Wine: An Introduction
Catalan culture and wine have been closely linked ever since the Greeks and Romans brought the tradition of grape cultivation to the region. The climate, geography and the variety of grapes makes wine produced in this area very diverse.
Situated in the north of Barcelona, the Catalan capital lies the region which lends its name to the D.O. Alella. This small area located on the Catalan coast is known for its high-quality wines, both white and red. Going back to the time of the ancient Romans, the wines of Alella were already esteemed by that population, and during the Middle Ages they held the honor of being served in oficial events. Today, this small speck of land on the Maresme offers wines with great aroma and with a strong Mediterranean tradition. This variety lets the master appreciate the grape in its most rugged form.
In northern Catalunya the L’Emporda region is home to a D.O. of the same name. It was here where the ancient Greeks introduced grape cultivation which would later extend to the rest of the Iberian peninsula. L’Emporda wines are fresh, fruity and very strong in flavor.
Further south we find the D.O. Conca de Barbera. Here the climate plays an extremely important role, because this is where balmy Mediterranean weather mixes during the day with coger temperaturas of the inland areas. The Francolí river crosses the region, helping create this unique microclimate. The white varieties of Conca de Barbera are made with Chardonnay grapes are and are prized throughout Spain.
One of the most extensive D.O. regions – and one of the most well-known internationally – is the Penedés. This region, filled with rolling plains and situated on the Mediterranean coast is divided into three zones: el Penedes Superior, el Penedes Central and el Bajo Penedes. The warm but mild climate nurtures the cultivation of the tradicional white varietes of the area: Xarelo and Macabeo, as well as the reds: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cariñena and Monastrell. Towards the center of the Penedes region, temperatures are lower, making the area optimal for the production of Cava. The inland zone of the Penedes Superior area is where the Parellada grape is grown, which produces dry white wines.
One town in the region, Sant Sadurni d´Anoia is known as the “Cava capital” for being home 80 bodegas which produce 90% of Cava in Spain.
The Tarragona province of Catalunya is home to the D.O. that is causing the most buzz lately: Priorat. Priorat grapes are grown in volcanic soil which contains tiny pieces of slate, which give the wine a delightful mineral flavor.
The Priorat is known mostly for its red varieties, made with Garnacha and Cariñena grapes. There are, however, white and rose varieties, both made with white Garnacha grapes. Priorat also produces the famous Vi Ranci so common in Catalan cooking, as well as dessert wines.
In the “comarcas” of Lleida you’ll find the outstanding D.O. Costers del Segre. All of of the “comarcas” that make up this D.O. lie on the Segre river. The most salient thing about this D.O. is the broad range of wines that it produces and its innovative cultivation technology. Red wines produced here are strong but balanced, and the roses are fresh and fruity. The white grape is used primarily for the production of Cava.
Along the Ebro river you’ll find the Montsant D.O. The mineral elements of the soil – slate, En las tierras de la ribera de l´Ebre está la denominación Montsant. La variedad de la tierra – pizarra, sandstone, clay and limestone– the microclimates and the altitude make Montsant wines unique in the World. In recent years, the Montsant D.O. has experienced many changes with regard to cultivation technology, and the resulting wine is a product particularly high in alcohol content. The Monsant vineyards are several hundred years old and produce a very small crop but the result is a wine of unparalleled quality.
The D.O. Catalunya is produced in most of Catalunya. The type of grapes used allows for experimentation and this D.O. is considered done of the most innovative. The Catalunya reds have an intense aroma and are very well-balanced. The whites are fruity and light. Catalunya D.O also incluyes rosés, liqueurs, Ví ranci and dessert wines.
In the 19th century, an insect that came from the America known as Filoxera (Dactylosphaera vitifoliae) destroyed most of the vineyards of the Bagés area of Catalunya. Today, the vineyards have bounced back and are the producers of wine of D.O. Pla del Bages. The sandy soil is ideal for producing reds and whites.
In 1985 the D.O. Terra Alta was first introduced. These wines are known for their high alcohol level (the whites can go up to 16%) and their peculiar color. Red varieties are fruity and have a lower alcohol level.