How Cava Went From Cheap To Chic

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  • Rather than conjuring visions of the glitz of a soirée chez Jay Gatsby, the word 'Cava' is more likely to evoke unpleasant memories of cheap and not so cheerful fizz picked up for a fiver at Tesco, then taken to parties and surruptitiously hidden behind the Champagne.

    While the Spanish sparkler has suffered from an image problem in the UK in recent years, a revolution is bubbling away that promises to inject a much needed dose of cool into the category, spearheaded by a trio of Cava bars aiming to shake up perceptions of the erstwhile unglamourous fizz.

    Where to drink it:

    1. Copa de Cava

    Run by the ebullient Richard Bigg, the man responsible for sexing up Sherry in the UK at his shed-sized Bar Peptio in King’s Cross, this time around he’s converted the basement of his Camino San Pablo restaurant in Blackfriars into an open brickwork homage to the Cava bars of Barcelona, complete with hanging jamón legs and a glass floor where bottles age underfoot. The bar lists 28 Cavas, including seven by the glass.

    2. Aqua Nueva

    Tapas matching is an important element of the Cava experience at Aqua Nueva on Regent Street. Run by nattily attired Hungarian, Zsolt Kismodi, the restaurant’s bar offers six Cavas by the glass and 15 by the bottle with Kripta, housed in an amphora-shaped bottle, toping the list at £111. During the summer, Aqua opens up its roof terrace offering jaw-droppingly beautiful views of the Big Smoke at dusk.

    3. Bellota Bar

    The first Cava bar to pop its cork in the UK, Bellota in Brighton lists 10 Cavas and offers complimentary pinchos (Catalan snacks on skewers) with every glass.

    Where to buy it:

    The word Cava literally means ;cave’ in Spanish, and serves as a hat tip to the subterranean cellars where the fizz was traditionally aged. Ten grape varieties are permitted in Cava production, though most are made from a combination of three white grapes: Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel-lo. Here are three not to miss…

    1. Castillo Perelada Brut Reserva; £10.95, Selfridges
    A blend of the three traditional varieties: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, this is crisp and refreshing on the palate with aromas of green apple and pear.

    2. Segura Viudas Heredad Brut Reserva; £23.99, Templar Wines
    Formed of Macabeu and Parellada, it offers aromas of honeysuckle and white flowers on the nose and hints of smoke, honey and biscuit on the palate.

    3. Gramona Argent 2008; £24, Berry Bros & Rudd
    A blanc de blancs made from 100 percent Chardonnay, the palate radiates with notes of vanilla, peach and apricot into a long, rich and elegant finish.

    And, if you’re heading over to Barcelona, here are the Spanish city’s best Cava bars:

    While Cava can be produced in eight Spanish regions, including Rioja and Valencia, 95 percent of it is made just west of Barcelona in Penedès, so what better way to learn about the fizz than through a tour these hip hangouts?

    1. El Xampanyet, Carrer de Montcada, 22

    The cava bar everyone’s talking about in the heart of Barca’s hip El Born district, inside a crowd of locals and in-the-know tourists chomp on jamón and glug Cava from vintage coupes.

    2. Mon Vinic, Carrer de la Diputació, 249

    Half restaurant, half wine bar, MV is a chic, modern space with cowhide barstools where Cavas can be ordered from iPads by the half glass, glass or bottle to a modern jazz soundtrack.

    3. Can Paixano, Calle Reina Cristina, 7

    A traditional Cava bar hidden down a Barcelona backstreet, it’s noisy, raucous and as authentic as it gets, offering platters of Spanish meats and cheeses, and cava from just €1 a glass.

    Lucy Shaw is deputy editor at The Drinks Business magazine

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