A Brief Introduction To Catalan Wine (Local Grapes & Wine Regions)

Catalonia is home of some of the best wines in the world. Wine and food define our culture and folklore. Priorat, Penedes, Cava, and much more. Keep reading to learn more about the best wines in Catalonia.

Brief History Of Wine In Catalonia

The Greek colonies in the Emporda region introduced the cultivation of vines probably over 2000 years ago. Later, the Romans centralized the production around Tarraco (Tarragona) and Alella, near Barcino (Barcelona).

During the medieval ages, monasteries developed and improved the varieties, such as in the cases of Priorat.

Catalan Wine Industry Nowadays

The Industry nowadays represents ~25% of the total Spanish production of wine with ~380 million bottles per year.

Spanish Wine Guides

Grapes Used In Catalan Wine

Native Catalan Grape Varieties

  • Macabeu (aka Macabeo, or Viura in Rioja region)
  • Xarel·lo (aka Pansa blanca in Alella)
  • Picapoll.
  • Sumoll (Red)
  • Trepat (Red)

Traditional Catalan Grapes

  • Garnatxa (aka Garnacha or Grenache)
  • Malvasia
  • Monestrell
  • Moscatell (aka Moscatel)
  • Parellada
  • Samsó
  • Ull de llebre (aka Tempranillo)

In addition to the native and traditional grape varieties, Catalan wineries also produce international modern varieties such as:

International Grapes

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pinor Noir
  • Syrah
  • Merlot
  • Riesling
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Cabernet Franc

Best Catalan Wine Producing Regions – Overview

Wineries produce wines across all Catalonia, yet administratively wine production is organised in 11 protected regions, each of them with very marked styles and production qualities.

DO is an adnimistrative label and stands for “denominacio d’origen” (origin denomination) and DOQ for the higher-quality “denominacio d’origen de qualitat” (quality origin denomination).

Catalan DO and DOQ regions

  • DO Alella
  • DO Catalunya
  • DO Cava (Sparkling)
  • DO Conca del Barbera
  • DO Costers del Segre
  • DO Emporda
  • DO Montsant (Recommended!)
  • DO Penedes (Recommended!)
  • DO Pla de Bages
  • DOQ Priorat (Top Wines!)
  • DO Tarragona
  • DO Terra Alta.

The Best Catalan Wine Regions – Focus

DOQ Priorat

Priorat wines are some of the best wines in the world. Most Priorat wines rank as excellent reds and are suitable for in-cellar ageing.

Priorat is also one of the most famous wine areas in Spain, along with Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

Wine production in Priorat

The Carthusian monks farmed the Priorat area for 800 years until the late 1800s when the government expropiated and then auctioned the lands to local farmers. Later that century the phylloxera blight destroyed the crops and farmers started planting hazelnuts and almonds.

By 1910 wine cooperatives dominated the production of wine and until 30 years ago Priorat was mostly known for sacramental wine

In the 1980s Priorat wineries from the rest of Spain such Alvaro Palacios or Rene Barbier revived the old Carthusian vineyards to produce some of the finest wines in Spain.

Visit a winery in Priorat

Most of the wineries offer private tours and tastings. Do not miss the remnants of the priory Scala Dei (“God’s Stairway”) and the museum devoted to the history of Priorat.

Visit a winery in Priorat will require arranging private transportation but it’s 100% recommended. Most Priorat wineries are located about 2h away from Barcelona. Most offer a 1h tour visit plus tasting for 10-15EUR.

Recommended wineries to visit: Mas Martinet, Vall Llach, Cellers Scala Dei

Grapes used in Priorat Wines

  • Native Spanish Grapes
    • Garnacha
    • Cariñena
  • International Grapes
    • Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Merlot
    • Syrah

Recommended DOQ Priorat Wines:

  • Martinet Bru, Red, 92 Parker (19EUR)
  • Plaer, Red, 92 Parker (19EUR)
  • Les Terrasses (Alvaro Palacios)
  • Finca Dofi (Alvaro Palacios)

DO Penedes

Just outside of Barcelona, about 30 km away and reachable by public transport, the Penedes region produces the world-famous Cava sparkling wine.

The region hosts some of the most modern production facilities and wineries in the world, and is famous for producing excellent Cava sparkling wines, following the traditional method fermentation in the bottle.

Cava sparkling wines, the Catalan version of Champagne, are protected under a different DO Cava, which includes areas in Catalunya and beyond. They are fantastic value for money.

The Penedes region concentrates some of the leading Spanish wine producers such as Torres, Freixenet, and Codorniu.

In addition to Cava sparkling wines, Penedes produces high-quality table wine,

Grapes used in Penedes Wines

  • For Cava Sparkling Wine
    • Macabeo
    • Parellada
    • Xarello
    • Chardonnay
  • For Red Wine
    • Tempranillo
    • Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Garnacha
    • Merlot
  • For White Wine
    • Chardonnay
    • Parellada
    • Macabeo
    • Riesling
    • Gewurztrammer

Recommended DO Penedes Wines:

  • Can Sumoi Xarel.lo, White, 91 Parker, (11EUR)
  • Miranius, White, 91 Parker, (10EUR)
  • Mas La Plana, (Torres)

Recommended DO Cava Sparkling Wines:

  • Segura Viudas Etiqueta Purpura
  • Juve i Camps
  • Codorniu

Visiting a Winery in Penedes

If you are curious about the process of wine-making, go on a day trip to a Penedes winery to visit one of the local wineries.

RELATED: Top 5 Painless Day Trips From Barcelona (Using Public Transport)

Visiting a winery near Barcelona as a day trip is totally feasible: for example Torres organizes great visits paired with wine-tasting, all bookable online.

Where To Buy Catalan Wine In Barcelona?

In Barcelona, virtually every supermarket has a relatively acceptable set of wines and cavas – even 24h shops.

Larger supermarkets and specialised shops are also recommended, for example La Tienda del Gourmet in El Corte Ingles.

My favorite wine shops are El Celler D’En Dani and Vila Vinateca, and Vinissimus franchise stores.

DO Montsant

Wines from Montsant region are usually full-bodied garnacha reds. They are similar to Priorat, but usually offer a much better price-quality ratio.

Recommended DO Montsant Wines:

Les Argiles D’Orto, Red, 91 Parker(8EUR)

Where To Buy Catalan Wine Online?

What are the best online wine stores selling Catalan wine?

Try Decantalo or Enterwine. Great assortment and Europe-wide deliveries at very competitive prices.

Buying online is specially recommended for purchased of 6 or more bottles or special wines that are hard to find in local shops.

What’s your favorite wine?