I love the holidays. People smile more and are generally a little nicer; the weather starts to cool down (that is, unless you live in Southern California); and the bubbles flow more freely and more often. Pour me some Champagne, right? No! I say, “Keep your Champagne and give me Cava!” For those who have never tried Spanish Cava, you are in for a real treat. Of great quality and considerably less expensive than Champagne, Cava is gracing more holiday tables and celebrations around the world. Here are a couple of ideas for your Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations. Additionally, why not add a couple of Spanish traditions to your holidays as well?!
Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée ($12 retail) – Rarely does one need an excuse to pour a glass of sparkling wine doused with orange juice on a weekend morning. Why not let the wine shine on its own? While the kids (or you) are opening Christmas gifts pour yourself a glass of Freixenet’s newest Cava - Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée. Freixenet is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable wines on the shelf, with its Black Bottle Bubbly. Produced from the traditional Cava grapes, this wine is a blend of 35% Macabeo (fuity and aromatic), 25% Xarel-lo (power and depth), and 40% Parellada (fruit and finesse). This wine is extremely fresh and smooth with aromas of peaches and cream, with stone and tropical fruits on the palate and a pleasant lingering finish.
Do not be deceived by the name “Sweet Cuvée” – this sparkler is not super sweet. It has just a hint of sweetness which will pair wonderfully with any number of dishes – from seafood to spicy foods to even pizza. But I challenge you to try it for breakfast. Put aside that bowl of oatmeal and fire up the cooktop. A traditional Spanish Tortilla de Patatas is a great dish to pair with this sparkler. You can find my recipe for Tortilla España here along with a couple of my “variations on a theme” (all of which are delicious with this Cava).
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva ($10 retail) – I am not going to lie. I LOVE this Cava! This has been my go-to sparkler for years and it never disappoints. Hand-crafted using the méthod champenoise, Segura Viudas blends history and tradition with modern winemaking to create an extraordinarily approachable Cava perfect for special occasions or everyday consumption. The Brut Cava is a traditional blend of Macabeo (50%), Parellada (35%), and Xarel-lo (15%). Aromas of citrus, tropical fruits and floral notes lead to a complex and balanced taste of citrus fruits, a hint of vanilla with good acidity and crispness. This Cava is great on its own or paired with cheeses, seafood, or pasta dishes. One of my favorite guilty pleasures is Segura Viudas with kettle-cooked potato chips (don't knock it 'til you try it!).
This Cava will be my companion for 2014 New Year's Eve. It will be right at home as I celebrate my annual Spanish tradition of Las doce uvas de la suerte ("The twelve grapes of good luck"). This tradition dates back to the late 19th century but was officially established in 1909 when, in December of that year, some wine growers popularized the custom to better sell large amounts of grapes from an excellent harvest (leave it to Spanish ingenuity). The tradition consists of eating a grape with each of 12 bell strikes at midnight on December 31st. This signifies prosperity in the coming 12 months. Just a couple of hints: 1) choose small seedless grapes; and 2) if you have a group of people, separate the grapes into small bowls before midnight. This is a fun and meaningful tradition, and I suspect will become one you will celebrate for generations to come!
Life is short. Drink Spanish wine!