Among all Spanish communities, Catalonia might be the most mysterious and complex of all. It has everything to enchant all sorts of travelers: if you're into adventure, you have the Pyrenees mountains. If you're into food, you have a rich variety of mar i muntanya (sea and mountain) original dishes. If you want art and architecture, you have Picasso, Dalí, Gaudí and a series of Modernist buildings and creations. And, last but not least, in Catalonia lies one of the richest and most interesting wine regions of the world.
Recently, Catalan wine has been attracting the attention of wine connoisseurs from all over the globe, but there is so much to explore that it keeps surprising even the most informed traveler. Within Catalonia there are 12 official denominations of origin (D.O.), or appellation of origin: Empordà, Alella, Pla de Bages, Conca de Barberà, Costers del Segre, Tarragona, Terra Alta, Montsant, Catalunya, Cava, and the well-known Penedès and Priorat.
The last two are arguably the most important, and our main recommendations for travelers who want to explore the wine-making process from its origins. The Penedès, because is the region with the largest range of grape varietals, soil types and microclimates, resulting in an incredibly large spectrum of wines. It's also the region that holds the majority of Cava production (Spain’s sparkling wine). And finally the Priorat wine region, the official D.O.Q (Qualified Denomination of Origin) and home of some of the best-quality wines in the country.
Long considered one of the country’s best wine-producing regions after the Rioja, it is also one of the most ancient viticultural areas in Europe. It is widely acknowledged to be home to the most modern and innovative of Spanish growers - there are hundreds of independent producers. Among Penedès’ traditional white varieties of grapes, Xarel·lo is the finest one. According to archaeological evidence, wine production in the Penedès has ancient origins (some evidences date back to the Phoenician introduction of Chardonnay vines during the 6th century BC). The region is split into three administrative sub-regions: Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Garraf. Here are ten fun facts about the Penedes.
Our recommendation: This is definitely something to be done with an expert. Local producers or tour guides will be able to explain all the region's secrets, the difference between the grapes, the history behind Cava and, most important, will know exactly where to take you - choosing a winery can get tricky as there are so many and the most amazing are normally the less known by Google!
Spanish Trails offers a great day trip to the region: Wines of Catalonia D. O. Penedès
The traditional grape variety grown in El Priorat is Garnacha tinta, which is found in all the older vineyards. The best wines of this region tend to be more concentrated and with a strong character, partly due to the Priorat's harsh growing conditions and generally older vines.
Our recommendation: Go with a guide. Priorat is very difficult to reach from Barcelona, and although the roads are safe, some wineries require local expertise to find. The landscape is one of its highlights, with a golden yellow light that makes for a perfect romantic destination.
For an incredible day trip into the Priorat, visiting 3 exclusive cellars and with a gourmet lunch of fresh, local delicacies, check out Spanish Trails: Wines of Catalunya D. O. Q. Priorat
You can also visit both regions in only one tour. Due to the driving time and the magical atmosphere, the best options for those who have time would be to take a multi day trip and spend a night in one of Catalan's magical wineries. Spanish Trails offers you the option to spend one or two nights, accordingly to your calendar & budget:
Have you thought about bring wine back home from your wine trip? See our products to help you do so!
Spanish Trails is a boutique incoming travel agency that offers intimate, informative and entertaining day tours in Barcelona and around Catalonia. They pride themselves on their ability to provide truly unique and personalized guided tours.
Iasa is a booking agent for Spanish Trails, handles design, promotion and the majority of the social media marketing, and is happy to help our guests prepare the best trip they could possibly have in Catalunya.
If you look around the world of wine today, you'll notice that most wine is made with the same grape varieties. Pretty much every 'New World' country produces wines made from grapes native to France; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot... the list goes on. This is no bad thing as stylistically, all the above varieties can be drastically different depending upon climate, soil, viticulture and vinification. The vast majority of glossy, bold Shiraz from Australia is, literally and figuratively, a world away from the savoury, peppery wines of the Northern Rhone, for example. However, in the last 10 years the fashion has been to move away from seeking out the 'best' examples of these well known varieties and instead to look for unique expressions, typically from grapes native to specific countries and regions. This has seen the emergence of some new stars in the world of wine, from the austere, mineral wines of Mount Etna in Sicily to the powerful, racy Assyrtiko of Santorini in Greece. Austria has re-modelled its vinous reputation with the versatile Grüner Veltliner and even as afar as South America, Bonarda and Pais are resurging on both sides of the Andes, in Argentina and Chile respectively.
However, no country has been rediscovered in quite the same way as Spain. There are somewhere in the region of 600 grape varieties on the Iberian Peninsula, the vast majority of them indigenous and regionally specific in production. Despite this, Spain was for decades synonymous with oaky, extracted wines from Rioja, and to a lesser extent Ribera del Duero, with Tempranillo the only celebrated indigenous grape hailing from the country. Short-sighted producers ripped up their old, unfashionable vineyards and replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and anything that was currently selling, not realising that in doing so they were giving up their major point of difference on the international market-place. However, this wasn't true for all producers and quietly, many went about their business as they had done for centuries; cultivating their families vineyards and producing wines of distinction and style, as their vines slowly became older, sturdier and produced better quality fruit. To look at the market now compared to 20 years ago is staggering. Shops in Barcelona are awash with local Catalan wines, Galician field-blends are appearing in top restaurants across the world and even Sherry is making a come-back! To cover the entirety of this resurgence would take a strong liver and a lot of time, but I'd like to share a few exciting varieties from my own little corner of Spain, the fiercely independent Catalunya:
Wine is a fussy product. Starting from its very beginnings as embryonic genetic material located on the buds of vines, to its moment of glory in your glass, there are countless chemical reactions, pitfalls and opportunities to be navigated and controlled in order to create a good bottle of wine. The vast majority of these is, fortunately, taken care of by the time we actually buy a bottle of wine, as the vigneron has spent the entire year wrestling against nature, ensuring the right balance of sugars, acids and flavour compounds, before handing over the baton to the wine-maker. This is where the grapes will be converted into wine through the magical process of fermentation, possibly aged and then bottled with care being taken to ensure biological stability. Then depending on where the wine is to be sold, it will go through a long or short supply route, potentially crossing oceans, continents and all sorts of checks before it finally appears on a shop shelf or restaurant list somewhere in the world.
Enter us; the consumer. We purchase the wine with the intention of one day drinking it, whether that be within minutes of the purchase, or 20 years down the line, after extended storage to allow for it to evolve within the bottle. Assuming the bottle has been purchased close to home and you intend to drink it in the near future, this is all well and good as any issues of storage are very much the responsibility of the retailer/restaurant and bottles can be returned for a refund. However, if you're buying the wine far from home, possibly, abroad, we run into some potential issues quite quickly.
Having just come back from a two week trip to the Mount Etna region of eastern Sicily we thought we'd share some of the best wine stores we came across travelling in the region. I must say I love the "enoteca" concept in Italy, where you can come for an aperitivo, taste local wines by the glass with some food, and then purchase bottles that you've tasted and liked. We loved visiting and tasting wines directly at the wineries of course, but the experience of tasting different producers side by side, and the ability to try older vintages can only be done at an enoteca.