Cava vs Champagne blind tasting

1 Sept-Gramona Cava.jpg Vishal Kadakia of Wine Park, a wine merchant in India with a penchant for importing high quality hand-crafted wines, recently put to test the blind tasting prowess of Indian wine and beverage professionals, over a flight of eight sparkling wines including five premium Champagnes juxtaposed alongside three Cavas from the House of Gramona of Catalonia, Spain. Sonal Holland, member of the SI Tasting Panel, reports

The idea behind tasting them blind, as Vishal explains, was to appreciate Gramona Cava without prejudice, as he believes and rightly so, that Cava is the most underrated of all sparkling wines and suffers from an identity crisis around the world. In India too, Cava is a relatively less popular sparkling wine as compared to Champagne and Prosecco, which never seem to go out of favour with Indian wine consumers.
Cava is a sparkling wine made in a number of delimited regions in Spain, required by law to be made by the traditional method similar to Champagne. Cava uses indigenous grape varieties such as Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeu, which is another name for Viura, making oak-aged whites in the Rioja region of Spain. In recent years, Cava producers have also been adding a small percentage of Chardonnay which helps lend some freshness and fullness of structure to the blend.
Normally, in a flight of wines tasted blind, one would typically recognize a Cava by a marked lemon green tinge, an earthy, boxwood-like aroma and a piercing acidity attack on the palate. They seldom possess the elegance of structure, and the perfumed finish of a high quality Champagne.
However, Gramona is no ordinary Cava producer. As a family owned Cava producer that treasures artisanal winemaking methods, Gramona enjoys exceptional recognition worldwide as one of the finest of all Cava Houses. Gramona was also voted among the Top 100 Wineries of 2010 in the Wine & Spirits magazine. Gramona prides itself in using very long, slow and extended ageing on lees; such lees-ageing lends Gramona Cava depth, autolytic complexity and finesse in texture, making them comparable to the best sparkling wines of the world. Additionally, Gramona Cava are marked by low dosage, post disgorgement of the less, and a distinctly fresh acidity that lends the palate a refreshing prickle.
Food & Beverage Managers and Wine Directors from most eminent hotel brands in Mumbai were invited by Vishal Kadakia who had planned an exciting blind tasting of Gramona Cavas and Champagnes at Mezzo Mezzo, the Italian restaurant at J W Marriott in Juhu. All 8 wines were served one at a time, at perfect temperature in white wine glasses without revealing the label. There were no clues given about the number of Cava on the flight. After an initial furor of what might possibly be the Cava in the flight, most around the room were seen straining themselves to distinguish the Cava from the Champagne. Some wines seemed obvious as the ‘Brunch Champagnes’ and some others as premium quality Vintage Champagne. By and large, most participants seemed to be using the technique of elimination to identify the Cava – if it does not taste like Champagne it must be the Cava.
Soon, there were a plethora of different voices across the room. For most, there didn’t seem to be a definitive conclusion on what might be the Gramona Cava. This, to me, was a compliment to Gramona as once the wines were revealed, many realised that they had mistaken the Gramona Cava for a premium quality Champagne!
The wines in order of service and the maximum retail price were as follows:
1 Cava Gramona Gran Reserva 2008 Rs. 3,630/-
2 Moët Chandon Imperial Brut NV Rs. 7,135/-
3 Champagne Philippe Gonet Blanc de Blancs Signature Brut NV Rs. 7,758/-
4 Cava Gramona Imperial Gran Reserva 2007 Rs. 4,705/-
5 Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV Rs. 8,772/-
6 Champagne Veuve Clicquot Brut NV
7 Cava Gramona III LUSTROS Gran Reserva 2006 Rs. 5,988/-
8 Champagne Dom Perignon 2004 Rs. 21,117/-
Cava Gramona Gran Reserva 2008 – an approachable wine with a fresh spring floral nose, cool fruit and refreshing acidity on the palate with a sweet limey finish, lacking the autolysis character of typical Champagne.
Cava Gramona Imperial Gran Reserva 2007 – displayed attractive sweet stone fruit well balancing the assertive acidity of the wine. The wine was crunchy, distinct biscuit toasty notes and a hint of spicy character lending it a complex long finish. A very enjoyable wine indeed.
Cava Gramona III Lustros Gran Reserva 2006 – a serious contender for Champagne styles, this wine displayed intense smoky toasty character evident from its long slow ageing on lees for over 5 years, intermingling with aromas of spices, floral, figs and ripe yellow fruit. On the palate, the wine displayed elegance of structure and superb lasting complexity

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