This post is a throwback. It was an evening off alone, and I pampered myself with a little Cava and pairings. It’s kinda making me crave some bubbles now…
So Michael is working tonight and he doesn’t typically like sparkling wines, so…Tonight we dive into the Spanish Cava.
About the Cava
This Cava is a Bella Conchi Brut Rose. It is 70% Trepat and 30% Garnacha.
So lets break it down (this is the geeky wine stuff, feel free to scroll past if you just want to get to the pairings)
Cava is predominately made in Catalonia in Spain and may be white or rose. (We went with the Rosé). And if it says “Cava” on the label, then it must be made in the traditional Champenoise method.
The word “Cava” means cave or cellar, which were originally used for aging.
This particular Cava is a blend of Trepat & Garnacha.
On a side note: The name “Bella Conchi” is in honor of Javier Galarreta’s mother who loved Champagne and passed away before her son had produced this lovely Cava.
If you are like me, you have not heard of this grape before. Although it has gone by many names: Trapat, Traput and Trepan are all easy variations, but it has also been known as Bonicaire, Parrel and Embolicaire. This is a red Spanish grape that is primarily used for rose. You will find it grown in Catalonia in the Conca de Barbera and Costers del Segre DO’s (Denominacion de Origen). This is the Northeast part of Spain (think the Barcelona area).
The wines from this grapes are typically light to medium bodied. You will get strawberry, raspberry and rose petal on the nose. It tends to be very fresh and have bright acidity. While mostly used for Cava, there are also some high quality red wines made with Trepat.
It likes sandy soil and as such you find it near growing near the coast. It buds early and is typically resistant to fungal diseases, but is susceptible to frost.
Garnacha is Grenache, just grown in Spain where it originated. This grape is more often thought of as a Rhone, the G in GSM. This grape hails from the Aragon region of Northern Spain. From here it spead to Catalonia, Sardinia and Roussillon in Southern France.
This grape likes hot dry soils and is great with wind tolerance (this would be the reason Steve Beckman told me he plants it on the top of Purisima Mountain!)
It is thin skinned and low in tannins and brings the fruit to a GSM blend.
So as I mentioned, Michael wasn’t home, so this was all about me. I picked up the recommended cheeses, Mahon and Garrotxa from the cheese counter. I grabbed some Marcona Almonds too, as they are fried in oil and salty, which is always a good pairing with sparking wine. The guide suggested pairing with salads, grilled seafood, barbequed pork spareribs or spicy curly fries. I must admit, I wasn’t really hungry. I had just finished a great Yoga class and kinda just wanted to snack. So, I picked up strawberries (pink with pink), blackberries (with thoughts of dropping them in my glass), Salt & Pepper popcorn (another great sparkling pairing) and a small jar of caviar. I mean if you are going to do a pairing that gets you both ends of the budget spectrum to go with a sparkling wine. Really though, this was grocery store shelf stable caviar so not so fancy at just $5.99.
So how did the Pairings go?
I started with the Marcona Almonds which were fried in olive oil. (details on Marcona Almonds). This pairing was nice the rich oily, salty almonds and then a splash of the Cava to clean the palate. Same for the Salt & Pepper popcorn. I had been turned onto the popcorn sparkling pairing back when we visited Laetitia, a winery in SLO Wine Country that produces sparkling wines. Their winemaker sites popcorn as his favorite pairing with sparkling wine. Potato chips are also a great go to with the oil and salt. The pepper on the popcorn was made a tad spicier with the Cava.
After that spice I needed to cool my palate down a bit, so I dove into the black berries. They were lovely and sweet and picked up the fruit in the wine, as did the strawberries. The fact that this was relatively dry allowed the berries to taste even sweeter.
The caviar I picked up was a Vodka Lumpfish caviar and was super salty. I did not pick up creme fraiche, so it was just a little caviar on a cracker. The popping caviar with the bubbles in the sparkling was lovely. I just finished it off with a berry to clean my palate of the residual salt.
The brilliant thing about bubbles is that they clean your palate after every bite, so each bite is as fresh as the first.
Now the cheeses. The guide recommended a Garraotxa and a Mahon. Two cheeses I was not familiar with. Time for some geeky cheese research.
The guide classified it as a moist cakey semi-firm cheese. They said it “offers sweetness with a sharp white pepper flavor”.
This cheese had a grey speckled rind that kinda looks like a river rock. You pronounce it ‘ga-ROCH-ah’. Imported from Catalonia it is a goat cheese that is crafted in the foothills of the Pyrenees. In 1981 some young cheese makers saved this cheese from going extinct. This is traditionally made with the milk of the Murciana goats and is cave aged to get the mold to grow making that river rock rind and adding flavor to the cheese. Theses cheeses mature quickly due to the humidity in the Pyrenees, taking between 4 to 8 weeks.
There were a bit more details on this cheese from the guide. “Aged seaside on the island of Menorca, this Hard, Flaky paste has buttery and fruity flavors with a hint of vinegary tartness.”
Mahon is a cows milk cheese and picking it up with it’s orange rind and soft interior I was reminded of Muenster. This cheese is named for the port of Mahon on the Minorca island on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.
The Mahon I chose was young, and was soft. An aged Mahon will be hard. It can be served over pasta, potatoes etc.. Traditionally it is served sliced with olive oil, black pepper and tarragon. (This I will try the next time I pair it!)
I found this to be a fragrant with a slightly floral character that was really lovely. The cheese was soft and smooth and this was intriguing with the Brut Rose, the Rose bringing out these floral notes in your mouth.
Surprisingly, Michael came home and finished the last glass I had left in the bottle. Unfortunately he missed out on the pairings. I do expect to pick up another bottle in the future, specifically to pair with some spicy curly fries!
Stay tuned for our next pairing!