Q&A with The Cava Lady and author of ‘Cava Sparkling Happiness’

“I fell in love with everything, the bubbles, the land and the people”..

Swedish born, Anna Wallner, has a passion for all things Spanish and sparkling. In 2009 she bravely decided to leave her stable day job to follow her passion. After immersing herself in the wine industry she came across a world of wine that she now holds dear to her heart, the world of Cava. Anna has become a patriot of the Spanish sparkling wine and is a true inspiration in following ones dreams!

Intrigued by such a motivated and inspirational figure in the wine world, I just had to have a wee Q&A session with her. Here’s how it went:

1. Let’s go back to basics and start from the start, what is Cava?

Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine made by the traditional method, following the rules and regulations of the DO Cava, controlled by Consejo Regulador del Cava. I’m sorry, that was very technical. ?
Cava is mostly produced in Catalonia, to be more precise, 95% of all Cava is made in Penedès just outside Barcelona.

2. How did you fall so deeply in love with the Spanish Sparking wine, Cava?

It was during my sommelier studies. I became very interested in sparkling wine in general and I wanted to learn more about Cava, which was much harder than one would think. Learning about Champagne is easy since there are hundreds of books, but books on Cava there were none. When I started to travel in the area I fell in love with everything, the bubbles, the land and the people. It is just amazing, everything!

3. ‘Cava Sparkling Happiness’ is a beautiful book, what motivated you to write the book?

Actually because I did not find any books about Cava during my studies, and thought it was a bit unfair. Cava is after all the most exported sparkling wine in the world, and people should have a fair chance of learning something about what they drink.

4. I absolutely love the food & Cava section in the book, what is your favourite food to enjoy with Cava & why?

Oh I can drink Cava to anything, I just need to have the right bottle. ?
But I do get a bit extra excited over a nice plate of fried calamari. Maybe it is because we don’t get any nice calamari up here in Sweden, since we need to have them imported and that is not the same.
A very nice fresh bottle of Cava, preferably made on the traditional grapes Xarel-lo, Macabeu and Parellada together with calamari, is probably the ultimate Spanish “trigger” for me. But some nice jamon and bruschetta is always nice too. .

5. If I had 1 day in the Penedes, what Cava houses would you suggest I visit and why?

Well, that depends what you are interested in, but to get a good picture of how diverse the Cava production is, I would suggest that you visit one big house like Freixenet and Codorníu to see how good cava is produced on a mass scale. And visit one or two medium to smaller once, for example Raventós i Blanc or Juvé y Camps that are medium houses and make wonderful cava and are both situated in the city of Sant Sadurní. Or smaller houses like Recaredo, Parés Baltà, who are both biodynamic or Giró i Giró that is a fantastic little house that I just love as well. But anywhere you decide to go I’m sure that you will be very well received. The cava producers are a very friendly lot.

6. In one sentence, how would you convince a beer or non-wine drinker to try a glass of Cava?

Because it makes you happy! (And by that, I don’t mean drunk 😉 )

7. If you could take 1 bottle of Cava to a deserted island, what one would it be?

I would take Turó d’en Mota, from Recaredo. It is an amazing cava made from 70 year old Xarel.lo grapes, and it is the most beautiful vineyard I have ever seen, so full of soul. And so it the wine!

8. When you’re not drinking Cava, what are you drinking?
Anna Wallner - The Cava Lady
Beer. ?

I have always had a big passion for beer, and just love it.

Anyone feel like a glass of Cava now? I sure do! If you interested in learning about Cava, or ordering your own copy of “Cava, Sparkling Happiness”, please click here.

You can also connect with Anna on twiiter and facebook if you would like to chat to her about Cava more indepth.

The Cava that makes your moan – Gramona!

Following on from my February 6th article, about Cava Berdie, I have to recognize another bodega whose seductive Spanish suave swayed me to the Cava side of life last summer.

You, me and the guy next door are all looking for a way to stand out from the crowd and to shout ‘I am unique’, its human nature after all. After visiting various Cava producers I have come across a Bodega who in my eyes, stands out from the rest. Gramona Cavas in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia is revolutionizing Cava and the Spanish wine industry as I am writing this.

What sets Gramona apart from other producers is their philosophy of making aged Cavas rather than young and fruity Cavas. The minimum ageing length for any of their Cavas is 4 years in order to allow autolysis to fully kick in. Autolysis is the chemical reaction that takes place with the wine spends enough time in contact with the lees to produce more toasty, nutty and creamy flavours in the final product. See I told you, that it’d make you moan.

But as I found out on my recent visit to the Cava caves of Gramona, the crafting of their products does not stop there. Possibly the most interesting part of the 3-storey cave visit was seeing their solera system for ageing their dosage (a measure of sugar and/or wine added in the final step of production). This alongside using triple disc corks, hand riddling and hand labeling just shows how important quality is. This is probably the reason that a lot of their Cava is sold before the wine is even bottled. Quality, exclusivity and innovation are what Gramona is all about.

If you prefer something with fewer bubbles, Gramona will definitely tempt your taste buds. Their 25 product strong portfolio also includes a 100% Pinot Noir, barrel-aged Sauvignon Blancs and ice-wines using dry ice and freezing techniques. Tours can be arranged in Spanish, Catalan and English. The price ranges from 6 Euro per person for a 45-minute tour and tasting and up to 40 Euros per person for a 3-hour tour including a guided tasting of 8 different Cavas. It is well worth a visit to see how this internationally acclaimed Bodega is able to produce what I like to think is the elite of the Cava world. For more details on how to contact Gramona, please click here.

Visiting Cava Berdie in the Penedes, Spain

After spending 6 weeks in the premiere Spanish wine region of the Penedès in Catalonia I can honestly say that I will never look at the Spanish sparkling wine – Cava – the same ever again. My complete outlook on this bursting bubbly has done a 360-degree swirl; from only knowing a certain blacked out bottle to sipping on elixirs that should only be paired with fine Spanish tapas and Manolo Blahniks. Yes that’s right, Cava is sexy, sleek, fresh and oh so trendy.

I guess you could say having tried over 70 different Cavas is one way to change a girls view however I also owe it to a couple of bodegas I visited whilst I was staying in the Penedès that really stood out and seduced me into the wonderful world of Cava.

The first of these was Cava Berdié. If the view from the rustic bodega overlooking the lush green valley is not enough to take your breath away then your first sip of their Extra Brut will surely draw you into it’s whimsical whirlwind. You have not lived until you have done a sensory tour at Cava Berdié – it is the ultimate Cava experience.

The tour begins on the terrace with a glass of the Extra Brut matched with a pinchito (tapa on a toothpick – functional!) of grapes and cheese. It truly is a moment where you see light bulbs illuminating above people’s heads as the guide explains the intricacies of flavours marrying on the palate from salty to sour to bitter and sweet.

The next step on the tour leads you through the winery down to the 500 square meter underground cellar. I am a sucker for romance, underground cellar + long hanging dimly lit lights + endless bottles of Cava as far as the eye can see = me acting like a teenage Bieber fan (a.k.a stupefying and sickly). It was here we matched the Gran Reserva 2006 with pinchito’s of bread, butter and smoked salmon. By this stage my taste buds were dancing for joy – both the pinchito and Cava were complimenting each other with their toasty and creamy characteristics with a ping of smoky excitement to finish off. Finger licking good!

The final stage on the Berdié sensory tour is the cream on the cake. You are guided back through the winery to their funky wine bar where you are introduced to their sexy redhead – otherwise known as a Rosé (blend of Monastrell and Granacha). Not only is the bottle bound to break hearts (hot pink label) but it truly is a redhead. It is brave, bold and stands out from the pack – it is a Rosé to accompany a main meal or act as a digestive. It breaks rules by complimenting a pinchito of freshly halved strawberries sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper. It truly was that perfect happy ending to the most fantastic winery tour I have ever been on.

It was also great to find out about Cava Berdié donating proceeds to local charities – not only are they dedicated to making superb Cavas and offering excellent tours but also they care for the community. This Cava Bodega is one of a kind and should be seen as showing consumers that Cava truly is a unique and exciting product. For more information on tours and Cava Berdié please click here.

50 Great Cavas 2011

Cava Art - Penedes, Spain
When I talk about Cava, I am not talking about the hallucinogenic concoction from the Pacific Islands in the Southern hemisphere; I am talking about the Spanish sparkling wine. Though I am sure if you drink enough of it you could end up having similar side effects!

Recently I spent 6 weeks in the Spanish wine region of the Penedès working on a project with the Wine Pleasures team to create an informative buying guide on some of the great cava’s in the region. It was a hard time in my life, trying glass after glass of Cava but I made it through and can safely say that this sparkler is like no other.

Made from traditional Spanish grapes with a few international ones chucked in from time to time it’s uniquely Spanish. Not to mention it’s the perfect accompaniment for Spanish tapa’s and paella. Even though it has cellar after cellar of history this elixir is modern, funky and is the next trendy thing to be seen drinking.

There is a Cava to suit everyone’s taste from the sweeter side to the crisp bone-dryness of the Brut Nature’s to fresh and fruity Rosés. For your FREE copy of the ultimate Cava guide out there, click on the link below to take you to the Wine Pleasures site. Salud!