Editor's Note: Cava is a wine that is under pressure. It should always be well chilled before opening. Always exercise caution when opening a bottle of sparkling wine. Point the bottle away from people and objects. Use a clean towel or clothe to firmly grip the bottle. Gently remove the wire stopper while firmly holding the cork in place. Then with thumb and forefinger, remove the cork slowly from the bottle. Do not let the cork fly. Enjoy!
Avinyó is the most highly acclaimed boutique Cava producer in all Spain. This outstanding little cellar consistently fashions a pearl of a wine, a rare bubbly that exhibits delicacy and finesse as well as a true artisan purity for which Catalonia is renowned. The Esteve Nadal family of Avinyonet del PenedÉs produces Avinyó at the family owned winery. The winery is located at CAN FONTANALS, the family's home, in the heart of the PenedÉs region of Catalonia, near Barcelona. The Nadal family's delicious sparkling wine, known locally as Cava, is crafted in the same painstaking way as Champagne. Until quite recently, it was the only wine the family made for sale, preferring to concentrate its talents on perfecting just one wine – the finest Cava in Spain.
More than three decades ago, Juan Esteve, the patriarch of Avinyó, planted three varieties of traditional Catalan vines: Parellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo, so that he could have a fine sparkling wine for family, friends, and the cadre of distinguished guests who were arriving daily to visit his wife – a celebrated ceramic artist. Today Juan Esteve's two sons and a daughter carry on the tradition of Avinyó, providing only small quantities of exquisite bubbly for export.
On the Avinyó label, there is an inscription in Catalan that aptly represents the philosophy of the Esteve Nadal family. The inscription roughly translates into the following: "From the must of the flower or free run juice and with the rigor of a work well crafted." This symbolizes the family's artisan values and the commitment to the ultimate quality of its wine. There also appears on the label a tiara from the church of the local village. Indeed, the Esteve Nadal family has crafted a jewel that many in the wine trade have rightly called "other worldly."
The masio or farmhouse that originally housed Avinyó's winery is also the workshop of Fina Via, the wife of Juan Esteve; her work is legendary in Catalonia. Her ceramic art appears throughout the region and each and every piece is done according to the same traditional methods that were used in Catalonia during the seventeenth century, Spain's Golden Age.
On the subject of Avinyó's beautiful wine, one well-known wine critic so appropriately stated. "How much more beautiful the world would be with a little more art, a little more love and a few more wines like Avinyó Cava." And indeed, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Esteve Nadal family for doing its part to preserve the traditions of Catalonia, in both art and wine. And as one long-time member of our tasting panel once reminded us: "It is obvious that this family's pearls are not hidden, they shine forth in my glass."
Cava: Spanish Bubbly
It has been said that Cava is Spain's answer to Champagne. Others would argue that is more of a rebuke. However, Cava and Champagne have much in common, including their taste and method of production. Both are produced by the traditional champagne method of fermenting the wine in the bottle. More fine champagne method sparkling wine flows out of Spain's region of Catalonia than anywhere else on earth, including Champagne. And like Champagne, Cava is primarily a non-vintage wine that is made in a consistent distinct house style that does not vary. Moreover, the limestone hills beyond Barcelona provide the ideal soil condition, nearly identical to that of Champagne, for the cultivation of the native Xarelo-lo, Parellada, Viura, and Macabeo grapes for sparkling wine. With the addition of champagne yeasts during the fermentation, the high-acid musts of Catalonia yield sparkling wines of rich flavor, softness and finesse to rival those of Champagne itself. Where Cava may actually have the "edge" is in its soft, round, lingering finish – the antithesis of French Champagne which can often possess just a bit too much nerve and acidity in its aftertaste or finish.
Although Cava can be made in many areas of Spain, it is the Catalan versions from PenedÉs that have formed the bulwark of quality and captured the world's attention. Centered near the town of San Sadurni de Noya, 20 miles west of Barcelona, the production of Cava has taken the world by storm. In the past thirty years, the export of Cava has grown from a relative trickle to Spain's leading wine export; Cava is presently the world's number one selling champagne method sparkling wine.