Story and photos by Dwight Casimere
The artistic avant- garde bottle gives an indication of what's inside; a racy, sophisticated sparkling wine with an adventurous spirit, that is produced in a state-of-the-art winery that is steeped in tradition. Vilarnau is a prestigious, finely crafted Spanish sparkling wine, or Cava, that is produced in the heart of Catalonia, in the capital of the Cava Denomination of Origin (DO) in the municipality of Saint Sadurni d' Anoia.
Vilarnau cava dates from 1949 and is made entirely from a blend of indigenous Spanish grapes, that give this cava its unique flavor and character-50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarel.lo. Although all of the grapes are white varietals, they each have a distinctive bold character. The grapes are fermented separately in stainless steel tanks under controlled temperatures in order to carefully preserve their full flavor and varietal expression, They are then blended and bottled and allowed to undergo secondary fermentation for 6 weeks in underground cellar caves, or cavas/ The wine is then aged for an additional 15 months before it is disgorged (the yeast 'cap' is removed from each bottle by hand) and the expedition liquor is added (a mixture of wine and sugar) to achieve the proper flavor level. The low sugar level and ratio of acid to sugar gives this sparkling wine a 'bine dry' character that makes it perfect with food.
This cava has all of the classic marks of a fine sparkling wine, but at a fraction of the cost. It has tiny, persistent bubbles that linger in the glass like a string of pearls. A vibrant yellow color with flecks of gold gives way to aromas of fresh green apples, and the hint of cinnamon spice from careful aging.
Now comes the fun part, the taste. Its like biting into a chilled Golden Delicious apple coated with candied Meyer lemon and tangerine zest. Take copious sips of it while scarfing down a dozen or so raw oysters, or cracking open a freshly steamed Maine lobster or a plate of seared Diver Scallops drenched with butter and lime juice or, one of my old standbys, Shrimp De Jonghe; a 50s-era Chicago steakhouse specialty composed of giant shrimp butterflied with the shells on, then quickly put on the grill or baked with a healthy coating of lemon and garlic butter and finished with a sprinkling of Parmesan or Romano cheese. Now that's the way to properly celebrate the end of a terrific summer!