the Garnacha grapes grown at 700 metres elevation at Les Valls-Les Torres, the Cusiné family's highest vineyard in the Penedès region. This is a mouthwatering, citrusy cava, with a fruity rather than toasty palate, full of energy and character. The label follows the minimalist style that distinguishes Parés Baltà. The winery, which is firmly committed to organic and biodynamic farming, is also an Integral Producer, thus highlighting the importance it places on the care and quality of the grapes that go into its cavas.

Grape varieties: 100% Garnacha
Ageing: 30 months 
Bottles: 3,000
Alcohol: 12% abv.
Disgorgment: June 2023
Retail price in Spain: €28 

Celler Carles Andreu Rosado de Barrica 2021, Guarda Superior Reserva
This family estate, founded in 1991 in Pira, holds DO Cava's Integral Producer seal and is the only private winery in Conca de Barberá specialising in the production of cava, a category that accounts for 85% of its total output. It was also the first to bottle Trepat, a local variety known for its low colour and high acidity, which is the main ingredient in the two rosés that the Andreu family produces in the Serra de Prades sub-area. 

The must is cold macerated with the skins and the first fermentation is carried out in new unotasted French oak barrels for four months before being aged for 18 months. An organic cava with a salmon pink colour, fresh and delicate notes of red fruits, expressive nose and subtle, balsamic palate with a pleasantly bitter aftertaste.

Varieties: 100% Trepat
Ageing: at least 18 months 
Bottles: 4,692 
Alcohol: 11.5% vol.
Disgorgement: October 2023
Price: €20 


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