There have been a plethora of new products, styles and grape varieties in the last few years which has left the industry quite breathless, old favourites such as Champagne are losing their crown to the mob over the border in Italy whose Prosecco is climbing the sales ranks although it is likely that price has a deciding factor here as there are very few Champagnes that can be bought under $40 and Australia still ranks as number six when it comes to worldwide sales.
Also as mentioned a couple of months ago the Prosecco market is inflated by a crowd of Australian Prosecco wines at very appealing prices and the sales are added to the Italian wines whereas Champagne has to fight its own battle, however there is another sparkling wine sitting in the wings patiently waiting for the Australian public to find it and that is Cava from Spain.
Cava is the name for Spanish sparkling wine which is made in the same traditional way as that Champagne is produced and that is in the bottle not in tanks, but the Spanish use different grape varieties. Cava means cave in Spanish and refers to the underground cellars where the wines gracefully age in sealed bottles for around one year or more before release and Cava has been produced using this method in Catalonia since the 19th century.
The grapes used in making Cava are indigenous to Catalonia being Parellada, Macabeo, and Xarel-lo which tolerate a much warmer climate than those varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, found in Champagne as the warmer climate produces riper grapes and Cava tends to be lower in acidity than Champagne. The largest producer of Cava and also one of the largest producers of sparkling wine around the globe is Freixenet which is a family-owned winery whose roots stretch back to 1861 and arose from a great love story.
In 1889 Dolores Sala Vive heiress to the Sala wine emporium married Pedro Ferrer Bosch, a boy from the neighbouring vineyard of la Freixeneda in the wine region of Penedes, just south of Barcelona. They went into business together producing traditionally crafted sparkling wine and in 1914 began selling their products with the Freixenet name due to the nickname El Freixenet given to Pedro by the locals.
During the 1920s the family’s flagship sparkling wines experienced great success both domestically and internationally until the beginning of the Spanish Civil War when the family suffered the loss of both Pedro and his eldest son. Dolores took over running the company until her son Jose Ferrer took over and by 1980 Freixenet became the world’s largest producer of sparkling wine.
Jose is now semi-retired and his son Pedro leads the charge and under his guidance, the company now has winery operations in Mexico, Argentina, Sonoma Valley, Champagne, Bordeaux and here in Australia in Coonawarra and Mildura. In 2018 Freixenet joined forces with Henkell and Co to become one of the leading sparkling wine producers in the world. In Spain Freixenet in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia has some 54kms of underground caves that contain over 120 million Bottles of Cava at any one time.
As we approach the time of year when sparkling wine comes into its own with the Melbourne Cup followed by Christmas perhaps this is an opportunity to try something different to Prosecco and Champagne and try a Freixenet Cava and as the bullfighters call out Ole. As previously mentioned, the emphasis on wine sales in all the buying groups, Woolworths, Coles and even the independents are on their own labels so that they can charge what they want because you can’t buy the wines elsewhere if you find something you really like.
Private labels now account for over 1 in 5 of all bottled wine sold but the problem I have with this is it allows these businesses to make offers that have a degree of doubt about the true value of the special price of them. Having tried a couple of the so-called half-price specials I certainly wouldn’t pay the full price for the product and it is probably even at half price the wines are still overpriced which is why I generally stick to known brands, at least you get what you pay for.
When the posters read half-price week after week you begin to become suspicious, and I have always believed if you sell your product on special too often then that becomes the acceptable price for that product and it becomes too hard to go back to the full price. If you are looking for something special this weekend Australian wines had a haul of 29 gold medals in this year’s International Wine and Spirit Competition with Australian fortified wines receiving some of the highest marks ever awarded at the competition accounting for eight of the gold medals in addition to the Fortified Wine Trophy.
The Grant Burge 20-Year-Old Tawny N.V. and Hardy’s Rare Tawny N.V. were both awarded 98 points, the highest score for Australian wines this year and as I have mentioned many times is a reflection on a style of wines we here in Australia have turned our backs on and one which offers fantastic value for money.
Morris Wines of Rutherglen took three of the gold medals awarded for their fortified wines with their Morris Old Premium Rare Muscat receiving 97 points. Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra and Margaret River plus Shiraz from South Australia took a clear leader amongst the top reds, Chardonnay showed a welcome return to a more generous style whilst the stand out dry white style in the whites was Semillon and both of these varieties age beautifully and again there are many bargains to be had especially with Semillon.
Several wineries stand out when it comes to Semillon but consistent producers are Tyrrells and McWilliams and certainly one of the great Semillons is McWilliams Mt. Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon which can be bought for under $20 at Dan Murphy’s, if you can find a bottle with a bit of age the wine will show a little toastiness which really adds to the character of the wine.
Other wines to win gold medals were The Bird in Hand Nest Egg 2018 Chardonnay, Penny’s Hill Skeleton Key 2017 Shiraz, Taylor’s 2017 St. Andrews 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Hugo 2016 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, McGuigan 2017 Bin 9000 Semillon, Saltram 2018 Series 5 Riesling and Langmeil Hallowed Ground 2017 Shiraz. Enjoy.
A couple of oldies:
Money, wine and women have good and bad things in them
Play, women and wine are enough to make a prince a pauper Speak for yourself,
Mr. C.H. Spurgeon!