Bella Conchi Spanish Brut Rose (Cava)

Brut Rose

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

Spanish Brut Rose

Bella Conchi Spanish Brut Rose

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.

Trepat

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

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.

The Pairings

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.

Brut Rose

Bella Conchi Spanish Brut Rose Pairings

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.

Cheeses

Now the cheeses.  The guide recommended a Garraotxa and a Mahon.  Two cheeses I was not familiar with.  Time for some geeky cheese research.

Garrotxa

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.

Mahon

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!

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Sparkling Wine, Champagne and those tiny bubbles

Champagne-splash

 

I had the opportunity to go to a Sparkling wine tasting last month.  Michael doesn’t do the sparkling wines so off I went on my own.  The tasting was seated and set up like a class and I did my research ahead of time to brush up on sparkling wines and learn a bit more.  I was prepared to travel the globe tasting Espumante from Portugal, Cava from Spain, Franciacorta, Trento and Asti from Italy, some Champagne and Cremant from France and maybe even some Sekt from Germany or Austria!  This tasting however drifted only briefly outside of France with the start being a Cava, the well known Rondel.  Not what I was expecting, but pretty spectacular none-the-less and as a result I probably tasted a great deal more champagne than my ticket price allowed for!

So…some sparkling wine basics to start with.  The bubbles were first looked at as a flaw, but the Brits got a taste and liked it!  During the 17th century the English glass production used coal ovens rather than wood like the French and were able to create a more durable bottle that could better withstand the pressure in sparkling wine.  Prior to this it was not unusual for a cellar to loose 20-90% of their bottles to instability.Champagne splash

How did it get to England and hook the Brits you ask?  Well Champagne is a cold region and sometimes the fermentation process would be prematurely halted due to the cold temperature leaving dormant yeast and some residual sugar in the bottle.  They would box up the wine and ship it to England, where it would warm up and begin a second fermentation in the bottle and thus when opened in jolly old England it would be bubbly!

There are two methods of making Champagne or sparkling wine.  The first is the Methode Traditionnelle and the second is Charmat.  Let’s hit the 2nd first because it is quick and easy to explain.  In this method the Champagne is made in large tanks and CO2 is added to add the bubbles.  This method is used for less expensive sparkling wines.  The bubbles tend to be larger and “rule of thumb”, the larger the bubbles the bigger the headache.  These bubbles tend to disperse quickly also.  Now onto the more complicated method “Methode Traditionnelle”

The Traditional method “Methode Traditionnelle” is much more complicated and time consuming and therefore much more expensive.  After harvest the grapes are put in vats for the first fermentation which can be up to a year.  Then the wines are carefully blended and may be blended with previous years wines to create the house style.  This is known as assemblage.  The idea for French champagne makers is to create a champagne that is consistent from year to year.  After assemblage the liquer de tirage is added.  This mixture of still wine, sugar and yeast is what will trigger the second fermentation.  The wines are then bottled and capped (with simple bottle caps (anyone remember those?).  Then the 2nd fermentation begins and can take 10 days to 3 months.  After the 2nd fermentation the next step is Remuage.  The bottles are transferred to “pupitres” which are rectangular boards where the bottles can rest almost upside down.  This allows the lees and sediment to collect in the neck of the bottle.  A process known as “riddling “ is applied here.  Originally “Riddlers” would slowly turn the bottles, a bit of a turn gently each day to get all the sediment to settle in the neck, now there are machines that assist with this.  After the riddling the wine will be aged again on its lees for a minimum of one year for non-vintage champagnes and at least 3 years for vintage champagnes.  This aging allows the lees to breakdown which is what gives Methode Traditionnelle sparkling wines their bouquet and flavor.  But we are not done yet…you don’t want all that lees clouding up your beautiful sparkling wine!  The next step is Degorgement where the sediment is removed.  The neck of the bottle is put into a nitrogen solution to freeze it.  Then the bottle is opened and the solid frozen plug of lees is removed.  How in the world did they figure out how to do this?  Well for this tradition thanks the Veuve Clicquot.  Veuve in French is widow and Madame Clicquot’s husband died during the bottling process.  Legend says that she could not figure out how to get the lees out of the bottles and in her frustration threw them out into the snow, where….the necks froze first allowing them to easily remove the lees.  The final stage is to add more sugar and still wine to again fill the neck where the lees was removed.  This last “dosage” as it is called, determines the wines sweetness which goes from Brut to Sec.  Strangely enough, Extra dry is not as dry as Brut.  The Brut labels were added later to indicate a dryer wine.  So there you go the quick version of making Champagne.  It is a bit of work!

ORondel Cava Brutkay on to the tasting.  We began as I mentioned with a Rondel Brut Cava.

This is a great sparkling wine from Spain made in the Methode Traditionnelle.  It is lovely on it’s own or in mimosas and is exceedingly affordable at around $7.99 per bottle.  We tasted a Brut which was lovely, but it is also available in a Demi-Sec if you lean toward sweeter wines.  I picked up a Demi-Sec to take home for Michael to mix in Mimosas.

Our next wine was a Cremant de Bourgongne.  So…a little explanation.  As of 1985 the sparkling wine regions outside of Champagne in Loir, Alsace and Burgundy agreed to no longer use the term Champagne.  This would be reserved only for the Champagne region.  Instead they would now use the term “Cremant”.  Cremant de Bourgogne can by law only be made with  Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown in the Burgundy region and must be aged for a minimum of 9 months.  The Cremant we tasted was a Louis Bouillot Brut NV.  This was creamy yet dry with a nice finish.  At $15.99 it is a great value.

Now we stepped into Champagne.  The first we tasted was a Paul Goerg Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs.  Goerg is names after a respected 19th century Mayor of Vertus.  The chalky soils of Vertus lend a refreshing mineral quality to this wine.  3 years of aging adds to the wine’s complexity.  I loved the bubbles in this.  The bubbles were very fine and refreshing and the bit of minerality made it very refreshing.  It also had a lovely floral note to the nose.  Blanc de Blancs means white from whites in French, and as such this wine is 100% chardonnay (a white grape).  This was the wine I took home with a sensible $29.00 price tag.

Our next venture was into Grower Champagnes.  Now I have been hearing about these and was anxious to taste one!  To give a little perspective on this style of Champagne it’s good to know that there are 261 Champagne houses in Champagne.  There are 19,000 growers.  So for a grower to produce a Champagne is a rare thing.  We tasted a Georges Vesselle Grand Cru Brut.  There are 17 Grand Cru Villages with 100% ratings, 38 Premiere Cru Villages with 90-99% ratings and the remaining villages in Champagne are rated at 80-89%.  The ratings are depended on the Village and the soil type there.  This changed the system from one where price was based on the Champagne house to one based on where the grapes were grown. This wine was a bit toastier and had a nutty creamy quality to it.  This particular grower is in Bouzy and it is a small production with 42 acres planed n 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay.  It is a small family production.  This wine sells for around $40 per bottle.

The next wine was by the same grower and was a DeMargeire Grand Cru Burt Rose.  Champagne roses are like regular roses in that they can be made in two ways, you may allow the grapes to have contact with the skins early on to impart the pink color and some additional flavor or you may add pinot noir (or pinot meunier) in the final dosage.  This wine uses the former method and is a light salmon in color.  As with many roses you immediately get strawberry on the nose.  It had a lengthy finish and more than a little toast on the nose.  Roses are only about 3-5% of the Champagne Export so they are a little harder to come by.  This one retails at around $43.

From here we moved on to a Franck Bonville Grand Cru Vintage Brut. (I know there were a lot of wines to taste!).  This estate consists of 50 acres in the  Cremant, Aviz and Oger areas which are all classified as Grand Cru.  It is 100% Chardonnay and was aged for 5 years on it’s lees before release.  This was heavier on the yeast and had more light fruit.  It was medium in body.  More complex than the previous wines.  It goes for $49.99

The last of our dry Champagnes was Mailly Exception Blanche.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay.  This champagne will be great through 2022. It has flavors of tangerine and almond with a hint of minerality.  The bubbles are fine and the texture smooth.  This lovely Champagne will set you back $70.

Our final taste (well of Champagne) was a Mailly Delice Demi-Sec Grand Cru.  As a Demi-Sec it is sweeter so we finished with it.  It is 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay.  It is a blend of the latest harvest with 40% being 10 years of reserve wines.  It is aged 2 yeas more on the lees than the Brut NV.  The extra aging makes this a fuller champagne.  It runs around $45 per bottle.

champagne glassesWe finished the night with some Georges Deboeuf As it was the 3rd Thursday of November and officially Beaujolais Nouveau day!  This seasons had hints of grape candy to me.  Reminded me of the tart smell of the Lik a Stik powdered candy.  Fun and fruity it is a gulping wine!  What a down to earth way to end the evening of sipping Champagnes!

So…I have a new understanding of Champagnes.  Time to make some Bellini’s and Caviar!  And Champagne and sparkling wines go with everything, so…If you don’t know what wine to take to that Thanksgiving dinner… pick up something with bubbles (smaller bubbles to make your head happier) it will go with everything and is bound to bring a smile!

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