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Spanish cavas effervesce at Taberna de Haro

Posted by Ellen Bhang  December 29, 2013 01:56 PM

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BROOKLINE -- Deborah Hansen, chef-owner-sommelier of Taberna de Haro, knows that some people need coaxing to try the Spanish bubbly cava. That might be because a past experience with entry-level cava did little to impress them. Hansen wants to lure them back with better pours than they've tried.

She's not talking about what she calls "huge brands." These, she says, "represent 90 percent of the cava market. But the other 10 percent, grower cavas, are like grower Champagnes." The producers, located in Cataluna in Northeastern Spain, grow their own grapes and take an artisanal approach. Hansen, who opened her restaurant in 1998 and expanded seating capacity last year, offers nearly 20 top-tier cavas on her list of more than 300 Spanish wines.

Like Champagne, cava is made in the traditional method. The second fermentation that creates effervescence occurs in the bottle in which the wine is sold. At a recent cava tasting at her restaurant, Hansen was pouring for a couple from Burlington, their next door neighbor, and another couple, eager to learn about Spanish food and wine pairing so they can offer a tasting of their own for an upcoming silent auction (the cost of $55 includes four wines and five small plates; two of the bottles are available in shops for under $30).

Aromas of Pere Mata Cupada No. 12 Brut Nature remind one taster of sourdough bread (and she's not confusing the scent with the toasted bread draped with Serrano ham). "Bakery aromas are hallmark," Hansen affirms, explaining that the words "brut nature" mean that no sugar is added along with yeast to prompt creation of bubbles. The result is a very dry wine. This producer numbers all of his blends; "No. 12" refers to a summer cuvee that includes the xarel-lo grape.

With tastes of rabbit rillettes and mussels cooked with tomato and fennel comes Huguet Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2007, a truly special bottle. "Gran reserva" wines age on the lees (fine yeast sediment that settles at the bottom of the bottle before it is disgorged) for a minimum of 30 months. This pour, made with parellada and macabeo grapes, plus some chardonnay and pinot noir, offers yeasty aromas, extremely fine bubbles, and a complex puckery tang.

Hansen asks her tasters if they would like another pour. One responds enthusiastically and slides forward her not-quite-empty glass. "You have to finish what you have first," Hansen instructs her. The taster complies, and Hansen refills.

One more cava lover in the making. Little coaxing required.

Pere Mata Cupada No. 12 Brut Nature (about $18) at Marty's Fine Wines, Newton, 617-332-1230; Cellar d'Or, Duxbury, 781-934-6171.
Huguet de Can Feixes Cava Gran Reserva Brut Nature 2007 (about $29) at Martignetti Liquors, Brighton, 617-782-3700; Colonial Spirits, Acton, 978-263-7775.
Taberna de Haro, 999 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-277-8272, www.tabernaboston.com.

Ellen Bhang

About By the Glass

Ellen Bhang writes about food and wine and reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe. Wine is the focus of her degree in the Gastronomy master's program at Boston University. She can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com.

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