U.S. and Spanish Sparkling Wine

Similar climates make for zippy styles


Cava from Spain is an inexpensive sparkling wine made in a fresh style. The grapes used in Cava are typically Xarello, Macabeo and Parellada (instead of the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier usually used for Method Champenoise wines), so the flavor profile of Cava is distinct from that of Champagne; the wines are zippy and fruity.

On the other hand, the Methode Champenoise wines of the U.S. tend to be very similar in style to Champagne. The simple fact that the climates between most U.S. wine-growing regions and Champagne is so strikingly different (Champagne is at the northern limit of viable grape-growing for winemaking) results in two very different results.
This climate is something both Spain and the U.S. share. The sparkling wines from both generally have lower acidities than their French counterparts. In theory, that allows for wines with less sugar in them, though in practice both tend to follow fashion and have enough sugar to be noticeable.

Seguras Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad

Hugely lemon oily on the nose with some interesting lightly herbal, yeasty background notes. Nice mousse and good weight in the mouth, this is refined if simple, with lovely citrus tones and a hint of peach. Good length, hint of mineral, refreshing. 89pts
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Freixenet Elyssia Pinot Noir Brut
Intense with cheesy, toasty edges, lots of spice notes, distinct red fruit undertones with a violet edge. Mousse is a touch coarse but this is bright and broad in the mouth. It lacks some height but the sour cherry and citron flavors accented with lightly yeast, birthday cake tones makes for an attractive mid-palate. The firm finish is moderately long with a light finale of vanilla cherry pit. 89pts
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2005 Juve y Champs Brut Nature Reserva de la Familia
Dried apples, quite evolved, mature nose, rather aromatic with woodsy, porcini notes, lime, light white flower. Elegant, moderately fine mousse, dry and crisp, nicely complex in a smallish aplitude kind of way. Definitely friendly and refreshing nice crabapple tone to the finish with a medium-length lingering mineral note. 88pts
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Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvee Brut
Dusty on the nose with balanced, lightly tropical citrus, peach and green apple fruit. Coarse mousse. This is nicely balanced if slightly to the sweet side, with rich apple, peach and citron flavors that are nicely long on the finish. Simple and a bit more rustic than last year's lot, but still delivers good fruit and nice balance picking up a fine mineral edge on the medium finish. 88pts
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Juve y Champs Brut Rose Cava Pinot Noir
Toasty, dried red fruits, maybe a bit of licorice, definitely cocoa licorice, rose petals. Red-fruited, nicely balanced good acids, sweet burnished red fruits, rich red fruits, red apple notes. Intensely fruity, it’s a simple, obvious wine, but what’s wrong with that? 88pts
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Domaine Carneros Rose
Fruity on the nose with chalky, smoky nuanced cherry custard fruit. A bit coarse in the mouth and quite dry, yet richly fruited with a nice red berry character across the palate. The finish is short but refreshing with enough fruit to leave a soft, lingering impression. 88pts
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Juve y Camps Cinta Purpura Reserva Brut

Almost spearminty on the nose with a sweet herbal top note that’s followed by vaguely sweet vanilla and licorice tones that gives this a distinct aniseseed crème brulee character. Barely noticeably sweet on entry but with good buffering acids, round and opulent on the palate with a touch of almond accenting the citrus and sour apple fruits. The finish is nicely dry with good acidic drive and mouth-cleansing qualities. Good length. 87pts
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2006 Domaine Carneros
Yeasty on the nose with sweet sultana notes and spritzy citrus notes fighting for attention. There’s a nice mineral, brie ring underlay adding depth and complexity. A bit of noticeable sweetness up front leads to a round, easy-to-drink palate impression with dried apricot and pear fruit on the modest finish. 87pts
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Korbel Natural
Very tight nose with apple fruit that is crisp and almost bitter, laid over raw, lightly yeasty dough. Very bright and firm on the entry with good balance. This is dry and clean with apple fruit and almost minerally acidity. The finish is clean, crisp and refreshing. A very nice if simple sparkler that would work very well with fried or fatty foods. 87pts
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Korbel Extra-Dry
Sweet pear and herb nose with a touch of old cinnamon spice. On the palate this is bright and bright with pure pear and apple fruit. It’s a relatively dry style with good persistence on the finish, ending on a gentle floral note. 87pts
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Jaume Serra Cristalino
Fruity on the nose with some candied note to the peachy fruit but certainly not overdone and accented by light smoke and wax notes. A bit sweet on entry then nicely vibrant acids help balance out the sugar, allowing it to lend depth to the fruit without the impression of sweetness. This actually firms up a bit in the glass and while it’s not complex it’s very well balanced and offers good length and freshness. 86pts
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Freixenet Cordon Negro
A bit cidery on the nose but also somewhat herbal with nice intensity to the aromas, which are framed around fresh baking apples. Slightly coarse bubbles, but this has nice weight and balance in the mouth with simple but fresh fruit well accented by some deep, earthy, cheesy, yeasty tones. Dry and firm with a moderately short clean finish that offers nice resonance to the bitter apple fruit. 86pts
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Freixenet Cordon Rosado
Stemmy, a bit cheesy, some blood orange. Soft entry, noticeably sweet but not overly so, lending some flesh and depth to the simple but well presented fruit. There’s a touch of tannin here, which adds to the weight and texture in the mouth and gives some detail to the moderately long finish. The acid creeps out on the finish and ensures a dry ending. 85pts
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Korbel Brut
Quite fruity on the nose with notes of peaches and apples in syrup. On entry this is a bit coarse but quite fresh with an intensely appley fruity character. Round and easy on the backend with a short finish that leaves a bit of sweetness on the palate. 84pts
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Mentioned in this article


  • I don't agree with all of your choices. Korbel does not belong on a wine forum like this which claims to be quality conscious!

    Dec 29, 2010 at 9:13 PM

  • Love the inculsion of Freixenet, Korbel and Domaine Carneros. Knew there was a reason for your selections. Not being a wine snobby gives you so much more wine to taste and enjoy.

    Dec 29, 2010 at 10:23 PM

  • Snooth User: Carolyn Carswell
    Hand of Snooth
    210963 3

    Is there anyone out there with experience on the South African version of Champagne - Methode Cap Classique?

    Dec 30, 2010 at 3:14 AM

  • Snooth User: spaniahus
    574403 12

    Great to get some input on Spanish cavas. Nice to be able to read sometime in the future an indepth report on cavas -- my def. most favourite drink when in Spain. A Barcelonian told me a few years ago that anything "brut" is drinkable. This is apparently a stamp of approval denoting natural sugars -- no added. Anyone know which regions are noted for cava? The equivalent to Rioja for reds and Rueda for whites?
    Great to read :)

    Dec 30, 2010 at 5:34 AM

  • Snooth User: Itzi
    367395 7

    Even if in the last years some other regions in Spain have start producing sparkling wines, cava is typically catalan, that is, produced in Catalonia. We drink lots of cava, we produce many different cavas and the best cava is produced in Catalonia, near Barcelona. There are cavas which include Chardonnay grapes and, in the last years, even Pinot Noir. I think Segura Viudas, Juvé & Camps and Freixenet are impossible to compare, not to talk about Cristalino. Segura Viudas and Juvé & Camps are quality wines, whereas Freixenet is a very commercial one and Cristalino a supermarket wine. There are many small producers that produce very high quality cavas. I strongly recommend Huguet Brut Nature Reserva 2005, whinch includes Chardonnay and a bit of Pinot Noir in its coupage. I just bought 12 bottles and a Magnum yesterday. It's probably my favorite cava at the moment. When I want something more "traditional", I buy Parxet Brut Nature (Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada grapes). Another great cava. Codorniu has very good cavas, such as Maria Cristina and the last creation, an interesting Blanc de Noirs, as well as some "Gran Reserva", which are marvelous. And I could not forget a couple of gorgeous pink cavas: De Nit by Raventós i Blanc (Pinot Noir, pale pink brut, mmmh!) and Codorniu Pinot Noir.
    I hope you can find these cavas in the States.

    Itziar Rey, Barcelona

    Dec 30, 2010 at 6:18 AM

  • Snooth User: spaniahus
    574403 12

    Woww. Thanks for the info. I will make this my shopping list when I return to Spain (Costa Azahar) next month. Another interesting fact concerning cava -- no headaches from too much tanin, and it DOESNT go straight to the head: my head at least.
    Happy New Year all. Feliz de nuevo año

    Dec 30, 2010 at 7:54 AM

  • Snooth User: Itzi
    367395 7

    Feliz Año Nuevo you too and, if you want more information about cava or about the best producers, I can help you.
    I agree with you: you can drink half a bottle of good quality cava and you won't get drunk... and you won't get a headache the morning after!

    Dec 30, 2010 at 8:04 AM

  • Snooth User: spaniahus
    574403 12

    Just posted this on my twitter/spaniahus page
    Keep sharp with Spanish cava: great low-throb bubbly with trifling tipsy factor 4 your New Year celebrations: http://alturl.com/6mgy5

    Dec 30, 2010 at 8:34 AM

  • I agree with Itzi on almost every point! I almost always serve cava now; without a doubt cava (and for that matter, Spainsh wines in general) are some of the best values around for the average person who enjoys wine. The Segura Viudas is always my goto sparkler for everyday get togethers and informal dinner parties. I have close to a case + 4 Magnums on hand right now. Do Not discount the Cristalino- every cava has it's place, and Cristalino is great for brunch or for larger functions and works nicely in cocktails. It consistantly ranks high amoung value priced NV sparkling wines and holds its own against many wines that cost 3 or 4 times as much. I have served Cristalino at several large functions and without fail have had people ask where they can buy it. Cristalino also makes several lists each year for sparkling wine to serve on New Year's Eve. One thing to look out for is that Cristalino recently had to change its label so you will have to look a little closer on the wine seller's shelf to find it. I hope you enjoy your cava, whatever your choice.

    Dec 30, 2010 at 12:51 PM

  • All of your choices are rated "Best Buys" by volunteer-run http://www.WineBestBuys.com which tracks the wine critics' ratings and competition medals of 35,000 wines. In the under $10 price range, other Best Buys included the Cristalino Cava Brut, the Poema Cava Brut, the Conde de Subirats Cava Brut, and the Paul Chenau Lady of Spain Cava Brut, all with consensus ratings (average of all the critics) of 87.

    Dec 30, 2010 at 7:23 PM

  • Snooth User: Itzi
    367395 7

    I like Poema!

    Dec 31, 2010 at 4:58 AM

  • Snooth User: apps
    370206 4

    just got 2 bottles yesterday @ jewel for $8.99 ea.

    Dec 31, 2010 at 9:24 AM

  • Snooth User: Itzi
    367395 7

    Really! Less than what you would pay for it in BCN!

    Dec 31, 2010 at 12:44 PM

  • Snooth User: Taisia
    729601 1

    Sparkling wines should be purchased and stored at least two weeks before consumption to allow the wine to settle, served cold (8 C), and in flute shapes glasses. Fill glasses only half full. http://www.ci-sun.com

    Jan 14, 2011 at 7:00 AM

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