We were going to watch the sunset in Gozo and brought a bottle of Cava with us. It just seems the right thing to do opening bottle of sparkling wine to sit and relax on the overlook as the sun sets over the sea. My new appreciation for Spanish Cava started a few months ago after touring two vineyards, Llopart and Cava Bertha as part of a TBEX post conference press trip (my first one) as well as having it with my second breakfast when Devouring Barcelona.
For many of us, our sparkling wine knowledge stops at champagne/sparkling section of the liquor store. We look at the cost and pretty label and call it a day – it’s all the same right? Wrong! Chances are that you’ve actually tried Cava if you’ve ever bought the black bottle of Freixenet, one of the largest producers. France has a (legal) lockdown on the Champagne name, Italy has prosecco and Spain has Cava. Each country has strict guidelines. All are made from grapes grown in the vineyard, all sparkling and frankly, all worth trying for everyday occasions. The Spanish cava is made by blending three varieties of grapes, macabeu, xarel-lo and parellada. They are also allowed to add chardonnay, pinot noir and subirat grapes and still be called cava.
In Spain, Cava is an all-day drink and I had such fun drinking
tasting um, learning more at the two family owned wineries on our itinerary – Llopart (125 years) and Cava Berta (25 years). The Cava tours/tastings would be after our adventurous day at Les Comes.
After our welcome glass of Cava, we split into two trucks to go out onto the property. There we were met by staff to learn more about how the Penedes region and the Montserrat mountain range are key to the microclimate for growing the grapes. The vineyard is sloped and uneven which allows Llopart to cultivate grapes sustainably using tradition methods dating back to their first Cava in 1887. It is required to produce cava using traditional methods.
From the fields we jumped back into the trucks to find the stairs underground to start the tour. Sitting on cork chairs (cute touch), the intoxicating video began. The images were eye candy gorgeous showing us the history of Llopart, the country house and the grapes. We moved along to see the bottles (so many bottles) in the cellar as well as a few standing exhibits. Next we tasted three reserve cavas (with snacks on the table), in the cool cellar before moving on to the production area.
If you’ve been on a wine tour before, the production tends to look the same and Llopart was no different although I do love the machines that cork the bottles and move them along. Finishing up in the main shop where we started, there was even more to taste. Llopart produces many cavas from dry to sweet, all of which I think I tasted during the tour. They also produce wine but who had time for wine? (sign I was drinking too much cava to switch)
When we left Llopart, I added them to my “let’s hope Pennsylvania sells them” list (see the draconian State of PA liquor laws I have to deal with).
The tour cost €10 and needs to be booked in advance. It does not include a trip into the vineyards but rather starts underground with the video presentation.
We arrived a bit late to our next tour/tasting but the owners of Bertha were so welcoming ignoring our tardiness. Greeting us outside as we arrived, a bit like your parents waiting to welcome you home, we were escorted into the very contemporary styled new building surrounded by the grape vines. This family owned business is a labor of love as the owners’ wife (the marketing guru who looks like a model) and adorable children were onsite during our visit.
After a welcome glass of Cava and a short introduction, we moved onto the blind tasting. There we learned the aging process and the levels of sweetness from dry to dessert. Glass of Cava along with a specific food (meat, cheese, asparagus, etc.) were served as we were asked to guess the age (old or new) and if sugar was added.
This was a fun game mostly because I got each one right (more fun when you win) but also because I could finally taste the difference when paired with food. I’m not usually that keen to notice the subtle differences (I won’t know if there is a hint of tobacco, chocolate or other – it’s just good or bad wine to the chagrin of every sommelier I’ve encountered) but with the Cava I was easily able to do so. It helped that the sparkling is very easy to drink and I was probably a bottle or so in on the day.
Understanding how the Cava is made is a part of any tour and we would go to the underground basement to see the storage cellar and learn how the bottles are turned during the aging process. The concrete, cool cellar was stacked so high with row after row of cava. The most impressive part of the tour was the bottling and packing area. Unlike the big competitors, this is a small operation with limited production of high quality Cava.
Back upstairs, we were greeted by a table set with jams/jellies and cheese (always good to add to your picnic basket) and Ipad video about Les Filos. The small business created by two sisters who took the peaches their family grows and created a jam company. I passed on the tasting (not a peach fan) as they were accompanied by cheeses (which I can’t eat) to bring out the flavor. The rest of the group commented on the good flavor combinations and how the cheese paired well with the samples.
We then proceeded to the outdoor table to watch the sunset and for the owner’s wife to make us the famous Spanish tomato bread pan con tomate. She prepared the table and made sure that our visit was extra special. Her passion and enthusiasm for the family business was electric and her smile contagious (she is the marketing guru). Her name isn’t Bertha but she is definitely a star here along with the Cava.
We left with a gift bag containing a bottle of Cava and mini jars of jam. Again, I added this Cava to my MUST list.
Tastings cost €7 per person and need to be booked in advance.
Toasting the Sunset with Cava
Its funny how you can know nothing in the morning and a few hours later feel like a bit of an expert (even if only within your circle of friends). The two tours of Cava (old and new) highlighted the Penedes region, the grapes and the experience. We were full of great Cava, fun memories and onward to our group dinner (there would be even more Cava!). No one was drunk despite the quantity consumed (I think because we kept an even level of Cava in our system throughout the day) but we did laugh a lot.
That’s the fun of the Cava – easy to drink, great memories and laughter all around. It doesn’t get better than that. So don’t wait on a special occasion to enjoy a bit of sparkling wine this summer – go find a bottle of Cava, pack a picnic and go enjoy the sunset wherever you may be (if you are in Philly, sadly you will need to drive to New Jersey or Delaware to find Llopart and Bertha to accompany you to the sunset down the shore as Pennsylvania doesn’t sell either label).
Thank you to Enoturime Penedes, Llopart, Cava Bertha and Barcelona is Much More for hosting me on this wonderful tour to learn about the Penedes region and the family traditions being preserved in the production of cava. As always, even under the influence of cava and pan con tomate, all opinions are mine.