Susy Atkins: why cava is better than cut-price prosecco

sparkling wine being poured
Top examples of cava can be complex, well worth pouring with light tapas Credit: Haarala Hamilton

If champagne is the handsome prince of the sparkling-wine world, with prosecco its party-mad princess, where does that leave cava, the traditional fizz of eastern Spain?

It’s certainly no ugly sister. The best cavas are deliciously dry and refreshing, with snappy flavours of green apple and cool lemon, and savoury hints of toast and yeast.

Cava is made in the same meticulous, bottle-fermented manner as champagne and top examples can be complex, well worth pouring with salted almonds, green olives, seafood and light tapas.

Time to give it a bit more attention.

Many cheaper cavas are miles better than cut-price prosecco: appealing at summer parties or as the base for sparkling cocktails.

At the fine end, look out for a new premium category of cava, which launched just last month. Wines labelled 'Cava del Paraje’ will indicate those made from named single-estate vineyards that have spent at least three years maturing in the bottle before release. They’ll cost more, but let’s hope this new class of cava proves inspiring.

For a sparkler that hasn’t been celebrated enough lately, this could be a happy ending.

Seven Spanish sparklers to try

  1. Tesco’s own Cava Brut Non-Vintage is a simple wine but clean and fruity, a cheerful way to part with £5 
  2. Asda’s Extra Special Marques de Portola 2013 has attractive apple and pear notes (£7.98) 
  3. Mid-priced, I love Codorniu’s richer, food-friendly Cuvée Barcelona Brut NV (Sainsbury’s, £13) and... 
  4. Waitrose’s zesty, In Partnership Castillo Perelada NV (Telegraph Wine, £9.49)
  5. Morrisons' M Signature Vintage Cava 2013 is an award-winning (silver, IWC) sparkler - fresh and lively with masses of crisp bubbles and a biscuity hint on the finish. Excellent value (£7 down to £6.50 from 11 July until 7 August)
  6. Cava Heretat El Padruell Brut NV, from Marks & Spencer, is worth savouring for its relatively rich depth of flavour and toasty/orange marmalade nuances – yet still pretty light in alcohol at 11.5% (£8)
  7. Gramona La Cuvée Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2011 - if you like your sparkling wine bone-dry, with a mouth-watering, clean streak of lemon, then splash out on this, pairing it perhaps with shellfish (Berry Bros & Rudd, £21)