The Llopart family, whose motto is ex Vite Vita (“From vineyards comes life”), traces its roots as viticulturists back to 1385, when an ancestor, Bernardus Leopardi, was granted vineyard lands on the present site. The firm has been producing quality sparkling wines since 1887.
2000 Leopardi Brut Nature (40% macabeo, 30% xarel-lo, 15% parellada, 15% chardonnay; aged 46 to 52 months on the lees) — $25: Medium straw hue; very active, fine bead. Nice citrus and yeast nose. Big, gutsy, mature, creamy flavors with peach, apricot, melon and lychee notes; a very dry finish. Score: 91
2002 Brut Rosé Reserva (60% monastrell, 40% garnacha) — $17: Dark strawberry-cherry hue; medium bead. Clean nose of clove and yeast. Lively, full-bodied mouthful of lightly sweet red fruit, clove and citrus. Score: 87
Marqués de Gelida
A small estate producer that is widely distributed in the U.S.
2000 Brut Exclusive Reserva (35% macabeo, 30% xarel-lo, 20% parellada, 15% chardonnay) — $11: Pale green-straw hue; fine, lively bead. Pleasant, yeasty, citrus nose. Quite lemony on entry, followed by pleasant lychee and melon notes with refreshing citrus flavors and a dry finish. Score: 88
Marqués de Monistrol
A nearly 1,000-acre estate based on a small medieval monastery property near Sant Sadurní D'Anoia, Marqués de Monistrol began making Cava in 1882. It is now a part of the giant Arco Bodegas Unidas wine group.
NV Reserva Brut Selecció Especiale Rosé (100% monastrell) — $13: Pale salmon, very active bead. Cloves, plum and some funky aromas. Clean, frothy, and full flavored, but nicely balanced with clove and lightly sweet cherry notes; dry, but lightly brassy finish. Value priced. Score: 86
Founded in 1975 by Spanish recording impresario Manuel Sancho on a 17th-century convent property encompassing 100 acres.
NV Extremarium Brut de Mont Marçal (equal parts xarel-lo, parellada and macabeo) — $16: Deep gold-straw hue; medium, diffuse bead. Refined, citrus peel (lemon, orange) nose. Very lively, clean, balanced citrus flavors; refined and elegant on the palate with a long, spicy finish. Crafted in a blanc de blancs style with extended skin contact and more than two years on the lees. Score: 90
2001 Brut Reserva (equal parts macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada) — $12: Pale, gold-tinged straw hue; fine bead; frothy mousse. Yeast, toast, clove and lychee in the nose. Lively, fruity, full-flavored, toasty, yeasty flavors. Delivers excellent price-value ratio. Score: 89
NV Brut Rosado Reserva (100% trepat) — $14: Dark strawberry-cherry hue; a true rosado with a very fine, active bead. Yeast, clove, strawberry-cherry nose. Very nice with some candied berry fruit flavors; lively and very well-balanced without an overly frothy mouth-feel. Score: 87
Pago de Tharsys, Utiel-Requena (Valencia)
A relatively new artisan producer with high quality aspirations.
NV Cava (equal parts macabeo, chardonnay) — $25: Green-straw hue; fine bead and delicate mousse. Clean, fresh, citric nose. Rich, elegant, lemony and toasty flavors; dry, citrusy finish. An artistic Valencia ceramic label hangs impressively from the bottle neck with a ribbon. Score: 87
Founded in 1920, Parxet is an exemplary small producer of Cava and still wine located in Alella, a tiny appellation in the suburbs of Barcelona.
NV Titiana (brut nature style, 80-90% 70-year-old chardonnay vines, possibly some pinot noir) — $20: Gold-straw hue; fine, lively bead and mousse. Lychee, coconut and lemon nose. Delicious balance of lovely fruit (hints of apricot) and lively acids. Toasty, but stylish and elegant with a pleasant, dry, bitter almond finish. Score: 92
NV Brut Cuvée 21 (40% parellada, 40% xarel-lo, 20% macabeo) — $12: Pale green-straw hue; fine bead. Nice nose of yeast, honeysuckle, pineapple. Clean, yeasty, lightly sweet honeysuckle and tropical fruitiness; a nice mouthful that is more like a pétillant wine; not overly effervescent, but delicious. Score: 89
NV Brut Pinot Noir — $24: Light strawberry-tinged hue. Clean, yeasty strawberry and light clove in the nose. Very pretty, delicious, clean, balanced, full flavored, fruity strawberry and cranberry with a long, dry, stylish finish. Score: 91
NV Cuvée Dessert Pinot Noir — $20: Deep salmon color; fine, diffuse bead. Allspice, cinnamon, clove and pinot aromas. Deliciously fruity and only lightly sweet red berry flavors. Long, intriguing, spicy finish of cinnamon and clove. An exceptional cross between Cava and still wine. Score: 92
Privat (AD Series)
These disgorged-to-order wines are hard to find, but well worth seeking out because they are truly on par with some of the best Champagnes.
NV Laietà Brut Nature Reserva (chardonnay, possibly some pinot noir — they wouldn't say; aged a minimum of 24 months on the lees; disgorged June 30, 2005) — $33: Deep green-gold hue; fine, active bead. Distinctive, toasty, yeasty, green apple and melon nose. Very lively lime and apple flavors; dry, full and rich in the mouth with a long, palate-refreshing finish. First-rate Cava. Score: 92
NV Opus Evolutium Brut Nature Gran Reserva (chardonnay, possibly some pinot noir; aged a minimum of 36 months; disgorged June 30, 2005) — $39: Green-gold straw hue; fine, active, measured bead. Lovely, peachy, yeasty nose. Rich and full flavored with citrus, orange peel and peach nuances followed by a long, delicious hazelnut finish; as good as most high-end Champagnes. Score: 94
Sabate i Coca Castell Roig
This 18th-century estate at Masia Can Serra is home to the Sabate i Coca family's ecologically farmed 85 acres of vines.
2000 Brut Nature Gran Reserva (70% xarel-lo, 20% macabeo, 10% chardonnay; 1,000 cases) — $35: Green-tinged straw hue; very lively, fine bead. Nice yeasty, clean, lemony, fruity floral nose. Lively and dry with a long, lemony finish that begs for food. Score: 88
Founded by the Segura Viudas family in 1945, since the 1970s it has been in Freixenet's hands. This cuvée is still made much like a small producer family Cava with an emphasis on quality.
NV Brut Reserva Heredad (67% macabeo, 33% parellada; aged five years on the lees) — $20: Green-gold hue; fine, active bead. Pretty nose with hints of yeast, vanilla, lychee, honeysuckle and citrus peel. Stylish, elegant and clean with rich, well-integrated, mature flavors of nut and dried fruit; a long, yeasty, toasty finish. Score: 89
NV Arias Brut Pinot Noir — $12: Light-medium strawberry-cherry color; fine, active bead. Fresh strawberry nose. Clean, dry, smooth, pleasant red berry flavors. Score: 86
The Sumarroca house dates only to 1982, but its Cavas are made at a 15th-century Catalan mas (farmhouse complex) exclusively from estate grapes and only free-run juice.
NV Brut Reserva (30% macabeo, 30% xarel-lo, 30% parellada, 10% chardonnay; aged 30 months) — $11: Clean, pale yellow-straw hue; fine, active bead. Yeasty, floral, lime nose. Very dry, fairly austere, lively mouth-feel; hints of minerals with a clean, dry, lemon and bitter almond finish. Score: 87
Contributing Editor Gerry Dawes has been traveling to Spain for more than 30 years, and in 2003 was awarded the Marqués de Busianos Spanish National Gastronomy Prize.