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MWG March 20th tasting (1/7): Soulless sparklers?

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Eric Asimov neatly summarizes the issues many MWG members have with cava: “I have never been the biggest fan of cava. While repeatedly I have seen it cited as an excellent value, the rock-bottom prices never justified the absence of pleasure I experienced. Served chilled, I thought, it was merely cold and bubbly, with little zest or energy. It seemed to lack the sparkling joy of prosecco, or the intrigue of the various crémants.”

To put our preconceptions to the test, we popped the corks on two highly rated and relatively pricey Spanish sparklers.

Conca del Riu Anoia 2009, De la Finca, Raventos I Blanc ($31.50, 12178834)
Organically farmed Xarel⋅lo (45%), Macabeu (30%) and Parelleda (25%) from vines grown in nine parcels planted between 1970 and 1987. After gentle pressing, the varieties are fermented separately in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, then blended and transferred to bottles for second fermentation and a minimum of three years’ maturation. 12% ABV.
A fine bead but not much foam. Bready, yeasty, lemony, chalky nose. Clean with a tight effervescence. More minerally than fruity (quince?). Long, bitter-tinged (almond skins?), tensely acidic and very dry. Not much depth, though chewing reveals more. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Penedès 2007, Imperial Gran Reserva, Gramona ($32.70, 11800222)
Xarel⋅lo (50%), Macabeu (40%) and Chardonnay (10%) from 25- to 30-year-old vines. Aged on the lees for four to five years. 12% ABV.
Sweeter-smelling than the Finca: lemon, flowers and a note of shower curtain. Softer effervescence. Suaver but also grapier, rounder, less dry and less pristine. Again more minerally than fruity. Decent breadth and length but plumbing no depths. (Buy again? Meh.)

Both wines are scored highly by local and international critics. Both are impeccably made. Neither is unpleasant to drink. So why did they generate no excitement and little enthusiasm around the table? “Lack of soul?” hazarded one taster. “Not a lot of personality there,” noted another. The general conclusion was that the 20% to 30% price premium over more enjoyable sparklers from the Jura, Loire, Alsace, Burgundy and Limoux made purchasing them hard to justify.

Written by carswell

April 13, 2014 at 14:00

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