Spanish wine producers have been watching the amazing success of Italian Proseccos in the U.S., and are taking action to get a piece of the sparkllng wine pie in this country. Previously unimported Cavas are now showing up in the U.S. market. I am delighted by the increasing number of Spanish Cavas that are now available here because, for my palate, the better cavas are superior to Proseccos.
One reason for my preference is that Cavas are produced using the traditional Champagne method (second fermentation in the bottle), unlike Proseccos, which are made by the tank method. Another factor is that some of the better Cavas are using top varieties, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the indigenous Xarel-lo, in their blends.
Inexpensive Cava brands, such as the popular Freixenet Black Label, have always been highly successful in the U.S., and retail for around the same price as inexpensive Prosecco brands. But I believe that there is a market for a better-quality sparkling wine that sells for a few dollars more than the inexpensive sparkling wine brands and yet is still value-priced compared to Champagne. Vallformosa Bruts are a leading example of this type of sparkling wine.
Vallformosa Bruts are not exactly brand new in the U.S. but their presence here has been minimal. I had actually not heard of the brand up until a recent tasting I attended in New York. Now four Vallformosa Cavas are available in the U.S. and have much better distribution than previously. The family-owned winery, Masia Vallformosa, is in the Penedès region, west of Barcelona. Vallformosa also produces wines from the Rioja and Ribera dl Duero, but sparkling wines have been their major emphasis since 1940, when the family produced its first cavas.
The following are the four Vallformosa cavas that I recently tasted:
Vallformosa “Clasic NV Brut” ($17) is a delicious, lively sparkling wine that would be excellent as an apéritif, or a good choice to serve at parties. It is fruity, with hints of fresh apple and tart citrus. It has 10.3 grams per liter residual sugar with 11.5 percent alcohol. A blend of 40 percent Xarel-lo, 30 percent Macabeo, and 30 percent Parallada, it is very refreshing. I would serve it on the cold side. 88
Vallformosa Origen NV Brut ($20) came as quite a surprise. It is made from exactly the same grape varieties as the Clasic Brut, with the same residual sugar and the same level of alcohol (11.5°). The only major difference (but a big one) is the age of the vines—25 to 30 year old vines for the Origen, while the Clasic Brut uses younger vines. The effects of the older vines in the Origen Brut are huge. It has lots of substance and character with complex flavors and a lengthy finish. The Origen Brut also tastes dry on the palate, and will age longer than the Clasic Brut. All this for only $3 more—$19.99, suggested retail. The Origen Brut is an elegant bubbly and a great value. 91
Vallformosa Origen Brut Rosado 2011 ($20) is a unique cava made from 90 percent Garnacha (a.k.a. Grenache) with 10 percent Monastrell (a.k.a. Mouvèdre). This deep-hued rosé cava is for red wine lovers; it is robustly structured, with raspberry aromas and vivid, red berry flavors. It has 12° alcohol, with 11.5 g/l residual sugar. What the Origen Rosado lacks in elegance is made up for with its delicious, fruity finish. I would serve this full-flavored cava with dinner. 90
Vallformosa Col.leccio Pinot Noir Brut 2011 ($35) really blew me away. I was not expecting such elegance and finesse in a cava. It has a pale pink color with aromas of roses and berries, with distinct raspberry flavors. It is Vallformosa’s top of the line Cava, made from 100 percent Pinot Noir, with 12° alcohol and 9.2 g/l residual sugar. The Col.leccio Pinot Noir Brut is clearly a Champagne lover’s wine. I shamelessly asked for two re-fills of this bubbly. It is a classic, refined sparkling wine with lots of tiny bubbles. The Col.leccio Pinot Noir ages for 15 months on its lees. The $34.99 suggested retail price might seem expensive for a cava, but considering its quality, I believe it is a great value. 93
If you are a Champagne lover, like me, but not inclined to pay the prices for Champagne, a really good Cava might be the answer for you. All four of the Vallformosa bruts I tasted are of high quality. For my palate, the NV Origen Brut and the 2011 Col.leccio Pinot Noir Brut are the standouts.