Caving in to Cava

How far can cava take you?  Was the question I asked myself as I headed over to Codorniu UK’s Barcelona supper club, a 4 course dinner paired with Cava all the way.  Can it beat a full-bodied red to accompany slow-cooked lamb?  Probably not, I thought.

Generally viewed as prosecco’s poor cousin, cava is the workingwoman’s fizz, at least in the UK anyways.  With few high quality Spanish producers on the market and very cheap pricing, cava has yet to experience the renaissance that has befallen its fizzy Italian cousin, prosecco.  And who can blame us given what’s available?  With Sainsbury’s own rosé cava is less than £5 a bottle.  It might as well be Lambrini.

This isn’t because cava isn’t good, or indeed deserving of a place right next to champagne or prosecco on our rapidly filling wine shelves.  Indeed, I spent quite a bit of time in Spain where in Catalunya whole sections of grocery stores are dedicated to Cava in many different forms.  But in the UK that hasn’t mean its caught on.

So it was with some trepidation that I headed to Catalunian-based cava brand Codorniu’s Barcelona Supper Club.  A four-course dinner with matched cava?  Cava with slow-cooked lamb?  Don’t get me wrong: I love the stuff, I love anything with bubbles, but I was curious to see how the pairings would play out when we moved past aperitivos.

The food was cooked by Catalan Cooking’s mastermind and wee Scottish bringer-of-truth, Rachel McCormack.  The Cava’s were paired by Codorniu’s resident mastermind flown in specially for the occasion, Bruno.

He began the meal by explaining to us that cava in Spain is drank with every course of the meal, not just as a refreshing bubbly beginning.  This didn’t surprise me: Spanish food is extremely regional and cava is the lifeblood (or life drink?) of Catalunya.  I lived in Navarra for a year, where all they drink is their own cider and wine from the region.  Why would you try anything else?  Of course it would be drank with all courses.

The highlights of the meal, for me were a surprise: the mahón cheese from menorca provided a salty, creamy and tantalising beginning to the meal.  Rachel’s tuna tartare, marinated in whole grain mustard and jerez vinegar on a bed of avocado was an umami and moreish delight.  The slow cooked lamb with its trio of vegetable purrees fell apart in your mouth.  The food was seasoned to perfection.

As for the Cava pairings, they took some adjustments.  At first we found ourselves questioning some of them.  Codorniu paired a rosé pinot noir with their monkfish ‘mock langoustine’.  This is too sweet!  We all murmured.  I want this cava with my dessert!  Harrumph harrumph we all agreed, thinking we knew what we were talking about.

When dessert came, a very simple spiced red wine syrup over strawberries, we requested some pinot noir to sample alongside the chosen cava.  The pink, so sweet with the fish, seemed dry and dull as dishwater alongside the sweet strawberries.  Oh we were so wrong.

I came into this dinner a lover of all things fizz, with what I thought was a great appreciation of cava.  Codorniu’s dinner has shown me more versatility in cava than I would have imagined but I’m not sure I’ll be abandoning that glass of red just yet.

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2 Responses to Caving in to Cava

  1. Sounds like a great evening. I just got back from Barcelona where I was on a mission to find cava that I liked (I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with prosecco so wanted to broaden my horizons). We found some delicious bottles – even the local supermarket was lined with maybe twenty varieties – and found that it goes down very well with tapas (mostly fishy, not the richer meaty stews etc), where all the flavours are a bit mix and match. Great to see supporters of cava in this country – we need more good bottles on our shelves!

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