Catalonia is vital to Spain’s wine identity, making it ironic that if the Catalans had their way they would be independent of Spain. They have their own language, gastronomy, and culture. Barcelona is the vibrant capital of Catalonia (Catalunya in Catalan). It has an intense European vibe, is home of many famous artists (Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso), great architecture, and famous opera singers; no siestas here. Catalonia is one of Spain’s largest wine regions, home to ten denominated wine regions with a focus largely on Mediterranean grapes. Although Catalonia is best known for the production of Cava, there is an array of high quality wines produced in this region.
Penedès has a long history of wine making dating back to the Phoenicians, seven centuries before Christ. Still wines reigned supreme in Penedès until Cava was made in 1872. Today Penedès houses over 250 Cava producers, including two of the largest sparkling wine producers in the world, Freixenet and Codorniu. (To learn more about Cava read my Snooth latest, It’s Time to Rethink Cava) However, Penedès is also home to some really interesting still wine producers.
Jean Leon is a boutique winery founded in 1963 by Jean Leon, owner of the luxurious Hollywood restaurant La Scala. The winery has been owned by the Torres family since 1994, and was among the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in Spain. Jean Leon “Vinya Gigi” Chardonnay (named after his daughter) and “Vinya La Scala” Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon are two lovely representations of the winery’s single vineyard wines.
The Torres family origins date back to the 17th century in Penedès. Today Bodegas Torres combines long standing family traditions with cutting edge innovation, taking the lead in organic, sustainable research while crafting some of the world’s most revered wines. Torres owns vineyards throughout Spain, as well as Chile and California. Furthermore, Torres is a member of the Primum Familiae Vini, an association of 11 wine families who are among the most prestigious wine producers in their regions, such as Drouhin, Rothschild, and Antiori, to name a few. Torres Mas La Plana is a single vineyard 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that offers an ideal Penedès experience. To experience the best Penedès has to offer Torres Reserval Real, blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot expresses a singular terroir developed from Siluriran slate, unique to Penedès.
Parés Baltà, family owned winery since 1790, offers a unique Penedès expression in their wines. Sisters-in-law Mª Elena Jiménez and Marta Casas craft the wines using biodynamic, organic, and even ancient processes such as amphoras. Their entire portfolio of wines are unique and high quality; however, the best expression of their skills is found in the Amphora white wine. Crafted of 100% Xarel-lo, this still wine was made in red clay amphorae in an entirely biodynamic manner, resulting in wine like no other. Wine geeks take note, this is a wine to seek out.
Terra Alta is the highest altitude wine region in Catalonia, with elevations up to 3,000 feet. This up and coming wine region is making its mark. Being the furthest inland, its climate is a blend of continental and Mediterranean, with soils consisting mostly of limestone and clay.
LaFou Celler represents the personal passion of Ramon Requeta Segalés to reveal to the world the grandeur hidden in both Garnacha and Terra Alta. He has succeeded. LaFou Els Ameler is a 100% White Garnacha that is highly aromatic, fresh, and mineral driven. LaFou De Batea is a blend of 85% Garnacha 15% Cariñena with layers of complexity and elegance, providing depth of understanding of the Terra Alta climate and soil.
Herència Altés depicts the passion of Terra Alta wine makers. It is an innovative, state-of-the-art facility in the historic town of Batea, surrounded by old vines, overlooking the Els Ports massif. Herència Altés represents the vision and passion of husband and wife team Núria Altés and Rafael De Haan in expressing the many faces of Garnacha, including Garnacha Blanca, Garnacha Peluda, and Garnacha Negra. La Serra Blanc is an award winning single vineyard Garnacha Blanca with depth of flavors and textures, while Lo Grau De L’inquisidor is a blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Garnacha Peluda, a rich, dark, expressive wine with aging potential.
Priorat is the young rock star region of Catalonia. Although viticulture has been taking place here for centuries the region was “discovered” in the late 1990’s when a group of passion winemakers began crafting high quality sought after wines. Priorat is a small, rugged wine region located inland from Tarragona in Catalonia. The region is mountainous with terraced vineyards that are worked by hand. A dry region with intensely hot days and cool nights, this unforgiving region produces predominately red wines that are robust with pronounced tannins, making them highly ageworthy and tend to be pricier than other Catalonia still reds.
Morlanda is located in the southwestern end of Priorat. This organic winery seeks to craft wines the highest quality wines from Garnacha and Cariñena from vines ranging from 20 to 80 years old in a manner that is deeply expressive of Priorat. Morlanda’s flagship wine Morlanda is a 50/50 blend with deep fruit and earth notes with a rustic quality in tension with its silky elegance. Torres Perpetual is another 50/50 blend crafted from vines between 80 to 100 years old grown on steep, rocky slopes. It is a wine highly expressive of the slate soil with lots of dark notes and spice. Although white wines are unusual in Priorat they are not unheard of. Igneus crafts an organic Barranc Blanc, 40% Garnacha Blanca and 60% Garnacha, crisp and refreshing with elegant complexity.
Conca de Barberà and Costers del Segre
Conca de Barberà is inland from Tarragona. It is small but significant and definitely a region to watch. Torres has found the region and is producing two high quality wines. Milmanda is 100% Chardonnay that is varietal true with elegance and class. Grans Muralles is a blend of indigenous red grapes that have been resurrected from extinction, such as Garró and Querol. It is a full-body red wine with classic slate notes of minerality, depth of earthiness and elegance. This is a wine to seek out.
Costers del Segre is the furthest inland, yet still receives the benefits of the Mediterranean breeze. It is home to less than a dozen wineries, many of whom embrace international varieties. Clos Pons is a family winery with limited production of organic wines crafted from the rugged terrain and poor soils in a modern style. Alges is a rich full body blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, and Syrah with promising age-ability.