Although it’s sometimes dwarfed by or conflated with its neighboring wine behemoths France and Italy, Spain has a wine culture wholly unique to itself (case in point: while it’s often marketed abroad by its French name “grenache,” garnacha is just one of the Spanish wine regions many native grape varieties).
Rioja has some of the biggest name recognition abroad but with Penedès, the birthplace of cava, and Priorat, a challenging terrain regaining contemporary interest, in its borders, Catalonia is home to some of the countries Spanish wine regions. Better yet, both Penedès and Priorat are easily accessible from Barcelona.
| Penedès |
France has its champagne and Italy its prosecco, but Spain’s native bubbly is cava. What was once referred to as “Spanish champagne” is now famous in its own right produced throughout the country. But the very best bottles of cava are still found in Penedès, where it was invented in the late 19th century.
Most vineyards require that tours be booked in advance, and while larger producers offer tours in all languages, smaller ones may only speak Catalan or Spanish, so plan accordingly. Fortunately, the act of drinking wine knows no language barriers.
Most cava production is centered around the village of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, which is just 45 minutes by train from Barcelona. Start your wine tasting at Cava Agusti Torelló Mata. Agusti Torelló Mata began the winery in 1959 and the label has been producing high-quality cava ever since, with most bottles containing a blend of native Spanish grapes like macabeu, xarel-lo and parellada.
You could easily make a day of Sant Sadurní and hit up big producers like Freixenet and Codorníu. The latter forms one of the oldest family-run companies in the world, with wine production dating back to the 16th century. Codorníu also runs bike and wine tours if you want to be a little more active in your wine tasting in Spain.
But it’s getting a bit off the beaten track of Spanish wine regions by visiting Segura Viudas. Located in the stunning village of Torrelavit, the winery sits on lands that once belonged to an 11th-century monastery.
| Priorat |
Despite having vineyards dating back to the 12th century, Priorat didn’t come into the international spotlight of Spanish wine regions until the 1990s. In 2003 it became, along with Rioja, one of just two regions in Spain to hold the prestigious Denominación de Origen Calificada ranking. More recently, the esteemed wine-tasting organization Munskänkarna named Priorat 2016’s Wine Region of the Year, so prepare to hear a lot more about the area’s complex and powerful reds. Priorat wines can also be, it should be noted, extremely expensive, with a bottle of Alvaro Palacios L’Ermita fetching up to $1,000. If you don’t want to spend quite that much, you still have plenty of options.
Multiple buses or trains can get you to Priorat from your Barcelona vacation rental. While you’re in the region, don’t miss the Escaladei Carthusian Monastery, a 12th-century monastery and the first of its kind in the Iberian Peninsula.
If you prefer to get your history lesson with a glass of wine in hand, check out Cellars de Scala Dei. The winemakers’ facilities date back to a 17th century Carthusians monastery.
Part of what makes the Priorat region so unique (and difficult to cultivate) is its black quartz soil, known llicorella, meaning liquorice. Mas Igneus celebrates Priorat’s beautiful topography as one of the leading proponents of organic viticulture. Visit the winemaker for tours of the vineyards and cellar.
| Back to Barcelona |
If you’re back in the city and craving more wine tasting, fear not. There’s certainly no shortage of Barcelona wine shops and bars where you can challenge your newly expanded palate. La Vinya del Senyor, located in front of the beautiful gothic cathedral Santa María del Mar, has a fantastic selection of wines, cheeses, and tapas. To pick up a few bottles to take home, stop by wine store Vila Viniteca.Barcelona