Monthly Archives: September 2009

Don’t call it Champaña

Today’s Cava was called Champaña until the 1970s when the Spanish agreed to stop using the potentially misleading (i.e. too close to sounding like Champagne) term.

Cava is the Cataluñian word for cellar and this bubbly delight does share some similarities with Champagne. For instance, most Cavas are made using the traditional method and Chardonnay has been an approved varietal in the blend since 1986. Champagne was the inspiration behind Cava’s creation, too – Jóse Raventós, head of Codorníu (now one of the largest sparkling wine producers in the world), made a trip to France in 1872 and upon his return home, made the first bottles of sparkling wine in Spain. In 1889, Pedro Ferrer joined the Raventós family and later went on to found Freixenet (one of the other largest sparkling houses today).

While 95% of Cava is made in Cataluñia, grapes can also be sourced from Valencia, Aragón, Navarra, Rioja and the Basque country. Here t are the indigenous varietals used in the blend:

Macabeo (called Viura in Rioja): usually makes up about 1/2 the blend, fairly neutral, popular because its buds break late – this is important in areas prone to spring frost.

Xarel-lo (pronounced cha-rel-low): 2nd most important, gives the nice earthiness found in many Cavas.

Parellada (pair-eh-yah-duh): produces light-bodied, fine wines.

Cava was hands-down one of the highlights of my trip to Spain. By simply asking for a “copa de Cava” at any bar or restaurant, we’d be rewarded with a bubbly, refreshing, citrus-y, yeasty glass of wine that was less expensive than most draft beer in New York City (even with the exchange rate!).

Here’s a photo of one of my favorites – it was the house Cava at our hotel in Barcelona:


ahh, Cava on ice

Gramona’s a family winery in the heart of Penedès – more specifically, at the foot of the very impressive Montserrat mountain range and they’ve been making Cavas over 125 years.

The family coat of arms is “Vitis, Vini, Vitae”, or the vine, wine, life – you can see it on the label if you look closely.  Verum cava refers to their certain idea of what Cava should be – essentially that vines cultivated in good soil by capable hands will yield a tasty product.

Based on my tastings (yes, I went back for more), I think they’ve done their job well.  This Cava had it all – fine bubbles, notes of citrus, apples, and toasty bread, great acidity and a creamy finish.

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a sign outside a bar in Spain. what's your favorite coktele?

Cokteles, yes, actual cocktails, not so much.  ESL issues aside, I do feel ok saying that cocktails are not what comes to mind when I think about Spain.  Inexpensive cava and wine drawn from barrels into plastic soda or water bottles – heck, yeah.   At one bar, I ordered a Dark and Stormy and got what tasted like a Manhattan.  This may have just been bad luck, but the wine was good enough that it just didn’t matter.

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Please don’t go (summer)

I don’t like the new nip in the night air.  I also don’t like that it’s already dark just after 8 pm.  To help stave off the end-of-summer and the end-of-the-long-weekend blues, I looked to the cantaloupe on my counter for inspiration and this is what happened:

please don't go ingredients

musky cantaloupe is a good match with herbaceous gin

Please don’t go (summer):
2 oz. G’vine gin
1 oz. St. Germain
5 1-inch pieces of cantaloupe
pinch salt
juice of 1/2 lime
club soda

Muddle melon with lime juice and salt, add ice, gin and St. Germain.  Shake and strain into rocks glass with ice and top with club soda. 

please don't go

isn't it a great color?

This drink was crying for fresh mint, but I was out.  I think it could’ve used a touch more sweetness, too.  That being said, there was a refreshing brightness – dare I say hopefulness – to this drink – maybe an Indian Summer?

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Dusty because it’s old

The dust bunnies on the ceiling and the crusty bottles lining the shelves were not there to add to the kitsch factor. Marsella, a bar in the El Raval section of Barcelona, has been around since 1820.


Picasso, Hemingway and Dali are said to have been regulars here

I had heard this was the place to have an absinthe and there was little need to twist my arm.


lighting our absinthe on fire

I couldn’t tell you what kind of absinthe we tried. The service was unceremonious at best and the glasses were already filled when they were brought over to our table. That all said, it didn’t matter – it was great to partake in a drinking tradition that has gone on there for almost 200 years. The closest parallel I can draw in the U.S. is McSorely’s bar in the East Village, which opened in 1854. Of course, as a woman I wouldn’t have been able to get in until 1970!

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4th annual Salud!

wines-of-chile-vinos-de-chileSeptember 18-30th, 2009 marks the 4th annual Salud! Chilean Wine Fest.  Restaurants in NYC and D.C. will be pouring Chilean wines by the glass or doing special tasting menus and retail stores will be offering free tastings.  For a full list of the goings-on, click here.

We’re going to feature a Sauvignon Blanc and a Carmenère:

Chilean wines

tasted today and approved

A little on each:

The Sauvignon Blanc is from Veranda, a project overseen by Pascal Marchand, who has an impressive background, including time at Comte Armand and Domaine de la Vougeraie.  It hails from a single vineyard, Miraflores, in the Bío Bío region of Chile.  In addition to being fun to say, Bío Bío is one of Chile’s southernmost winemaking regions.  We’ll be featuring the 2008 vintage and it’s a perfect Sauvignon Blanc for fall because it’s got some meat on its bones.  Sure, the citrus and herbaceous qualities are there, but floral, honey and some anise notes are, too.  Another bonus: the winemaker is working biodynamically. 

The Carmenère is produced by Errazuriz and is also a single vineyard, this time from the Don Maximiano Estate in the Aconcagua Valley.  Carmenère is to Chile what Malbec is to Argentina.  Thousands of acres of vines in Chile thought to be Merlot turned out to be Carmenère instead.  Jancis Robinson has described it as combining the charm of Merlot and the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Many I’ve had have been too herbaceous, but the 2007 from Errazuriz had black fruits, sweet spice and some tobacco notes.  Errazuriz has an impressive winemaking history in Chile – they’re on their 6th generation right now.  I’ll leave you with a quote from their founder, Don Maximiano:

“Grapevines should be carefully tended and treated like a work of art, since their life span runs parallel to that of humans. A vine should be educated, cared for, and trained like a man; it should not be allowed to grow unoriented, because to bear proper fruits, it must not extend its branches in vain.”

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Eat drink local week

eedlw-webadMark your calendars!

Edible Magazines are partnering with NYC Greenmarkets for an appreciation week of all things tasty we can find within close proximity of our dear city. 

Join us at L’Ecole, where we’ll be featuring specialty cocktails made with spirits from Finger Lakes Distilling, beer from Brooklyn Brewery and Blue Point, wine from Paumanok, Hermann J. Wiemer, Bedell Cellars, Wölffer Estates and more!

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Maybe not so divertida

A few additional oddities to share:

san miguel apple

Apple flavored beer? With no alcohol?

beer with tequila

I prefer to follow tequila with beer, rather than mix the two.

cannabis absinthe

Turns out that "hemp" is one of the ingredients.


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Bebidas divertidas

I wanted to share some of the amusing beverages I encountered during the last 2 weeks.

Moscatel mermaid and horse

Do you like your Moscatel from a mermaid? Or perhaps from a horse? Those free castanets are pretty tempting.

sangria bull

Olé! Again, please note the castanets.

sangria guitars

Maybe sangria is at its best when poured from hat-wearing guitars.

sangria collection

Sangria sampler pack. Has yours ever looked this brown when you've made it at home?

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