Catalan wine varieties, are known for their diversity. Here we explore the qualities of each D.O. (an appellation primarily for Spanish wines, but also other foodstuffs) and provide special notes on alcohol levels and grapes used.
The D.O. Alella region is located in the CatalanMaresme, north of Barcelona, where the soil is sandy and granite-filled, highly permeable and with an extremely high capacity to absorb the sun’s rays. This type of soil is called “Sauló”. The total area of the winegrowing area for this D.O. is 1384 acres, and the region boasts a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters.
The primary type of wine produced in Alella is whites, which area light, aromatic and smooth. The dry whites are pale in color, fresh and perfumey. Reds and roses are aromatic with varying characteristics, and because of their aging methods are very well-balanced.
Reds: Between 10 and 14%
Whites: Between 10 and 13.5%
Roses: Between 10 and 13.5%
De Aguja: Between 10.8 and 12.5%
Authorized Grape Varieties
Reds: Pansa Tinta, Ull de Llebre, Garnacha tinta, Garnacha Peluda and Merlot
White: Xarel, Garnacha Blanca, Pansa Blanca, Pansa rosada, Picapoll, Malvasía, Macabe, Parellada, Chardonnay y Chenin Blanc.
The Phoenicians brought wine to this region of Catalunya in the 5th century, and the Romans followed them in the tradition when they arrived later. L’Emporda is a region situated in the northeast of Catalunya and is part of the province of Girona. The northernmost part of L’Emporda borders the French D.O.s Banyuls and Cotes de Roussillon. Banyuls (Appellation de Origine Contrôlée) is a fortified aperitif or dessert wine made from old vines cultivated in terraces on the slopes of the Pyrenees in the Roussillon wine region of Southern France, which borders Catalunya. The winegrowing area covers about 7350 acres and soil in this area is lacking in organic matter and is very easily drained. The climate is Mediterrean but conditioned by the proximity to the Pyrenees mountains, with frequent tramontana winds. The most common wines produced here are roses made with Cariñena and “black” Garnacha. They are fruity, fresh and flavorful. Reds produced in L’Emporda are also fresh fruity, and the whites extremely flavorful.
Authorized Grape Varieties
Reds: Garnacha, la Cariñena, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvingon and tempranillo.
Whites: Macabeo and White Garnacha (some Xarel.lo y Chardonnay)
Conca de Barbera, a Comarque in Tarragona in southern Catalunya, is a place where culture and wine meet. A visit to this region to taste the wines at the modernist wineries where they are made is not to be missed, and there is whole route that one can take going from winery to winery, enjoying both tasting and the sights. The modernist architecture of the wineries in Conca de Barbera are the work of famous architects Cesar Martinell and Pere Doménech.
Conca de Barbera spreads across 1600 acres, and the climate varies from Mediterranean on the coast with mild summers to continental inland, with intense winters. Temperature here varies a lot from day to night.
The territory of Conca is crossed by the Francoli river and its tributary the Anguera, and these two rivers influence the type of soil here. The altitude of this area varias from Estas tierras están atravesadas por el río Francoli y a su afluente el Anguera y su influencia configura el tipo de suelo. The soil is calcified and weak in organic matter, and the altitude of 1000 to 2000 feet above sea level makes wines from this region fresh and light.
Authorized Grape Varieties: Ull de llebre, black Garnacha and Trepat are the type of grapes used for red wines from Conca de Barbera, which are smooth and flavorful. Rosés are made mostly with Trebat, and are fresh, light and raspberry in color. Whites — consistent, light and aromatic– are the specialty of this region, and are made with Chardonnay, Parellada and Macabeo grapes and have a moderate alcohol level.
Located in the province of Lleida with an area of 10,000 acres, the Comarques of this region are Artesa de Segre, les Garrigues, Pallars Jussa, Raimat, Segria and Valls de Riucorb. The climate is Mediterranean with some continental traits such as cold winters and very hot summers. The soil has a high level of calcium and precipitation is scarce.
The wines from this D.O. are extremely diverse, and the techniques used in their production are among the most innovative in Spain. Reds are bold and well-balanced. The production of white is mostly cava. When visiting the Costers del Segre region, we recommend staying at the “casas rurales” in Pallars Jussa.
White: 9% to 13%
Red: 9% to 13%
Rose: 9% to 13%
Authorized Grape Varieties: Chardonnay, Parellada, Macabeo, Xarel·lo, Garnacha blanca, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc for whites and Garnacha negra, Monastrell, Trepat, Samsó, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Ull de llebre, Pinot Noir and Syrah for reds.
This D.O. was created in 1999 by the Generalitat de Catalunya, Catalunya’s main governing body. This D.O. spreads across the entire Catalan region, covering 330 municipis, making it the largest and most diverse D.O. in Catalunya. D.O. Catalunya stands out for the sheer variety of the wines, the most prominent of which are whites, red, roses, de aguja and de licor. Reds are very bold with intense bouquet while whites are fresh and fruity.
De aguja: 10.5%
De licor: 15%
Authorized Grape Varieties: There are 30 varieties for this D.O. — 16 white and 14 red. A complete list can be found on D.O. Catalunya’s official site.
Denominación de origen Montsant
The vineyards of Montsant spread across impressive hills and cohabitate with almond groves, olive trees and pine trees. The Montsant territory is located within the comarque of Priorat, and covers 5065 acres. Most of the soil in this region is calcium-rich, but in others, such as Falset, it contains granite and is sandy, with little ability to hold water. The climate is Mediterranean with continental traits, and Montsant’s altitude varies from 656 feet above sea level in some areas to 2296 feet in others.
Montsant reds are very high in alcohol content and full-bodied. Whites are also very concentrated, but fresh. Dessert wines are smooth and fruity. Montsant wines are often used as a base wine for the production of traditional Catalan vermouth.
Red: 15% to 20%
Vi ranci: 15% to 20%
Vi dolc: 15% to 18%
Authorized Grape Varieties: For reds: Mazuela, Garnacha Negra, Garnacha Peluda, Merlot, Monastrell, Picapoll negro, Syrah and Tempranillo. For whites: Chardonnay, Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Moscatel, Pansal, Parellada and Trobat.
Denominación de origen Penedés
Penedes is perhaps Catalunya’s most world-reknowned winemaking region. It was the first region in Spain to use stainless steel machines and cold fermentaion in the production process. Here native Penedes grapes are mixed with French varieties in such a way that the result is remarkable. In Penedes, winemakers are constantly experimenting with new ways to grow grapes, and are commited to organic cultivation.
The Penedes D.O. spreads across the provinces of Barcelona and Tarragona and is divided into three zones: Penedes Superior, Penedes Central and Bajo Penedes (upper, central and lower). The climate is strictly Mediterranan, providin perfect growth conditions for the grapes and allowing for a wide variety in the wines. The total production area is over 69,000 acres. Lower Penedes has a warmer climate, therefore better for growing Garnacha, Cariñena, Monastrell and Tempranillo, Penedes Central is a bit cooler, and this where white varieties such as Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Chardonnay thrive, as well as red varieties like Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Penedes Superior is home to the white varieties Parellada, Riesling, Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as the ever-challenging Pinot Noir.
Penedes whites (like most Catalan whites) are fresh and fruity with a faint apple aroma. Roses are fresh with flowery aromas such as rose or carnation, or fruit scents like watermelon or cherry. Reds are very well-balanced and bouquet varies depending on the type of grape used.
9% to 13% for all wines.
Authorized Grape Varieties: Garnacha, Cariñena, Monastrell, Tempranillo, Macabeo, Xarel.lo, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Pinot Noir, Parellada, Riesling, Muscat, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc.
This D.O. is located in the province of Barcelona and its vineyards run the entire length of the Llobregat river. Vineyards cover 1,360 acres and the type of soil depends on which part of the region, though sandy soil abounds as precipiation is scarce. The Mediterranean climate of Pla (whose main city is Manresa) is optimal for producing red wines and good for whites. Although much of the production here is used for cava, red and white wines here are very good, with the latter being very crisp and light.
Reds: min 11.5%
Whites: 13.75 to 18%
Authorized Grape Varieties: For reds, Tempranillo, Ull de Llebre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sumoll. For whites: Macabeo, Picapoll and Chardonnay.
Denominación de origen Priorat:
Priorat is the hottest Catalan wine right now, as it’s beginning to gain the popularity that it deserves in Europe and in the U.S. Located in central Tarragona, this D.O. was created in 1975 and in 2001 gained the honor of becoming a D.O.C. (Denominación de Orígen Calificada), a distinction placed upon wine regions that shown extremely high quality over several years. The only other region that has this honor is the world famous Rioja.
This mountainous region is touched by the Siurana river, a tributary of the Ebro, and its climate is optimal for grape cultivation because it barely ever rains. The Priorat covers about 4000 acres, and the most outstanding quality in terms of wine cultivation is the soil, which is semi-volcanic and rich in black slate called ¨llicoreras¨ (rough translation: liquor-producing).
Vi ranci: 15%
Vi dolc: 15%.
Authorized Grape Varieties: Garnacha Negra, Garnacha Blanca, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Syrah.
Denominación de origen Terra Alta
The D.O. region of Terra Alta (main city: Gandesa) is located within the territorial boundaries of the Ebro river and the provinces of Zaragoza and Teruel. The climate is quite extreme, since this is where the continental and Mediterranean weather conditions meet. Terra Alta has 22,466 acres of land, which is hard, deep and impermeable. Two important winds, the Garbi and the Cierzo, keep the vineyards very dry.
Terra Alta reds are very strong and full-bodied. Whites are crisp and with a high alcohol level. This D.O. is also known for the production of Vi ranci and Vi dolc.
Red: 12% to 15%
Whites: 11% to 13%
Rose: 12% to 16%
Vi ranci: 15%
Authorized Grape Varieties: Macabeo, Garnacha Negra, Garnacha Peluda, Mazuela, Cariñena.
Denominación de origen Cava
Cava, “Catalan champagne”, is made mostly in the regions of Penedés, and the capital of cava is Sant Sadurni d´Anoia. Different types of cava are made using Xarel-lo, Macabeo, Parellada and Chardonnay grapes. Sometimes wine from non-cava production is added to the mix, and cava is left to undergo a fermentation process on its yeast for a period of 9 months to 5 years. At this point, cava is still not cava; it still needs to go through remuage – the agitation process. For very high-quality cava, this process is still done by hand. A month and a half later, all of the yeast residue rises to the top of the bottle. The bottle is then frozen and the lump of frozen yeast residue removed.
Cava is classified into six different categories, according to the amount of sugar it contains:
Extra-brut: Less than 3 grams of sugar per pint
Brut: Up to 7 grams of sugar per pint
Extra-seco: Between 6 and 10 grams of sugar per pint
Seco: Between 8 and 35 grams of sugar per pint
Semi-seco: Between 16 and 25 grams of sugar per pint
Dulce: More than 25 grams of sugar per pint
Alcohol levels: 10.8% to 12.8%
Authorized Grape Varieties: Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel.lo and Chardonnay