Your Catalonia Primer

Dip into the Cava-capital of Spain.

While many Catalonians might prefer to see their autonomous region secede from Spain, for the foreseeable future, the provinces of Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida and Girona will remain part of the country.

But Catalonians are fiercely independent people, with their own language (Catalan), customs and cuisine (like fideuà, a seafood dish with noodles). Catalonians also have their own wines, best described as “Mediterranean” in composition and character.

Catalonia mapThat said, Catalonia’s image as a wine region is largely driven by Cava, Spain’s Champagne-method sparkling wine. The Penedès, located southwest of Barcelona, is the capital of Cava production, with most coming from vineyards surrounding the towns of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia and Vilafranca del Penedès.

With respect to table wines, Priorat and Montsant, both located in Tarragona Province, are historic regions known for strong-boned, minerally red wines made from Garnacha, Carignan and often some Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Of the two, Priorat has more wineries and garners more international acclaim. Its terraced vineyards, many reclaimed from dilapidated Roman-era plantings, along with schist-based hillside plantings of bush vines, are famous for yielding powerful, complex wines.

Smaller Catalonian regions like Terra Alta, Costers del Segre and Conca de Barberà largely operate under the radar, but have been coming along in recent years. These regions produce mostly Garnacha and Carignan, as well as obscure regional red grapes like Trepat and Morenillo in addition to Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

On the white-wine side, plenty of quaffable table wines are made in the Penedès from the same grapes used for Cava: Macabeo (Viura), Xarel-lo, Parellada and even ­Chardonnay. But the most intriguing Mediterranean white variety in Catalonia is Garnacha Blanca, which takes to barrel fermentation and aging in a way that Cava grapes don’t.

Published on May 25, 2016
Topics: Spain, Travel, Wine Destinations
About the Author
Michael Schachner
Spanish and South American Editor

Reviews wines from Argentina, Chile and Spain.

Michael Schachner is a New York-based journalist specializing in wine, food and travel. His articles appear regularly in Wine Enthusiast, where he is a longstanding contributing editor responsible for South America and Spain. Schachner reviews more than 2,000 wines annually for WE and regularly travels to Chile, Argentina and Spain to keep abreast of the constantly changing global wine map. Email: mschachner@wineenthusiast.net.



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