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In the southern area of Catalonia, nestled amidst the sun-drenched landscapes of the Spanish countryside, lies Penedès – a region synonymous with wine, tranquillity, and a unique philosophy of life. My first steps into Penedès were like walking into a painter’s masterpiece – in vibrant green and gold hues, dotted with vineyards stretching as far as the eye could see.
I was here for a wine-tasting escape, but little did I know I was about to embark on a journey through history, culture, and an unparalleled philosophy of living. Known as one of Catalonia’s most famous wine regions, Penedès offers an immersive experience into the world of wine, steeped in history and natural beauty.
Spain’s Penedès: A Historical Wine Haven
Dating back to the 7th century BC, Penedès’ wine-growing tradition has been honed over centuries. Today, the region is a testament to this enduring legacy, boasting 37,500 acres of grape-producing land. The vineyards, scattered across the picturesque Catalonian countryside, are dotted with quaint villages, solitary churches, and, of course, the sprawling vines that are the region’s lifeblood.
The complicated geography of coastal hills and various soil types in Penedès contribute to a diverse range of wine styles. There’s no ‘typical’ wine from Penedès; the region offers a spectrum from full-bodied red wines and the freshest white wines to excellent sparkling wines and whites. Grape varieties such as Xarel·lo, Macabeo, and Parellada are traditional to the region, but you’ll also find Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Muscat gracing the vineyards.
Penedès is perhaps best known for producing Cava, Spain’s most famous sparkling wine. Cava, which enjoys its own appellation, is primarily made in this region. The sparkling wine has become synonymous with celebration and sophistication in Spain and globally.
With over 70 wineries ranging from small, family-run operations to internationally recognized brands, the region offers a plethora of options for wine enthusiasts. Visitors can explore the best vineyards and cellar doors, indulge in wine tasting and tours, and enjoy the local produce. The passionate winemakers and the folks running these establishments add a personal touch, making each visit unique and memorable.
The Penedès Wine Route
Since 2001, the Penedès wine route has been part of the Rutas del Vino de España (Wine Routes of Spain), inviting visitors to explore the region’s viticultural richness. The route encompasses wineries under denominations of origin like DO Penedès, Corpinnat, DO Cava, and DO Penedès Espumoso. Each of these appellations represents a different aspect of Penedès’ wine heritage, showcasing the region’s versatility and quality.
Best Wineries in Penedès: A Journey Through Catalonia’s Wine Country
Visiting these wineries in Penedès is an exploration into the soul of Catalan winemaking. With its unique approach, history, and offerings, each winery contributes to the rich mosaic of the Penedès wine region. Whether you’re a connoisseur or a casual enthusiast, these wineries promise an experience that’s about savouring wine and understanding and appreciating the art and tradition behind each bottle.
Albet I Noya: A Legacy of Fine Wines. Founded in 1925, Albet I Noya is a testament to the evolution of winemaking in Penedès. With vines averaging 30 years old, the winery has mastered the art of producing some of the finest wines in the region. The winery’s commitment to quality and tradition makes it a must-visit for anyone seeking the quintessence of Penedès wine.
Agustí Torelló Mata: A Family’s Wine Heritage. Agustí Torelló Mata, established in 1950, is a family legacy carried forward by the Torelló Sibill siblings. Their award-winning wines, like the Subirat Parent XII and the Brut Nature Gran Reserva Cava, are products of organic vineyards and traditional winemaking methods. Each bottle is a story of passion, family, and dedication to excellence.
Conca de Barbera: Catalonia’s Hidden Gem. Conca de Barbera, though lesser-known, holds its own in the Catalan wine scene. It’s home to the historic Abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet and its cooperative winemaking tradition. The region’s diverse range of grapes, including Macabeo, Chardonnay, and Parellada for whites, and El Trapat, Ull de Llebre, Garnatxa Negra, and Cabernet Sauvignon for reds, makes it a destination for those seeking to explore beyond the familiar.
Gramona Winery: Sparkling Wine Par Excellence. Founded in 1881, Gramona Winery is renowned for its long-aged Cavas. Winemaker Jaume Gramona’s expertise is evident in every bottle, particularly in their Gramona Enoteca Brut Nature. The meticulous process of secondary fermentation and extended ageing on lees imparts unparalleled complexity and depth to the Cava.
Cavas Nadal: Tradition in Every Bubble. Cavas Nadal specializes in traditional sparkling winemaking, with Xavier Nadal at the helm. Their Nadal RNG 10 Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2004, a blend of Xarel-lo and Parellada, testament to their commitment to age-old methods. The meticulous process of fermentation and ageing on lees results in a sparkling wine that is rich, complex, and emblematic of Catalan winemaking.
Codorníu: Spain’s Venerable Cava House. Codorníu, dating back to 1551, is one of Spain’s oldest and most respected Cava houses. The winery, led by Bruno Colomer, combines traditional techniques with modern innovation. Their Codorníu Rosé Brut is a perfect example, blending Pinot Noir with Parellada to create a sparkling wine that is both sophisticated and accessible.
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A Gastro Lifestyle Intertwined with Wine in Penedès
In the sun-drenched vineyards of Penedès, the essence of the region extends beyond the vine. It’s an immersion into a lifestyle where gastronomy and viticulture intertwine seamlessly, creating a tapestry of experiences that celebrate the richness of Catalan culture.
The gastro lifestyle in Penedès is as varied and rich as its wines. Catalan cuisine, known for its bold flavours and rustic charm, is a feast for the senses. One cannot talk about Catalan food without mentioning its olive oil – golden, fragrant, and a staple in every kitchen. This liquid gold drizzled over local dishes adds a touch of Mediterranean magic.
Cheese lovers are in for a delight with the variety of Catalan cheeses. Tupi, a spicy and tangy cheese made from sheep, goat, or cow’s milk and flavoured with aniseed liquor, is a traditional favourite. It’s typically prepared in clay pots and is known for its intense flavour. Then there’s Mato de Montserrat, a fresh cheese enjoyed young, often paired with honey or jam for a sweet and creamy dessert. The Alt Urgell-Cerdanya cheese, the first to receive a D.O. designation in Catalonia, is another must-try. Made from pasteurized cow’s milk and aged for 45 days, it has a semi-soft texture and a grassy and nutty flavour profile.
The region is also famous for its embotit-cured, dried sausages that are a testament to the art of Catalan charcuterie. Each bite of these sausages, whether enjoyed alone or with a glass of local wine, tells a story of tradition and craftsmanship.
Penedès is a place where dining is an experience. Here, you can spend afternoons lounging on a terrace, a glass of wine in hand, and evenings savouring the local produce. The aromas from the marketplaces, the conversations with local winemakers, and the rural social life all contribute to the charm of this region.
To truly experience Penedès is to indulge in its gastro offerings. From the vineyards to the dining table, every flavour, aroma, and texture celebrates the land and its bounty. It’s a region where the love for food and wine creates a symphony, and each day spent here adds a note to its melody.
As my journey in Penedès came to a close, I realized this was more than a getaway; it was a deep dive into a lifestyle where wine, nature, and history coexist harmoniously. I left Penedès with bottles of exquisite wine, stories, memories, and a newfound appreciation for the art of winemaking. In Penedès, every glass tells a story, and I was fortunate to have become a part of it. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply someone seeking a serene escape, Penedès promises an enriching Spanish journey that captivates both the palate and the soul. ◼
© This article was first published online in Jan 2024 – World Travel Magazine.