This time of year is simultaneously the most joyous and the most nerve-wracking. When family gatherings, fourth-quarter deadlines, children's pageants, and caroling collide this season, wine is basically essential — and not just to ease the holiday stress.
Having a go-to bottle on hand can make impromptu get-togethers easy and (dare we say?) enjoyable, even. There's no need to make a mad dash to the liquor store when your mother-in-law shows up for a surprise visit. You're prepared!
My favorite pick for the festive season is Cava, the Spanish bubbly that multitasks better than the office printer-scanner-copier-fax machine. It flawlessly goes with the flow from silly white elephant parties to fancy dinners.
In my opinion, it's best to simply buy a case. Here are five reasons why.
1. Cava is inexpensive, but tastes expensive.
The biggest difference between Cava and Champagne? Cava is made in Spain, from indigenous Spanish grapes (rather than in France from Chardonnay grapes). But the process is otherwise the same.
Like Champagne, Cava is made using the traditional method, or methode Champenoise. This process involves a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, which lets yeasts and other good wine bacteria interact with the juice to create complex flavors and aromas. As a result, Cava has great aromatics and the fine, delicate bubbles you'd expect from pricier bottles, with a $12 to $15 price tag.
You can cut down the price per bottle even more by buying big. Since retailers usually offer case or half-case discounts between 15 and 30 percent, you can get your Spanish bubbly for as cheap as $10.
2. Cava is food-friendly.
On its own, Cava is bright, vivacious, and downright hard to dislike. But it really sings when paired with food. In fact, it's something of a sommelier's secret for pairings, especially during holiday parties and potlucks that combine a wide array of flavors.
Cava's combination of bubbles and a tangy, zesty finish refreshes your palate, literally. Which means you can go from cheese fondue to gingerbread cookies without breaking your stride.
3. Cava is reliable.
Often, the scariest part of wine shopping is not knowing what's inside a bottle. But with Cava, there's nothing to worry about, even if it's a brand you haven't seen before.
Because the Spanish government regulates the grapes used in Cava production, as well as the winemaking techniques that make it sparkle, you can expect a similar experience from anything with "Cava" on the front label. Most Cava has a relatively narrow profile, unlike other styles of wine that vary wildly (hello, Cabernet), especially across lower price points.
4. Cava is a fantastic punch base.
The same elements that make Cava so food-friendly — carbonation and acidity — also make it an ideal punch base. Together, these flavor elements form a delicious harmony with citrus and apple flavors that elevate festive ingredients like cranberry liqueur or spicy rum, instead of competing with them.
Using bubbles as your base — and hard alcohol as an accent — also makes punch easier to enjoy, both from the perspective of safety and taste. At roughly 13 percent ABV, Cava is relatively low-alcohol, which makes it easy to enjoy a festive drink all night without a hangover, or a slew of guests unexpectedly crashing on the living room floor. Meanwhile, using smaller amounts of spirits lets their flavors — toasty vanilla or cinnamon spice — shine instead of leaving behind an alcoholic burn.
5. Cava makes a perfect gift.
Most Cava retails around $15, placing it squarely in the price range for Secret Santa parties or office gift exchanges. And, unlike other inexpensive sparkling wines, like Moscato or Prosecco, Cava is known for consistent high-quality and a standard set of flavors, making it easy to give without worry.
Thanks to its versatility, Cava is a great hostess gift, whether poultry or prime rib is on the menu. And for wine-loving friends (even borderline snobby ones) Cava's drinkability makes it a thoughtful choice that's easy to enjoy anytime. Having a case at home makes the gifting even easier — just throw a bow on that bottle and you're all set.
4 Cavas to Try
Have you tried Cava? Do you have a favorite bottle?