Barcelona may be one of Europe’s most alluring cities, but wine enthusiasts seeking to sample the finest vintages from Spain’s Catalan region usually need to escape the bustling metropolis – if only for a day.
Catalonia is renowned for its production of Cava – a white or rose sparkling wine that is produced using the same technique as its more illustrious cousin from France, Champagne. Ninety per cent of the country’s entire Cava production comes from the region of Penedes, which can be reached within 40 minutes from the city and is home to the most internationally recognised Barcelona wineries.
These include the large commercial producers Freixenet and Codorniu – the latter is responsible for introducing Cava to Spain after one the estate’s ambassadors Josep Raventos visited France in 1872 and returned to apply the ‘method traditionelle’ to Spanish grapes.
Traditionally, Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello grapes are used, although Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Subirat also make exemplary sparkling wines. And, Penedes also has a reputation for producing a variety of other still styles including dry reds, dry whites and dessert wines. Both Freixenet and Codorniu, as well as many more Barcelona wineries, are situated south of the city in the small town of Sant Sadurní de Ainhoa, which is regarded as the capital of Cava. Sant Sadurní is also famous for its annual Phylloxera Festival. Despite Phylloxera being a plague that once almost destroyed all of the vineyards in Europe, it is celebrated for giving Spain a new lease of life by exporting its wines to countries that were more severely infected by the microscopic insect.
Penedes is one of the most ancient wine growing regions in Europe, featuring a rural landscape scattered with quaint villages, solitary churches and vineyards upon vineyards.Another wine town to explore outside of the city is Vilafrana del Penedes, which is home to one of the largest wineries in Barcelona. Bodegas Torres differs from Freixenet and Codorniu in that it specialises in premium still rather than sparkling wine varieties.
The Torres winery in Penedes is the largest in Spain, and the estate is also the country’s largest producers of DO wines under its own label – exporting to more than 140 different countries.To the north of Barcelona is Alella, a small production area with a few wineries that have preserved traditional methods of wine making, while in the east is Pla y Bages at the highest altitude of Penedes where wines carry more Mediterranean characteristics.
The Catalonia wine route also takes in several other small regions in the provence of Barcelona, including Vilanova I la Geltru – an atmospheric seaside town crammed with excellent fish restaurants – and the more renowned port of Sitges.Sitges, which has been referred to as the ‘Saint Tropez of Spain’ is well known for its beaches, nightlife and history – as well as an annual international film festival that is dominated by horror and fantasy flicks and a colourful gay carnival.
Barcelona wineries within the city itself are generally restricted to the city’s many vinotecas where visitors can enjoy private wine tastings accompanied by an expert guide, and usually followed by local gourmet food pairings such as tapas. There is also the opportunity to visit the city’s ‘Xampanyerias’, or Cava bars, where locals enjoy drinking the sparkling wine with ‘bocadillos’ and tapas dishes. And, when you are not sampling some of the region’s wines then you can revel in Barca’s incredible art and cultural heritage and dine on some of the finest cuisine in Europe.
If you are interested in tours of wineries in Barcelona, contact Wine Paths’ local expert for more information and inspiration ideas.
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