THE CAVA REVOLUTION
Spanish wines step aside, Britain’s first dedicated cava bar is teaching Londoners a thing or two about bubbles
Cava. A cork-popping Spanish speciality that has long been the drink of choice for special occasions and today is commonplace in some of Madrid and Barcelona’s most fashionable bars, has somehow been completely overlooked in the UK.
Despite being produced in exactly the same way as champagne (and, in some cases, being a fair bit easier on the wallet), cava has never quite cut it over here. This is set to change though, with more and more glamorous Spanish restaurants championing their cava menus. Copa de Cava, the UK's first authentic dedicated cava bar, boasts an extensive menu and is a great place to start getting up to speed on the complexities of cava.
Richard Bigg, the brains behind London’s Camino restaurants and sherry joint, Bar Pepito, is full of passion for this exciting project, which opened in St Paul’s last May. Following a lifelong obsession with Spain, Bigg has thrown himself and his staff entirely into the cava revolution in order to understand the intricacies and the subtleties hidden within it. Much of the research took place in the bodegas of Penedés in Catalonia, where 95% of the world’s cava is produced, but of the 28 different types showcased on Copa de Cava’s extensive menu you’ll also find offerings from La Rioja, Galicia, Extremadura and other parts of Catalonia.
Over 35 million bottles of cava were imported into the UK last year but lack of variety and rock bottom pricing has not earned it the chic name it deserves. Bigg and his enthusiastic bar staff, Rocio and Rafa, are keen to change that, explaining that cava is an altogether more complex drink than people in the UK realise, with a huge range of tastes. Up to 10 different grapes are used in the production of cava (compared to three for champagne and just one for Prosecco) and, unlike Prosecco, the bubbles are always natural.
While the cavas and cava cocktails on the menu make great before and after dinner treats, Copa de Cava takes things a step further by offering a simple food menu that fuses together traditional Spanish dishes with more modern interpretations, while matching different cavas to every single course. It’s a refreshingly unique idea for Brits and it seems to be working.
Cava may well still have a long way to go to cement its reputation as a diverse, complex and serious choice for wine drinkers in the UK, but the success of Copa de Cava in under a year suggests that the future is bright for this modest Spanish tipple.
Five minutes with Rocio Morales, Copa de Cava
How is cava viewed in Spain?
When I was growing up in Malaga, cava was always a celebratory drink and sherry was what people would drink every day, but this is changing, cava now forms a much more integral part of Spanish lifestyle.
What do you miss about Spain when you’re living in London?
Working at Copa de Cava means I don’t get time to miss much as I’m surrounded by great Spanish food, wine and cava every day. But when I do go home I always fill my suitcase with jamon iberico, olive oil and my favourite goat’s cheese from Ronda.
Which is your favourite cava?
Definitely the Gramona Brut Nature 2007 – it’s dry and versatile and goes really well with seafood and salty things like roasted almonds.
If money was no object, which cava would you choose?
The Reserva Particular de Recaredo Brut Nature 2002. It’s the most expensive bottle on the menu at £95 but it’s absolutely incredible. A classic, vintage cava with a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Which cava cocktail would you recommend for winter?
Our Cóctel Clásico – it’s got a beautifully warming taste, perfect for cold winter evenings.
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