Friday, February 9, 2018

Vilarnau Cava: Spanish Bubbly, Art & Food Pairing

At first, these two bottles of Cava, Spanish sparkling wine, stand out due to the colorful artwork covering the bottles. The art style is known as Trencadís (which means "chopped") in Catalonia, and pique assiette in France, and is a type of mosaic that is composed of small pieces of broken ceramic tiles, roof tiles or crockery. The Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí was well known for using this art style, especially in his Parc Güell in Barcelona. These Cavas are available without the artwork on their bottles, but why wouldn't you want such appealing colors and shapes?

The history of the Vilarnau Winery extends back to the 12th century, when the Vilarnau family settled into the Penedés region. Their original home was within the estate of the Castillo de Subirats, where grape vines were already been grown. The family didn't start producing Cava though until 1949, using grapes from their Can Petit i Les Planes de Vilarnau estate, where vineyards had been present for centuries. In 1982 Vilarnau became part of the González Byass family of wineries, eventually leading to the creation of a new winery in October 2005.

The Can Petit i les Planes de Vilarnau estate occupies about 20 hectares, growing grapes including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Macabeo and Xarel·lo. As their website states: "Our aim at Vilarnau is make the best cava with as little impact on our planet environment as possible. We make our living from the land, so looking after and nurturing it as best we can is in our DNA. The better we treat the land and our environment, the better the fruit the vines produce will be and the better our cava will be." Sustainability and environmental responsibility are important to the winery, from reducing their carbon footprint to organic viticulture certification.

Vilarnau produces a range of different Cavas, from Brut Nature Vintage to Demi Sec Organic, from Barrel Fermented to Gran Reserva Vintage. Three of their Cavas are available in the Trencadís bottles, and I received media samples of two of those Cavas, including the NV Vilarnau Brut Reserva and the NV Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rosé. Both are value wines, priced at $15-$16, and sure to please most palates. I've long preferred Cava to Prosecco, which I commonly find too sweet for my preferences.

The NV Vilarnau Brut Reserva ($14.99) is a blend of 50% Macabeo, 35% Paralleda; 15% Xarel.lo, three indigenous grapes which are traditionally used to make Cava. Each grape was vilified separately, and then later blended together, and the Cava was aged for over 15 months in the bottle. With a nice golden color, small bubbles, and 11.5% ABV, this Cava presents a pleasing aroma of fruit, including apple and citrus. On the palate, it is fresh, crisp and dry, with a tasty blend of green apple, citrus and pear, enhanced with a touch of toast, and a moderately long finish.

Sure, you can pop a bottle of this Cava to celebrate any occasion, but it is also inexpensive enough that you can open a bottle anytime, including with dinner. Many people don't realize that Sparkling Wine can often be food friendly and you can enjoy it throughout the course of a meal, and not just as an aperitif. I enjoyed this Cava with seared scallops and it was an excellent pairing, elevating the experience because of the bubbly. This Cava would pair well with a wide range of seafood though it would work with other dishes as well, from fried chicken to cheese. And you could even enjoy this Bubbly with just a bag of salty potato chips. Try it sometime!

The NV Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rosé ($15.99) is a blend of 85% Trepat and 15% Pinot Noir. Trepat is an indigenous Spanish grape that is often used to make Cava Rosé. This Cava was aged for over 15 months in the bottle. This wine has a lovely, rich pink color, small bubbles, a pleasant aroma of red fruits, and possesses a 12% ABV. On the palate, it is fresh, crisp and dry (like the Brut Reserva), though its flavors include strawberry and raspberry with a hint of a floral element. With a satisfying finish, this is an easy-drinking Cava with a delicious taste that feels like a party in your mouth.

I also drank this with seared scallops and though it has a different flavor profile, it still worked with the scallops. It was intriguing to experience the scallops with the two different Cavas. This Rosé is also food friendly and you could easily enjoy it too with a wide range of foods, from Sushi to Pizza, Burgers to Roast Chicken. Grab a bottle and just try it with whatever you're eating.

At $15-$16, these Cavas are very good values and well worth checking out. Don't just buy them for a celebration but pick some up just because you want something to pair with dinner.

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