Many people feel duty-bound to stick to Champagne when it comes to wedding day celebrations. But, just as there are a million and one different ways and places to get married, there are many more options out there when you’re looking which bubbly to serve to welcome guests or toast the bride and groom on their Big Day.
Sure, there are lots of delicious Champagnes out there, but there are also lots of Cavas which are more than a match for their French counterpart.
Champagne is so-called only because of the French region in which it’s made. But similar methods are used to make Cava in Spain. Cava is manufactured in a very similar way to Champagne. While the blend of grapes is different, both Cava and Champagne are fermented in the bottle.
In Cava, native Spanish grapes like Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel.lo are used. These, combined with Spain’s climate, which is warmer than that in France, gives Cava a similar dryness to Champagne, but with riper, fruitier flavours.
While Cava used to be known as the Spanish Champagne, strict naming rules mean that is no longer possible. But that’s no bad thing. Cava is breaking free from any comparisons, to establish its own identity. Growers in Spain have moved away from planting Chardonnay or Pinot Noir to produce bubbly and are embracing Spain’s own grape varieties. Cava was always going to be a completely different drink because of the climate and soil in Spain so it’s fantastic that growers are producing Cavas with their own distinct and delicious personality.
Cava also tends to be less pricy than Champagne, a hugely important factor if you have large numbers of guests. You’ll find plenty of quality Cavas resting below a 10 pound or 12 euro price point. Depending on your venue, you may be allowed to bring your own booze. If so, you’ll be able to choose the Cavas you really want while only paying corkage.
Freixenet and Codorniu dominate the Cava market and, while there are lots of great smaller and artisan producers, these two can be a good place to start when looking for wallet-friendly options. Freixenet Cuvee is a blend of Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada grapes and is usually a golden yellow while the Freixenet Brut Barroco uses the same grapes to create a drier sparkly. Codorniu uses Chardonnay in its blends to great biscuity, oaky effect. Its magnum sizes are ideal if you’re serving large numbers of guests.
Oriol Rossell Brut Nature Reserva can often be found on some of the world’s Michelin restaurant wine lists. Yet, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You’ll find great examples at around the 10 pound or 12 euro price point. But the low price doesn’t mean a lack of complexity; far from it. Great examples are golden and crisp, with lasting and slow rising bubbles, and flavours of nectarines and dates.
If Cava is being served either in ice buckets on the table, or if your waiting staff are walking round with the bottle to top up guests’ glasses, then mid-range Cavas not only taste great, but there are some beautiful bottles out there, which will prove a real talking point.
The special edition Gran Reserva Brut Cava from the Caves Torello, for example, has a bottle designed by Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sottoo, which has a Gaudi-influenced style. Or the Gramona Argent or Argent Rosé come in striking black bottles, which could tie in with a gothic venue or winter wedding.
While there are some low-priced Jaume Serra Cavas out there, the Jaume De Codorniu Brut is a cut above budget options. It’s particularly excellent if you’re serving your wedding party chicken, grilled fish or seafood.
If money is no object, however, or you’re looking for a special present for the bride and groom, there are some truly exceptional Cavas out there.
Cavas from the Recaredo vineyard are aged for at least two-and-a-half years, giving them elegance and subtlety. Vines are grown organically and, importantly, stoppered with 100% natural cork, so you get that satisfying pop when you open a bottle.
Gramona is another producer to look out for if you’re opting for a high-end Cava. While Recaredo uses 100% Xarello grapes, Gramona is a blend of Xarel.lo, Macabeo and, sometimes, Chardonnay. Depending on which vintage you opt for, you’ll find hazelnuts, honeysuckle, vanilla or figs.
A lovely idea might be to look for a vintage made in the year the happy couple met. That way, you know the wine has been ageing to perfection for the same amount of time as their relationship, culminating in everything coming together for the popping of corks on their Big Day.