Great Value Cava from Penedés: Jaume Serra Cristalino

While Spanish Cava doesn’t have the unique growing conditions of Champagne (see our Report # 34 Champagne Revisited), it’s made the same way (méthode champenoise, or método tradicional) and results in a pleasant, sparkling wine that’s suitable both for meals and for festive occasions. No one would argue that it matches the quality of Champagne, but it’s also priced much lower. We’ve always found the Cristalino Cavas to be exceptional values, and our recent retasting of these wines confirms that.

While most Cavas are made of the indigenous Catalonia varieties Xarel-lo, Macabeo, and Parellada, the better cuvées—like the Brut Nature and Rosé Brut of Jaume Serra—often include Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir in the blend.

Jaume Serra Guell founded his eponymous winery in 1943 in Garraf, near the Penedés in Catalonia. In 1997 it was bought by the Garcia-Carrion family and modernized, including introducing Champagne yeasts for fermentation.  Jaume Serra Cristalino is imported by Colección Internacional del Vino (CIV) USA.

Jaume Serra NV Cristalino Brut ($10) 87  The Brut is a well-made sparkling wine with fine bubbles, yeast and light orchard fruit aromas and flavors and a rich, smooth palate. It tastes sweeter than the dosage would suggest. An excellent entry level sparkler.  A blend of 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, and 15% Xarel-lo with 18 months on the lees and 9 g/l dosage.

Jaume Serra 2007 Cristalino Brut Nature Vintage ($15) 90+ Medium yellow gold. Fermented dry and with near zero residual sugar, this is the best of the Jaume Serra Cristalinos. It shows notes of toast and dried yellow fruit on the nose followed by a creamy, rich and flavorful palate showing notes of lemon curd, orange marmalade, and grilled nuts. It finishes with good length and lots of flavor.  A blend of 30% Chardonnay, 30% Xarello, 20% Macabeo, and 20% Parellada, spending 30 months on the lees and with a dosage of 5g/l. Outstanding value.

Jaume Serra NV Cristalino Rose Brut ($10) 88+ Perhaps the most popular of the Cristalino lineup, the Rose Brut tastes nice and dry  (despite the 15 g/l dosage) with light red cranberry and pomegranate aromas and flavors on a creamy, balanced and quite delicate palate.  A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Trepat that spends 18 months on the lees.

Jaume Serra NV Cristalino Extra Dry ($10) 86  This off-dry sparkler would be perfect with a simple white cake or with spicy Asian seafood.  The aromas on this wine are light yeast, melon, and orchard fruit; these carry over to a medium weight, smooth palate.  A blend of 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarel-lo with 9 g/l residual sugar.

Mike Potashnik and Don  Winkler

December 2012

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