In the gota fria, but drinking the stars

My parents’ move to Spain is grounded in a number of founding myths. They all revolve around their determination to overcome a reluctance to leave what was, back in 2002, their lifelong home.

These myths include their conviction that Mum’s cancer treatment would have been worse under the NHS (the jury’s out on that one) and also underpin—if not explain—my Dad’s weird obsession with UKIP’s success as a barometer of what’s wrong with the UK. I haven’t the heart to tell him what will happen to expats if we leave the EU, but at least I’ll see a bit more of him then.

But the oddest founding myth concerns how much better—or at any rate, how much better value for money—cava is compared to champagne. Now, I’m no connoisseur of either: I certainly can’t afford much of the latter; and wouldn’t have so much of the former if it weren’t for them buying it for us. But two chance encounters with the real deal in these past few months have made me boggle at their reactions.

On the train down to the Alps, one of my friends shared a remarkable petrolly Saumur with us all, and I could’ve wished for it to last for ever. And a few weeks before then, over the Christmas holidays my father-in-law treated us to a bottle of Tendresse by Jean Milan: an amazing concoction tasting of hazelnut cream, purchased during a day trip to that one street near Reims that’s home to perhaps a third of the best champagne houses in the world.

Each time, when I mentioned my experience to them in passing on our weekly phone call, my parents replied with “Ooh, no thanks! We’d much prefer cava.” Neither time could I really think of anything to say in response. I mean, cava’s all right, but these drinks were something entirely different….

Perhaps it’s for the best, though: perhaps championing cava is one or the most Spanish things they do, along with coincidentally, ironically being quite British: to support the underdog; indeed, to support anyone at all, if they’re up against the French.

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3 Responses to In the gota fria, but drinking the stars

  1. Tom says:

    Could the cava thing be a case of concorde fallacy? I expect that if I’d gone to the bother of moving to a different country I’d try to convince myself that it was the best decision to make (and that it had the best wine/healthcare service). In fact I’m sure we do this about all sorts of things all the time.

  2. 1looby says:

    Another thing I notice from this is the tendency, when a couple is thrown together in a momentous experience, such as emigration, is the tendency to speak in the first person plural. So it “we” who prefer cava. Although, thinking about that, many settled elderly couples do that all the time, without moving to Spain.

    Surreptitious blind tastings are the way forward SB. Wait for them to gush over the Taittinger or Pol Roger, then reveal that you got the bottles mixed up.

  3. smallbeds says:

    @Tom I think we might be talking about the same thing from different angles. I’m not convinced that their motivation is as pragmatic as all that, though. They like cava the way a lot of English people like cricket: part of what it means to be a certain kind of English person involves liking cricket; It’s not that people say “well, I’m stuck with cricket; I might as well like it.” It’s far more performative and imaginative than that.

    @looby oh, yes. I mean, my Dad actually hates all sparkling wine and hardly ever touches the cava after the first sip. But if there’s one wine that he loves the idea of, while hating the actual taste, then it’s cava.

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