All About El Penedes Wine Region (Spain) and its wines and cava
PENEDES WINE COUNTRY: DOs, WINES AND CAVA
The region of Catalonia, where Barcelona (Spain) is located, features 12 different wine country areas. The largest by far, around 3 times the second largest, is El Penedes, a county only 1 hour drive outside of the city.
While three of the largest wine companies in Spain (Codorniu, Freixenet and Torres) are located there, the Penedes is also home to a large number of small wineries, many of them family-owned by several generations.
History of wine making in El Penedes
Wine making arrived to Spain already in the Roman times, and the excavations certify that vines were already grown in Penedes from the 4th century BC. The Roman road network, with the Via Augusta crossing the region, allowed the locals to export their wines all around Europe. In the medieval times, wine continued to be an important product: the society was strictly Christian and wine was needed for the mass rituals.
The Industrial Revolution
They came back with the necessary knowledge to start producing champagne through the méthode champagnois. And when the phylloxera bug destroyed the French vineyards, the Penedes wine makers figured it out how to stop it by grafting American vines with local varieties – as the American vines were immune to the bug. The infestation was stopped, and Penedes wineries were able to export to France, where the harvest had been lost.
These last decades Spain has seen a big change in its wine culture. When before cheap table wine was a staple in every meal, the young generations prefer now to save wine for relatively special occasion such as when there’s guests at home, or when they eat out. And then they’ll have a higher quality wine.
Similarly, the younger generations of wine makers are able to travel to famous international wine regions and come back with new ideas. They now aim at high quality wines, that speak of the terroir and are more sustainable.
Geography and climate of the Penedes Wine Region
Low Penedes (seaside)
The Low Penedes includes the county of Baix Penedes, as well as the neighboring coastal lands. The climate is warm, with some humidity provided by the proximity of the Mediterranean sea. This area is mostly known for its white wines.
The middle area of Penedes is located in a higher area, between 250 and 500 meters (820 to 1640 ft) over the level of the sea. The temperature tends to be fresher, perfect for growing cava varieties.
The top of the Alt Penedes county as well as the Anoia county rise up to 800m / 2625 ft of altitude, and the climate is cooler, but still perfect for many local grape varieties.
Making sense of all the DOs and other quality labels
While the DO Penedes was mostly aimed to protect still wines, as high end wineries started dropping the DO Cava they were happy to accept sparkling wines as well. Their best wines are awarded the Vi de Finca denomination (terroir wines), and since 2014 the best sparkling wines can also be included in the Classic Penedes Sparkling Wine label.
For that they need to be 100% organic, 100% made of Penedes grapes and have spent at least 15 months aging, therefore achieving Reserva level,
It was promoted by 6 of the top boutique cava makers of Penedes, as a form of protesting against DO Cava not promoting the origins of each product in the bottle labels. However, they don’t advocate for leaving the DO, but to adding this new terroir quality brand to the bottle labels. Other wineries have joined them since then.
The Penedes wines qualifying for the Corpinnat brand must belong within a specific area where traditionally cava has been produced. It includes Alt and Baix Penedes counties, as well as limiting areas, depending on their rural traditions, borders of the municipalities or real states, as well as geographic landmarks such as hills or rivers.
They must be 100& organic, harvested by hand, and totally produced within the winery property (no outsourcing), and they must go at least through 18 months of aging. They must also guarantee a guaranteed a fair minimum price for the grapes that they might have to purchase to other farmers.
Production and producers
Penedès Cava (Spain sparkling wine)
El Penedes wine region produces over 95% of the total production of cava, the Spain sparkling wine. And more than 75% is produced within one single town: Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. That is easily explained because the two largest producers, Codorniu and Freixenet, are based there, together with over 80 small and medium-sized other cellars.
Penedes Cava is made following the French méthode champagnois, based in forcing a second fermentation of the wine by adding yeast and sugars. The 3 most typical grape varieties make cava are the local grapes Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada. But others such as Chardonnay, Red Grenache, Malvasia, Trepat, Pinot Noir and Mourvèdre are also used.
Here are some of our recommended cavas to try. You can learn more about them in our post about cava brands, or buy them directly online by clicking on each image.
Penedès White Wine
Together with cava, white wines have traditionally been an important part of the local wine production. Besides the traditional xarello, macabeu and parellada grapes, other foreign varieties such as chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc are also commonly used, together with muscatel and malvasia.
In general, the Penedes white wines are young wines, aged 1 to 2 years. But there’s also wineries aiming at crianza wines aging upto 5 years in oak barrels. Here are some of our favorite Penedes white wines. you can learn more about some of them in our post about Spanish white wine brands, or buy them directly online by clicking on each image.
Penedès Red Wine
Some years ago red wine was a rarity in El Penedes. However, the new generations of wine makers love to experiment and do new things, and while a priori the climate of the region wouldn’t suggest red wines, the results are being very interesting.
The grape varieties used are grenache, tempranillo, sinsaut, mourvèdre, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah. The Penedes red wines can age up to 5 years. Here is a selection. You can learn more about some of them in our post about Spanish red wine brands, or click on each image to buy them online. I’ve also added a lovely rosé.
Visiting el Penedes
How to get there
The easiest way to get to El Penedes wine region is by car. The AP-7 highway gets you there in around 1 hour, and from there you can take the local roads to the to your cellar of choice. The N-340 is also a good option if you’ll be visiting wineries in the Ordal hills. But if you are planning to visit the coastal wine regions, you’ll be better off taking the C-32 (tunnels and paid toll) or the C-31 (winding road).
If you don’t have a car, your best alternative is the train. The R-4 line towards Sant Vicenç de Calders has stops in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia and Vilafranca del Penedes. Hillsa has also an express bus between Sant Sadurní and Barcelona, and Monbus has a line between Vilafranca and Barcelona.
If you choose to go to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, you need to know that the train station is in the outskirts. You might want to walk 10-15 minutes to the Recaredo, Gramona or Juvé & Camps, or wait for the local bus. Another alternative is to visit Caves Freixenet, which are right next to the station (instead, Caves Codorniu, the other large winery in town is 30 minutes walk from the station, along a local road with no sidewalks).
And if you are more of an explorer and are wishing to go off the beaten path, some trains stop over in Lavern-Subirats, and from there it’s a mere 10 minutes walk to Cava Guilera, a family-owned cellar producing premium reserve and grand reserve cava.
Do check with the wineries before showing up, as they might only open in the mornings or during the weekends, or might need to know in advance in order to provide an English-speaking guide. Or if the paperwork and the train rides make you feel unease, take an organized tour from Barcelona to Penedes like ours.
Private Tours to the Penedes Wine Country
Enjoy the wine Penedes has to offer you!
Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.
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