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story.lead_photo.caption Illustration by Kelly Brant

Wine drinkers love bubbles and wine drinkers love to find values.

This is why I wish more people knew what they are missing without Cava on their buying list. Cava is the undisputed bargain of bubbly. The more you explore this sparkling wine the more parallels you will find with Champagne.

Cava has been produced in Spain's Penedes region since the late 1800s, and millions of bottles have been sold. The method for producing this bubbly is very similar to the honored Champagne, with one notable difference. The local grapes used for production: Macabeo, is a white grape with ripe exotic notes of citrus and floral. This grape is the elegance and base of most blends. Parellado, a white grape with nutty notes adds the midpalate, texture and body to the blends. Xarello, a white grape bringing a lean underripe citrus, apple aroma adds the tart acidity and refreshing lift to the blends.

Most of the Cava on retail shelves is Cava brut but there are other Cavas that are aged longer before release. To understand the differences the labels will say "Cava" a minimum of 9 months aging on the lees (similar to French Cremant), "Reserva Cava" a minimum of 15 months aging on the lees (the same as nonvintage Champagne) and "Gran Reserva" a minimum of 30 months aging on the lees and dated with the vintage (similar to Vintage Champagne).

Cava generally has more acidity than other sparkling wines and therefore is an excellent choice when looking for a wine to match a wide range of menu items. And of course, with its lower price, it is a wonderful option for parties and large dinners. It's also an excellent option for mixing to create cocktails such as bellinis and mimosas. There's no need to open your vintage bubbly when Cava works as the perfect base for these fun cocktails.

THE VALUES

NV Conquilla Cava Brut, Spain (about $17 retail)

NV Mercat Brut Cava, Spain (about $15 retail)

NV Casas del Mar Cava, Spain (about $16 retail)

NV Freixenet Brut Cava, Spain (about $11 retail)

NV Sumarroca Cava Brut Reserva, Spain (about $19 retail)

Lorri Hambuchen is a member of London's Institute of Wines and Spirits. Contact her at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203, or email:

uncorked@thewinecenter.com

Food on 09/18/2019

Print Headline: Bubbly on budget: Cava is the bargain

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