Wine review: The best $5 bubbly you can buy -- M. Chevallier Cava

Before I moved to California, I explored and adored Trader Joe’s in Atlanta, my former home city, and bemoaned their absence in Florida (but that’s apparently changing). The Charles Shaw “2 Buck Chuck” revolution began at Trader Joe’s and these $1.99 wines certainly haven’t waned in popularity during the recession. They don’t suck that badly either, especially the red wines. My Mom loves ’em.

So it was with some elation, after settling in, when a local California wine geek friend (thanks Bob!) told me about a $5 Spanish Cava available exclusively at Trader Joe’s. You see, I’m a bit of a bubbly whore and could easily go broke supporting my salacious sparkling wine habit (I write about them a lot). $5 for a bottle of drinkable bubbly is like… like… well, it indescribably rocks my world.

Spanish Cava is what the Spanish call their sparkling wine. Made in the same fashion as French Champagne — méthode Champenoise, a process which creates bubbles in the bottle versus a tank — Cava producers use different grapes than the traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, normally indigenous Spanish grapes. The result is earthier and less refined but just as refreshing. More about Cava.

I tasted the black label M. Chevallier Carte Noire Cava with trepidation and suppressed my high hopes, attempting to give it a fair and balanced assessment (which is tough without tasting blind). But I was pretty damn impressed. That was a few months ago. Now, it’s my house pour on a Sunday morning, sometimes mixed with tangerine or orange juice for mimosas, sometimes straight up. It all depends on what kind of eggs we’re having.

But don’t get too excited. It’s not a special occasion bubbly. Nothing complicated or sophisticated. You won’t impress a wine snob with it, although it’d be fun to see how it fares in a blind tasting line up with professionals. Light-bodied, with lemon-lime, green apple, some earthiness and a minerally finish. Pretty frickin’ amazing for the price.

Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Retail price: $5-$6
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Occasion: Recommendation
Food pairing: Anything… Really
Availability: Trader Joe’s

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