Browsing Tag


Sparkling Wine

Exploring Cava Country in Spain

April 7, 2010
The Consell Regulador del Cava oversees all aspects of production for the region's sparkling wines.

The Consell Regulador del Cava oversees all aspects of production for the region's sparkling wines.

Many people visit Barcelona, the city that’s the capitol of Catalan culture here in Northern Spain, but it seems that relatively few ever make it to the wine country just an hour outside the city. I’ve barely been here for 24 hours in Vilafranca del Penedes and have learned all kinds of things already. Burbujes – which means bubbles – is my favorite new word in Spanish. And the Casa Torner I Guell in central Vilafranca is a very beautiful and modern hotel in the Mercer Group that just needs guests to fill it up.

Vilafranca is a town that’s in the cava region, but it’s actually the center of still wine production as well. The architecture here is a mix of modern and gothic and the town’s streets are lined with interesting little shops and of course wine bars.

Yesterday afternoon, I met with Maria Del Mar Torres who runs the Institut del Cava and Luis Vallespin of the Consell Regulador de Cava. The Institut is a membership organization made up of 70 cava producers while the Consell is a government organization that oversees cava production, registering vineyards, controlling yields, and setting standards for alcohol levels and labeling.

I’ll be meeting winemakers and learning the stories behind a dozen wineries, as well as tasting lots of different styles of cava and Catalan food, so stay tuned.

Bubbly Events, Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes

The Bubbly Bar: A book launch and a sparkling sangria recipe

August 24, 2009


It’s hard to believe it’s finally happening, but after three years of work and waiting, my book “The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion” is on sale today!!

It’s a beautiful, fun and useful book, filled with great classic and original drinks that mix international sparkling wines like brut champagne, prosecco, cava with fine spirits, seasonal fruits and herbs and homemade syrups. Plus there’s a great guide to visiting California sparkling wineries and buying great bubbly in any price range. But don’t take my word for it; Washington Post spirits writer Jason Wilson wrote a great review on it and San Francisco based cocktail expert Camper English is featuring a Bubbly Bar book give-away on Alcademics.

In case you’re in San Diego on Wednesday Aug. 26, there’s a book launch party  and farm-to-bar cocktails mixer hosted by Hotel Solamar and Slow Food Urban San Diego from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Admission is free; the $20 Bubbly Special includes a signed copy of the book and three cocktails from the book featuring Domaine Chandon sparkling wine.

One of the drinks we’ll be serving on Wednesday is Tisana, a fruity, golden punch  — very much like sangria — that features passionfruit, pineapple, pink grapefruit and orange juices  spiked with brandy and brut sparkling wine. I’ll also be making this drink on CW6 on Wednesday; here’s the recipe in case you’d like to try it at home.


Tisana Punch

Inspired by a fruit punch commonly served in Venezuela, this golden concoction is always appreciated. Try my version of this classic and then feel free to  vary the ingredients with the fruits and juices you might have on hand, taking care to balance the sweet and tart flavors. A good dark rum can also be substituted for the brandy.

2 cups pineapple juice
2 cups orange juice
2 cups pink grapefruit juice
1-1/2 cups passion fruit juice
1 ripe mango, diced
1 green apple, diced
pulp from one passion fruit
6 ounces brandy
2 teaspoons Angostura bitters
2 bottles cava, chilled
10 fresh shavings of nutmeg

Combine the juices and fruits in a punch bowl or large pitcher and then add the brandy and bitters. Pour in the cava. Top with the  freshly grated nutmeg and serve with ice if you like.

Makes 12 servings

From:  “The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion” by Maria C. Hunt (Clarkson Potter $16.99)

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes, Sparkling Wine

Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: Sangria de Cava at Columbia Restaurant in Tampa

August 8, 2009
Sangria de cava, made from the sparkling wine from Spain, is a house specialty at the historic Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, Fla. (Photo by Maria C. Hunt)

Sangria de cava, made from the sparkling wine from Spain, is a house specialty at the historic Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, Fla. (Photo by Maria C. Hunt)

If you find yourself in Tampa, Fla. for a few days, chances are you’ll end up at the restaurant Columbia. A Spanish/Cuban restaurant in the Ybor City area, Columbia has been in business since 1905, making it the oldest restaurant in the state of Florida.

It’s a vast space with curved arches over the bar, indoor fountains and an extensive glass-walled wine room that showcases many wines from Spain and California. The restaurant is famous for its 1905 salad made from a trademarked recipe, deviled crab croquettes, paella and simple Cuban style dishes like ropa vieja served with perfectly sweet fried plantains and rice.

Scanning the drink menu, I wanted to order the pitcher of Sangria de Cava — and my adventurous friend Melonyce agreed to split it with me. I love white sangria and I created my own version in my book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion that’s available now on Cava is the sparkling wine from Spain, typically crafted from the local grapes xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada using the same methods as champagne. Columbia uses Cristalino Brut Cava, which is crisp with lemon and apple flavors, a hint of minerality and nice bubbles. Made in Spain’s Penedes region by Jaume Serra winery, Cristalino is very easy to find in your local wine shop and a favorite of many for its quality and affordable price – usually under $10.

Our waiter brought out all the ingredients including a half bottle of Cristalino Brut Cava and then mixed the white sparkling sangria table-side. As he worked, I jotted down the recipe for Columbia’s Sangria de Cava.

Columbia’s Sangria de Cava

2 flat wheels of orange, cut in half
4 flat wheels of lime, cut in half
2 flat wheels of lemon, cut in half
1 shot orange liqueur
1 shot brandy
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon and lime juice combined
1 shot simple syrup (see note)
1/2 bottle brut cava
2 maraschino cherries

Add orange, lime and lemon slices to a sturdy glass pitcher. Using a wooden spoon or a muddler, smash the fruit to release its juices. Add the orange liqueur, brandy, juices and simple syrup to the pitcher. Stir and then top off with the chilled cava. Garnish each glass with a maraschino cherry.
Note: To make simple syrup, mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1 cup water in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Let cool and store in a clean bottle for up to two weeks. It’s an easy way to sweeten tea and lemonade without any pesky sugar crystals.
Serves 2 people.

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes

Desert Rose: A Sparkling Cinco de Mayo Cocktail Recipe

May 4, 2009
Fragrant guava nectar and cava sparkling wine make the Desert Rose a chic Cinco de Mayo drink. (Photo by Paul Body)

Fragrant guava nectar and cava sparkling wine make the Desert Rose a chic Cinco de Mayo drink. (Photo by Paul Body)

Whew, it’s been a busy cocktail week with Cinco de Mayo coming hot on the heels of Champagne Juleps for Derby Day this weekend!

Fortunately, I created this fun and fragrant sparkling tequila cocktail called The Desert Rose for my book The Bubbly Bar. It uses the same sweet-tangy-tequila formula as a margarita, but I thought a blend of guava and passion fruit juices would give this drink a tropical flair.

It gets its sparkle from cava, the sparkling wine from Catalonia in Spain, but any brut or dry sparkling wine would work. Segura Viudas makes several great and affordable cavas as does Cristalino. For a great in depth discussion of cava, check out this article from the Culinary Institute of America. Guava and passion fruit juices can be found in the juice aisle of any Asian or Latin grocery store.


The Desert Rose

Makes 1 cocktail

In this sultry sparkling version of a margarita, guava nectar and passion fruit juice add the sweet-tart flavor that would ordinarily come from sour mix.

1 ounce guava nectar
1 ounce passion fruit juice
1 ounce tequila
½ ounce Grand Marnier
Juice of ½ lime
3 drops rose water (optional)
3 ounces dry or brut cava, chilled
1 key lime slice for garnish

Add guava and passion fruit juices, tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice and rose water if using to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a margarita style glass. Top with the cava or sparkling wine. Garnish with lime.

Champagne, Drinks, Sparkling Wine

How Green is My Bubbly: 5 Eco Champagnes & Sparkling Wines for Earth Day

April 15, 2009

With Earth Day approaching it seems like a perfect time to plan an organic picnic at your favorite beach or park. You’ll go to the store for organic salad greens, strawberries, naturally raised meat and even eco-ice cream, but what to drink?

A couple years ago as I was researching my book The Bubbly Bar, I wanted to include a chapter on organic champagnes and sparkling wines. I had to settle for a section in the appendix because they weren’t widely available.

But it’s a whole new world as we approach Earth Day 2009. I found loads of green bubbly made from sustainable or certified organically grown grapes on wine web sites and at stores like Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy. Conscientious winemakers, who care about preserving the land and the health of their workers and customers, are making chemical-free wines in the US, France, Spain, South Africa and Italy. And though many items created with organic ingredients do cost more, I found wines for under $15, including one that’s just $4.99!

With the growing interest in organic foods and beverages, which was estimated to be a $23 bilion industry in 2008 according to the Organic Trade Association, it’s no surprise to see more wines made from organic grapes available. Because of U.S. regulations, wines can’t be labeled as “organic” if sulfites, a naturally occurring substance that’s used to stabilize and preserve wines, are added. USDA regulations limit wines from organically grown grapes to 100 ppm of sulfites; a typical sparkling wine will have just 70 ppm.  Biodynamic grapes are grown according to the highest  level of organic agriculture. Producers follow the tenets of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner which involve planting according to the cycles of the moon leads to healthier plants.

The latest major winery to move to all-organic production is Domaine Carneros by Taittinger in the Napa Valley. “All 300 acres of our vineyards are certified organic,” says Eileen Crane, winemaker and CEO of Domaine Carneros. “We’re the only sparkling wine house in all of the US that can say that.”

Crane said they started following organic growing practice in 2005 in order to qualify for the official designation in 2007. When weeds come up, they till the soil. To deal with pesky bugs that eat the grape leaves, they brought in a flock of organic chickens. And most importantly, Crane says her wines, which have an incredible balance of freshness and French toastiness, taste even better.
“It’s off the charts,” Crane says. “The vines look happy they’re vibrant and green and it feels good to walk in the vineyard.”

Here are five great sparkling wines and champagnes made from organic and sustainably raised grapes to pop the cork on this Earth Day 2009; just be sure to recycle that bottle! To learn about five more great eco-friendly wines, sign up for my free entertaining newsletter The Bubbly Girl Chronicles.

Albero Sparkling Wine from Spain

Albero Sparkling Wine
This delightful bargain wine is crafted from macabeo and airén grapes at Bodegas Iranzo in Valencia, which has been organic since 1994.  It’s not super complex, but this wine has hints of citrus and green pear and is pleasant and refreshing like a Sunday afternoon party.
About $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Makulu Moscato is made from sustainably raised grapes in South Africa.

Makulu Moscato
South Africa
Makulu, the second oldest cellar in South Africa, means “big”  in the Zulu language.  Big is also a good description for this blend of moscato, chenin blanc and colombard grapes that’s bursting with flavors of peaches, apricots and pears. This wine, which is made from sustainably grown grapes, is very low in alcohol and  comes from the Paarl Ward region of Western Cape of South Africa.
About $6 at Fresh & Easy stores and Ingersoll Wine & Spirits

Albet i Noya makes a range of organic sparkling cavas in the Penedes region of Spain.

Albet i Noya Cava Brut Reserva
Albet i Noya is Spain’s leading organic wine producer; this cava is made from chardonnay, xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada grapes that were grown in the Penedes region. It has a bright, crisp flavor of lemon zest and orange balanced by a nutty brioche finish.
About $18 at  at Appellation Wine & Spirits

Domaine Carneros Brut

Domaine Carneros Brut

Domaine Carneros Brut
The wines from Domaine Carneros, which is owned by Taittinger, have always had a French structure and toastiness to them balanced by juciy California fruit. Since going organic back in 2005, the wines seem even more crisp and clear.
About $22 at Beverages & More

Fleury Brut Rosé Champagne

Fleury Brut Rosé Champagne

Fleury Brut Rosé Champagne
Fleury was the first champagne producer to go biodynamic back in 1989, meaning they not only abstain from chemicals and pesticides, but they feed the land and plant by moon cycles so plants are more vigorous. This rose is made from 100% pinot noir  and is elegant but reveals a toasty depth too.
About $49 at K & L Wines.

Maria Hunt, the SDNN Food & Drink Editor, is the author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion being released in August by Clarkson Potter. She writes the champagne, cocktails and entertaining web site The Bubbly Girl.