30 December 2013

Spanish Sparkling Wines for the New Year

The next two days will see a mad rush for bubbly wine, meaning that wine retailers have cleared out the egg nog and chocolate liqueur to make room for a wide range of sparkling wines to meet every price point. Expensive Chamapagne is a true delight, and I have a deep fondness for the vintage bottles and grower Champagnes that I have had the pleasure to enjoy from time to time. But when I'm ringing in the New Year with folks who don't spend lots of time arguing over the importance of the méthode champenoise, I prefer good-tasting but more affordable bottles that still look classy. And as with almost everything I try, an ability to pair well with food for regular non-holiday consumption is very important.

Spanish Cava fits the bill nicely, and all of these wines are produced in large quantities and should be easy to find. You'll notice that I've used the press images for these wines: due to a corrupted SD card I lost a handful of wine images after the bottles had already been tasted and sent off to be recycled. I prefer using my own photography, but good PR shots exist for a reason, and I have occasionally used them in the past.

Update: I found the photo! Proof that these graced my own kitchen table, but for formatting purposes, I'm leaving the trade photos below.

NV Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée
40% Parellada, 35% Macabeo, 25% Xarel-lo
$12, 12% abv.

The black Freixenet bottle is one of the easiest to spot in the wine shop, though there are varying styles of sweet/dry available that all look similar. Many of the classic Champagne categories are counter-intuitive, since extra dry is actually a little sweet and falls in between brut (meaning dry and actually dry) and sec (meaning dry, but actually sweeter than extra dry). Putting Sweet Cuvée in the name is a great simplifier, and this one is not too sugary. It's a great dessert wine with cheese and fresh fruit, or one that will appeal to novice wine drinkers.

NV Segura Viudas Brut
D.O. Cava
50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, 15% Xarel-lo
$10, 11.5% abv.

Backing up a bit to the previous wine, brut is more or less the standard sparkling wine level. Not bone dry but no appreciable sweetness either. The wine shows tart lemony acidity with a hint of pear. Great balance with a crisp finish. When I talk about pairing sparkling wine with everyday food, this would be a great go-to wine for spicy fried shrimp and an Asian cole slaw. Don't be afraid of the hot peppers, which will taste even better with the bubbles.

NV Segura Viudas Brut Rosé
90% Trepat, 10% Garnacha
$10, 12% abv.

Pink sparkling wines are a special category, one that can look feminine but often have more depth and structure than their golden counterparts. Often these are mistaken for being sweet (curse you White Zinfandel!), but I often gravitate to these or Blanc de Noirs when offered a selection of sparklers. And for those of you chasing your life list of wine grapes like a birder, you can add Trepat. Gentle aromas of wild strawberries and citrus peel, big bubbles, firm acidity and dry. I love a wine like this with cured meats and olives, even better if you can combine them with delicious bread to make a muffuletta.

NV Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad
67% Macabeo, 33% Parellada
$25, 12% abv.

Part of the glamour of sparkling wine is the bottle, and for $25 this one certainly delivers. Not only is it a great wine, but the metal base and crest allow for a bit of showmanship during the opening, and the burgeoning craft movement will mean that some fan of Pinterest will be begging you for the empty bottle. This one shows crisp mineral tones and medium acidity. Smaller bubbles than the other offerings and a more gentle finish. More refined, more elegant, and one that would go great with a wide range of brunch dishes including Eggs Benedict. And it's still affordable enough to incorporate into a Mimosa, a French 75, or a Kir Pétillant.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

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