Cava versus Prosecco
Both these are on offer at under £10, that’s fantastic value. However, they are quite different, here’s a little about them. Prosecco as it’s called is actually the name of the grape variety it’s made from and mainly comes from northern Italy, around the Venice area. The wine is made fizzy by the ‘Charmat’ or ‘tank’ method, that is to say the secondary fermentation happens in large tanks, under pressure. This is a relatively quick process, is less labour intensive and therefore cheaper than sparkling wines which undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle. The difference between a ‘Frizzante’ and a ‘Spumante’ Prosecco is the level of pressure (or gas) in the finished bottle. Spumante will have a higher pressure, stronger cork and heavier bottle.
Yes, but what does it taste like? Well, it’s fresh and very fruity, not too dry and has an appealingly smooth and gently rounded feel to it. Makes for a great aperitif or party wine as everyone always loves it, and it’s at a useful 11% alcohol level.
Our Cava in comparison is from the excellent Albet I Noya estate in Catalonia (near Barcelona). A different beast to Prosecco, but certainly no less delicious. Cava is made in the ‘traditional’ method (same as Champagne). After the basic wine has been produced, it undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle itself, for a minimum of twelve months. Here the three famous, traditional varieties are used, Macabeu, Xarel-lo and Parelleda, producing a drier, more angular style of wine than Prosecco. This Cava typically has a more complex yeasty, mineral character and is drier and better suited to food matching. The slightly higher price is explained by the more expensive production method, the ageing time required, and indeed the pricier bottle and cork. It’s amazing value at under a tenner.
Franciacorta versus Champagne
Moving to significantly higher priced sparkling wines, there’s no doubt that you do get a lot more flavour and richness. There’s a huge variation in quality though within the £15 – £30 price bracket, is it worth spending more for Champagne or are there alternatives? We think yes, there definitely are, and our Barone Pizzini Franciacorta from northern Italy at £18.99 is a great place to start. Made in the same way as Champagne, it undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle for 24 months on its natural yeasts and is made using 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir grapes. It’s dry, yet ripe and creamy with lots of persistent complex flavours, and a crisp finish. In fact it knocks spots off many of the ‘big-brand’ Champagnes around, that you’ll pay more for.
Now, when you want the real McCoy, Champagne can indeed deliver the very finest and most intense flavours, to excite the taste buds. It’s known the world over, as the ultimate ‘special occasion’ celebratory drink. However, with some 15,000 growers and around 4000 producers of finished Champagne, it’s all about selection! Our festive Champagne of choice is the Fleury Blanc de Noir, made only from biodynamic Pinot Noir grapes (white from black grapes) in the southern region of Aube. Its nose is heady, nutty and rich, broad red berryish flavours predominate, and there’s lots of biscuity length and uplifting acidity in the finish.
Ultimately, we’ll all have our preferences and favourites, but don’t be afraid to try something new. We’d recommend going for at least two types, firstly a Champagne or Franciacorta for those special treats or for the big day, and a back up of some Cava and/or Prosecco for gatherings and more everyday enjoyment.