Spanish Wine by Region Series: Catalan Wines
In Part 2 of our series of exploring the world of Spanish wine, we are taking a closer look at Catalan wines! Wines from Catalonia are famous around the world for their full-bodied taste, high alcohol content, and distinct grape varietals when compared to other Spanish wines. Catalan wines are just as passionate as the people who inherit the land, who look to set themselves apart from the rest of Spain and maintain their heritage. Let’s take a closer look at Catalan wines and where they come from, as Catalonia boasts many DOs producing incredible wine!
Just outside Barcelona, in the Maresme region, is the DO Alella. Because of its nearness to Barcelona, wines from Alella are nicknamed “the urban wines.” For many centuries, this region provided the wine to Barcelona’s tables due to its close proximity. Alella’s finest wines are sweet whites from Garnacha Blanca, Xarel⋅lo, and Pansa Blanca grape varietals. However, this DO does produce aromatic rosés and fruity, jammy reds, too.
DO Catalunya includes grapes from all over Catalonia and was established to include wine regions from various DOs under one name. That said, these wines can come from all over Catalonia. DO Catalunya produces reds, whites, rosés, sparkling, and liquor wines, from all Catalan grape varieties. The main wines made in this DO are dry, fruity whites.
The largest and most prominent DO in Catalonia is the Penedès, most noted for its sparkling and semi-sparkling wines. This is the heart of cava country, and has one of the longest traditions of wine-making in Europe. These wines are light and fruity with a moderate alcohol content. The Penedès brings in swarms of visitors every year due to the increased interest in wine tourism and close location to Barcelona. Want to learn more about wine from DO Penedès? Join Food Lover Tour on our Wine Day Trip!
Cava is multi-regional, but has strict rules to be labeled as a cava. Just as champagne is only from France and prosecco is from Italy, cava is only from Spain and declared so if produced in a certain way. The majority of Spain’s cava hails from Catalonia’s 136 cava municipalites. Grapes that may be used for cava are Xarel⋅lo, Macabeo, Parellada, Garnacha, Monastrell, Pinot Noir, and Trepat. Some of the world’s finest sparkling wine come from these grapes using tried and true techniques and methods.
DO Conca de Barberà
Catalan wines have been flowing from DO Conca de Barberà since Roman times, further inland in northern Tarragona. Most of the wines from this region are whites or rosès, however red blends from Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon are highly regarded, too. Locally, Tempranillo is called “Ull de Llebre,” or “Eye of the Hare.” These wines are light, fruity, and moderately acidic.
The Costa Brava’s wine region, DO Empordà, has the perfect climate to make incredible Catalan wines. The powerful Tramontana winds regulate the health of the grape vines, preventing frostbite and disease. Reds from this region tend to be full-bodied, well-aged, and aromatic. Garnatxa de l’Empordà is a local specialty with a smooth, sweet finish. This DO receives praise for its wine-making, especially its reds and rosés.
DO Costers del Segre
Along the Segre River in the interior of Catalonia, lies the tucked-away DO Costers del Segre, with an arid, extreme climate. Its varied climate hosts a variety of grapes, which in turn make a wide variety of wines. This DO uses modern technology to help yield growth and production. Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Pinot Noir grapes result in fruity, deep reds that are well-balanced. Fresh whites and rosés are common, along with refreshing and fruity cava. These wines are also light with a bit of acidity and some floral notes.
While young when compared to other Catalan wine regions, DO Montsant has since demonstrated its ability to cultivate and make exquisite wine. More than half of its wine is sold outside of Spain, despite significant expansion since its acknowledgment as a DO in 2001. Red wines are quite strong with high alcohol levels from Granacha, Syrah, and Carignan grapes. Therefore, they are full-bodied, well-balanced, and have deep aromas. The whites are a bit sweet and not as powerful. It’s also interesting to note that Montsant is the only DO in Catalonia that makes Kosher wine.
DO Pla de Bages
While DO Pla de Bages might be small and might not produce a large volume of wine, the Catalan wines that it does make are exceptional. Its location and climate allow a wide number or grape varietals to grow here, resulting in a variety of wines. Red wines dominate this region. Grape varieties to make reds include Tempranillo, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
DOQ Priorat has boomed in the last 30 years and is now one of Spain’s most unique growing regions. Monks made wine here in the 12th century (“priorat” means “priory”) and today wine makers continue their traditions. Aged red wines are quite prominent, which have a deep, intense color, high alcohol content, and a full body. The wine from DOQ Priorat is the best wine from Spain apart from La Rioja wines. For this, it has received the DOQ designation, which notes its quality.
If you love white Catalan wines, then wine from DO Tarragona is for you! About 70% of the wine from this region is white, as the Mediterranean climate is ideal for Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel⋅lo grapes. These wines are fruity, sweet, and soft. Reds from Tarragona are usually age in oak barrels for at least 2 years, resulting in strong, aromatic wines. Also, a specialty wine is Tarragona Clásico, which is a heavy, sweet red, similar to port.
DO Terra Alta
In the highlands in the south of Catalonia, bordering Aragón, you will find DO Terra Alta. The Mediterranean climate and high altitude permits a variety of grapes to grow. The wines from Terra Alta tend to be high in alcohol content and have a full taste. It’s most noteworthy wine is the Terra Alta Garnatxa Blanca, which is bold, beautiful white wine.