Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cristalino Cava, Garcia Carrion wines, Spain


 What can I, peasant that I am, say about a company that has won the prestigious award for Best Winery of Spain not once, but twice in a row? A winery that has been growing, developing, challenging the status-quo since the 1890's. A winery that has garnered more awards then a strong man could carry with ease.
I don't think that there's much I could say about such a winery that others haven't stated in a hundred different ways, and so I shan't even try. What I will do is express my admiration and respect:
All who read my work know that I have a "penchant" for telling the family story, the story of working for more then just one's self. How inadequate then I feel, reading the story of this family which in 1890 built it's first commercial winery in Spain. And why should I feel inadequate? How can a man who can barely trace his lineage back 100 years begin to understand a family business that in 1890 had already been in viticulture for centuries... in fact, the Garcia Carrion family has no idea how long they had been making wine because the records don't go back far enough.
And here I sit just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, which in 1890 got it's first steam clock, laid the first foundations for the sugar refinery and had a population of 1,000 souls. It was only 100 years before that (1892) that Captain George Vancouver set foot here for the first time.
And the Garcia Carrion family had already been in the wine business for centuries.
But it's one thing to be in business, and quite another to become the largest winery in Europe, fifth largest in the world~! And how does a family facilitate such a massive feat of business engineering? Well in their own words (to paraphrase), one needs to: "Be adaptable, listen to the customer, and be willing to Risk."
And risk they did when they sought financial backing in the early 1990's to expand their production of fruit juices, soda and fruit products. The risk paid off though when the backers sold their shares within a few years for 1.9 times the purchase price and Garcia Carrion had re-established itself as a Player. 
Gazpacho and wine? You're confused by the line of thinking? Well in business one hand scratches the other and the families growth in this segment strengthened its position to chase down growth in the wine industry. Fulfilling that objective, Cristalino Cava has now grown its sales in North America by 50% per year for two consecutive years. This translates to 60 million bottles of Cava for 2014.
Small wonder in my mind. In fact, I'll be stunned if the story doesn't remain much the same for the next year and possibly beyond. And why such a heavy prediction? Seriously: 50% growth for any company in any year is amazing, so why predict it three years in a row? It's because of something that a truly gifted businessman and winery own (John Skinner @ www.paintedrock.ca ) taught me... I'll paraphrase a bit again when I recollect John saying "Many people can make good wine, and that creates good business. But selling great wine at a great price creates a family legacy. And that's completely different."
But enough of my ranting. There's only one place to find true proof of quality and  that, my friends, is in the glass~!

Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Nature nv

Brut Nature, n/v

89 points

under$15 in BC, as low as $7 in some North America markets
  • this sparkling wine is a sommelier's dream; aged for 15 months at the winery it has developed layers and nuances far beyond its' modest price-point... aromas of green olives, apples, chalky minerality are followed by a bone-dry palate of creamy/mousse-like bubbles and lingering flavors of green apple and lemon zest. Great balance and structure - it has power to handle complex food and sophistication to be sublime on it's own. Certainly appeals to an older palate as youngsters may find it too dry on its own

Brut n/vcristalino cava nv Brut

89 points

under$15 in BC, as low as $7 in some North America markets
  • well if the BRUT NATURE is for the sommeliers, then the BRUT is for the ladies. Yes Sir, this cava opens very similarly to the predecessor, but whilst the aromas contain brine/green olive/almonds notes, they are warmed by tones of ripe peaches and apricots. The palate is dry, obviously, but not strikingly so and can easily... far too easily... be quaffed on it's own. The structure, balance and length are excellent as is the Value For Money~! Your girlfriend/wife/sister/Mom's new favorite sparkling wine - buy an extra bottle or two to have on hand because really, at this price, anyone can afford Sunday Mimosas :)

cristalino rose cava nv

Rose Brut n/v

91+ points

Under $20 in BC, as low as $10 in some North American markets
  • My choice for Top Bubbly of 2013~!!!
  • A stunning wine: crisp aromas of red berries (raspberries, cranberries) and clean mineral tones permeate my glass, transcended by a palate awash in fresh acid drenched in the same crab/raspberry flavors and always, always that distinct and utterly precise mineral focus. Much longer length on the palate then the other two wines (which are beautiful), this rose has capacity to develop on the taste-buds for 30 seconds and longer... truly an exceptional find for the price, I admit that I haven't been able to find its equal. A delight with your fish and seafood meals, it is an utter joy to consume on it's own. 

And so I conclude another year of Swirl, Sniff, Sip and Spit (optional).
These three wines represent, to me, some of the absolute best value in wine that I know of. They are eloquent, full of concentration and balance, and resonate both with food and without. But... But the part of all of this that would make my Dad most proud of the work that I do is that all three of these wines are under $20.
It's (relatively) easy to find quality in wine, sparkling or not, when one flourishes $50 or $100. For $100 I should be getting good wine! But it takes a bit more resourcefulness to track down gems such as these. And it's wine like this that can become a regular part of regular lives in the New World, where we're only just coming around to the notion that sparkling wine (in whatever form you choose: Cava, Prosecco, Champagne, etc) isn't just for special occasions. Drink bubbly with Sunday brunch! Drink bubbly with Tuesday pizza! Drink bubbly as you take the train home from work :)
As a mentor once encouraged me: Don't save your special bottles of wine for special occasions. Use your special bottles to create special occasions.
To me, Cristalino is always a special bottle, and anytime I open it becomes a special time for those I share it with.
Many thanks to the Christopher Stewart Wine Agency, representatives in Canada, for the sample bottles. www.christopherstewartwineandspirits.com

As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine
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