Catalunya (Catalonia) is a large and very independent region in the north east of Spain, with Barcelona at its heart. It is very different from many Spanish wine regions, not just because of its very strong Basque/Catalan roots and independent heritage, but because of the far wider and diverse range of wines that it produces.
About Catalan Wines
The region stretches from the foothills of the Pyrenees, right down the Eastern coastline for about 500km; the climate is less harsh, and more continental than many of the more land-locked Spanish wine producing areas. It is one of the oldest wine producing regions in Spain, with a long history and tradition of winemaking, which started with the Romans, and blossomed during the middle Ages, and the 19th century.
Penedes is the heart of the sparkling wine production industry for Spain, and is where Cava comes from. Jose Raventos, founder of the Codorniu group first started producing sparkling wines in the late 19th century and the industry has snowballed since then. Codorniu and Freixenet are the 2 vast, leading houses, but many smaller producers also now produce Cava.
Cava used to have a reputation for being earthy and heavy - a lot of this was to do with quality of grapes, time of picking and vinification techniques. Today, the grapes are picked early, to retain freshness, and the quality has soared. Made by the champagne method, the traditional grapes are Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada, but Chardonnay is now also used in some of the blends. Codorniu have also started producing Cava exclusively from a blend of the traditional Champagne grape varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
As well as Cava, high quality white, rose and red wine have been produced in Catalonia for many years. The Torres family were one of the first pioneers of high quality still wines from the region, and still push the boundaries in terms of grape selection, vineyard techniques and location of vines.
Experimentation with grapes from the local ones to the pernicious Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are now played with, and the range of wines from these regions continues to excite.
Catalonia is also home to several other smaller and less well known denominations, including Alella, known for its crisp, lively whites, Montsant, for its fresh, vibrant reds, and Tarragona, which provides large quantities of white wine and also some of the grapes to go into Cava production.
Catalan Grapes & Styles
Sparkling – dry white, semi-sweet white and rose, made in the champagne method from Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello, with some production now from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
White - fresh, zesty, citrus-streaked whites from both local grape varieties and international ones – mainly chardonnay and some Sauvignon Blanc.
Rose – lively, dry Rose from Garnarcha and Pinot Noir.
Red – serious, high quality reds from traditional and international grape varieties, including Garnacha, Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot.