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By Simone Zarmati Diament

It's that time of year when one brings out the bubbly to celebrate the holidays season among family, friends, colleagues, and to kick off the New Year in style.

We've sampled some gems from Freixenet ( Pronounced "fresh-eh-net") worth trying not only this holiday season, but all year round, as a refreshing drink which will not break the bank.

But what is Cava?
Cava is the Spanish sparkling wine made using the traditional méthode champenoise, the method of sparkling wine-making. The term was adopted by the Spanish in 1970, when they agreed to abandon the term Champaña.

The word originated in Catalonia which produces most, but not all cavas -- Cellar in Spanish.

It was José Raventós, the head of Cordoniú, who made the first bottles of champagne in Spain, after visiting France in 1872. However, soon after, phylloxera decimated the vines, which were replanted with Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, the grape varieties which are the mainstay of the Cava industry to this day.

Freixenet, the largest exporter of Cava
And while Cordoniú is Spain's largest producer of domestic bubbly, Freixenet is the largest exporter of Cava in the world. The brand was born in 1889, when Pedro Ferrer Bosch and his wife Dolores Sala Vivé decided to concentrate on sparkling wines. The company was named after an estate in Mediona, Penedès, called La Freixenada, which had been in Pedro Ferrer's family since the 13th century.

Today, the company has six production centers, with a combined production of nearing 100 million bottles per year, and in a recent sampling of sparkling wines from around the world, The Wall Street Journal named Freixenet "Best of Tasting" and a "Best Value"

Brut de Noirs ($ 7.99 - $9.99) Aged for up to 18 months, the Brut de Noirs is a bright salmon-pink color bubbly, a 50-50 blend of Garnacha and Monastell. This sparkling wine is full-bodied and satiny, fresh, crisp and lively, full of ripe cherry and berry, with a long and satisfying finish. The Wine Spectator called this sparkling wine "An appealing quaff for a lazy afternoon." In addition to naming it a "Best Value", Wine & Spirits went on to say "There's plenty of ripe strawberry in this deeply colored rosé; still the wine leaves a dry impression in a smooth, mild finish."

Carta Nevada Nevada Semi-Dry ($ 6.99)
Carta Nevada is a blend of Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada, the three traditional grapes of Cava. Macabeo produces a light but fruity, aromatic wibe of medium-high acidity; Xarel-lo yields a robust, high-acid wine that contributes depth; and Parellada offer fruit and finesse. This wine is creamy, and sweet with custardy flavors, yet with a nice zing. It works well a mixer for punches and champagne cocktails.

Cordon Negro Brut ($10)
This is Freixenet's most popular cava and its best seller in the world. USA Today called it "A truly remarkable sparkler for the money." It comes in the distinctive black frosted bottle. A blend of the three traditional grapes: Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada, this medium-bodied wine is crisp, clean and well-balanced, very dry and smooth, and pairs well with any type of food that one would have with beer.


Freixenet Brut Nature 2000 ($14)
This reserve cava is produced only from exceptional harvests. Extremely dry, it is characterized by a complex nose with notes of hazelnuts and ripe apple, with a vivid acidity as the flavors deepen on the palate, leading to a layered and elegant finish. It works well as an aperitif, served with aged cheddar of Manchego cheese; or with grilled fish, creamy mushroom and pumpkin bisque - "Serve it with a main course of wild salmon and stewed morels," wrote Wine & Spirits Magazine, awarding it 90 points - as well as with strawberries and cream.

Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad ($20)
This is a limited production wine made specially for the Segura Viudas family. It comes in a hand-blown bottle emblazoned with a silvery metal crest and a metal coaster at the bottom. The wine is made from the best grapes grown in Segura Viudas'vineyards at Sant Sadurní d'Anoia in Penedès. Made from first pressings of Macabeo and Parellada grapes, it is aged in the bottle for a minimum of five years. The wine is medium-bodied and mellow with character and depth, a good fruit intensity on the palate and a long and yeasty finish.

Segura Viudas Aria Estate Brut ($12)
This is a dry, lively wine with tastes of pineapple, almonds, honey and hints of pears and fresh bread. The wine is made from first pressings of Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada grapes, and spends 3 years on yeast. It is easy to pair with seafood and fish, as well as sundry appetizers.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva ($10)
This is a cuvée of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes from Penedès, a blend of reserve and non-vintage wines. It spends 2 years on yeast and is aged in the bottle for a minimum of three years. The result is a fairly crisp wine with flora notes and creamy texture.

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