As most regular readers will know, I’m very lucky to receive sample wine bottles on a regular basis, in addition to invitations to trade and press tastings. While spitting at tastings is de rigueur (and, quite frankly, necessary if you want to maintain both your palate and the ability to walk unaided), sample bottles are drunk without spitting chez moi.
So what do you do when you have a good few samples that you need to try, but you’re cutting back on the booze for a bit? Share them with wine friends is the obvious answer! Thus, at an informal dinner with friends from the DNS Wine Club I produced four bottles of relatively inexpensive red wine all wrapped in foil – for a mini blind tasting.
The objective of the blind tasting wasn’t to see which was the best wine, but rather to see how good we were at guessing the vintage, main grape(s), country of origin etc. And we were painfully average at that! However, one wine was agreed to be the tastiest – and happened to be the go-to bottle of one of the tasters:
Finca Las Moras Dadá Art Series 1 2016 (12.5%, €10.00, widely available at SuperValu, Dunnes Stores and all good independent off licences)
There are actually lots of different wines in the Dadá Art Series, but this Bonarda / Malbec blend is the most widely available. It’s actually quite an unusual blend, as Bonarda in Argentina is the same grape as the obscure Deuce Noir from Savoie in France (and formerly part of Italy) rather than the slightly better known Bonarda Piemontese. Malbec is of course Argentina’s signature black grape.
Obscure or unusual don’t matter in the end, it’s what’s in the glass that counts – and this is lovely! Blackberry crumble with lashings of custard, it’s that kind of lovely – black fruit from the grapes with plenty of vanilla from the American oak. And for a tenner in Ireland, this is great value for money!
Cava has an image problem. The vast majority of bottles sort in the UK and Ireland are mass-produced, by-the-numbers plonk. Even though it’s made by the more expensive – and generally higher quality – traditional method, Cava is generally seen as being in the same “party-drink” class as Prosecco. To be honest, neither cheap Prosecco nor cheap Cava float my boat.
Serious Cava is getting some serious attention at the moment thanks to the Cava de Paraje single vineyard classifications, and hopefully that will be extended and filter down in time. Until then, the mid market seems to be somewhat neglected – where is the good Cava that doesn’t cost the earth?
Here are a couple I tried recently which are well worth trying:
Perelada Cava Brut Reserva NV (11.5%, 8.0g/L RS, RRP €20 at The Corkscrew , Jus de Vine, The Hole in the Wall)
Perhaps any Catalan-speaking readers might be able to tell me if the similarity in spelling between the town of Perelada (near Girona) and the Cava grape Parellada is linked or just a coincidence? This is a blend of the three traditional Cava varieties, being 45% Xarel-lo, 30% Macabeu and 25% Parellada. The second fermentation in bottle is for 15 months which is the minimum for non vintage Champagne but significantly longer than the nine month minimum for non vintage Cava.
This is quite a fresh style of Cava, with a fairly low 8g/L of residual sugar. There’s a little influence from the time on the lees but it’s much more about the tangy apple and citrus fruit.
Disclosure: this bottle was kindly given as a sample
Llopart Cava Brut Reserva 2014 (11.5%, 8.0g/L RS, RRP €30 at The Corkscrew, Mitchell & Son, Redmonds)
This is producer Llopart’s standard bottle and is actually fairly similar to the Perelada above in terms of residual sugar and blend – it consists of 40% Xarel-lo, 30% Macabeu and 30% Parellada. The time on lees is given as 18 months minimum but, to my palate, this has spent quite a bit more than the minimum; it has lots of biscuity notes which are generally the sign of a good Champagne. This is a classy Cava which would be a better choice than many Champagnes!
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