Wine tourism around the cathedral-like wineries in Catalonia

Catalonia is a wine tourism and foodies destination highlight. We all agree that Barcelona is worth all the hype, but it won't just stop there. There is a plentiful of experiences in the rest of Catalonia, all well designed for wine lovers. It goes well beyond the simple wine and cava tasting, as participating in an encounter with the producers and vintners is always within reach. Add to this an intriguing architectural and rich cultural heritage that is here for you to discover. The region is  attractive in itself with is varied landscape, harboring unsuspected vineyards rocked by the sea, and over 300 wineries to visit. Slowwines has entered into privileged agreements and this means that we can offer surprising combinations aside of the winery visits.

A change is taking place in Catalonia with regards to tourism. There is a great deal of effort on the promotion of the region internationally. This is best reflected  by the fact that Catalonia has been declared European Region of Gastronomy 2016 and will host the 2016 International Wine Tourism Conference.

It will be for all to see that Catalan cuisine is topping the best trends of International gastronomy and will remind us that Catalonia has a strong cultural heritage in this field.

Vinícola de Nulles

Vinícola de Nulles - Modernist Cathedral Winery

Catalonia evokes a region of very contrasted relief, a Mediterranean climate, but few know there are  wide disparities in the wines produced. The Wine production Authority in Catalonia allows the use of a  very wide range of grape varieties, including some indigenous ones.

And to better understand the wine tourism Catalonia, Appellations of Origin should be explained.  All in all, there are twelve denominations to discover a landscape of diverse, attractive heritage bonded with wine. DO Catalonia produces red and white wines. DO Catalonia red wines often come from varietals Grenache, Syrah and Monastrelle but also Merlot, Pinot Black and Cabernet Sauvignon. White wines primarily include Grenache Blanc, Muscadelle, Maccabeu and sometimes Chardonnay.  The wines are typically harmonious, sometimes fruity, somehow revealing a complex terroir.

Cava is a sparkling wine that enjoys international prestige, alongside with . Cava is made mostly with Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada, following the "méthode traditionelle champenoise". For this district, we recommend a tour of Montserrat and a visit of Cavas Codorniu, not forgetting Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, the capital of cava.  The Can Vendrell modernist cellar in Sant Pau d'Ordal should be on your list. Organic wines and sparkling wines are produced there since the early 70's.

DO Alella:  probably the closest wine district from Barcelona. The vineyards grow on the Serra de Parpers foothills, from the coast up the slopes of the mountains. The small vineyards of the DO Alella produce white wines with a long history dating back to the Roman times. Today they are some of the most exported wines around the world. Vallmora Archaeological Park offers a great insight of the culture of wine in Roman times. The remains of a Roman cellar can be visited too.

DO Catalunya (50,000 hectares of vineyards). The districts  extends from the Mediterranean to the Pyrenees, totaling  50,000 hectares of vineyards making and 200 wineries grouped around. The scale and diversity of its territory provide an insight into the tradition, history and culture of wine in Catalonia. Wine tasting and theme pairings is regularly organised, and the Museum of Wine Culture of Catalonia, Vinseum in Vilafranca, proudly displays one of the largest collection of artefacts related to wine in Europe.

DO Conca de Barbera: a territory further into the Catalonian territory, showing more  personality . The setting of the Conca de Barbera, by a beautiful vine landscape, offers the opportunity to learn an ancient winemaking tradition part of a  very strong heritage. A visit suggestion: the fortified castle Milmanda, located in the Valle de Poblet, some exceptional modernist cellars known as Tarragona wine cathedrals (Catedral del vin). Don't miss a visit to the Monastery of Poblet, another impressive World Heritage site.

DO Costers del Segre: where wine production enjoys a small revolution. This region was the first in opening up towards new grape varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay with local varieties were introduced for the first time in Catalonia. Coster del Segre vintners also adopted some winemaking techniques from California. Do not miss the Wine Route of Lleida, an wine journey where traditional and new wine craftmanship go hand in hand. For those with an interest in vegetable oil, try "la Ruta de l'Oli DOP Les Garrigues", the Oil Road Les Garrigues, a land where the Arbequina olive oil is extra virgin is part of a lifestyle, renowned wines of altitude on embarking on the train Lakes (tren dels llacs).

DO Montsant: Small wineries at their best. In agricultural cooperatives Montsant wineries live with relatives in a landscape marked by the harshness of the mountains of Montsant and a climate of contrasts that, in turn, set unique wines, with identity and bring diversity to the DO. Excellent red wines with Grenache and Carignan, varieties of the territory.

DO Penedès: a highly dynamic and productive district, with refined wines. DO Penedès is framed by the coastal hills (Serra del Garraf) and the higher inland mountains, conveying a unique setting . Perhaps better-known for being the birthpace of the Cava, white grape varieties predominate, although the region also produces some highly regarded, oak-aged reds. The Penedès landscape is full of life, and wide opened to the visitor, with endless vineyards of Xarel·lo, Parellada and Macabeo, the three traditional varieties used to make the sparkling wine Cava. Here you can discover a great range of wine or Cava wineries.  The district  (encompassing Alt Penedèd, Baix Penedès, Garraf) has also an ancient wine production  areas in Europe, so use this opportunity to learn more about the Castellers traditions.

DO Empordà: a preamble to the beauty of Catalonia, with spectacular coastline of the Costa Brava, numerous fishing villages, and a great medieval heritage. Dali's surrealist art and presence can be noted all along your stay. The history, the Museum of Wine Castell de Peralada in Peralada, and the sensory experience at the Wine Family Museum in Roses. Some remarkable and outstanding Emporda wines are marked by the Cabernet and the short pruning of the vine to resist the drying effects of the tramontana wind.

DPO Priorat: the only Catalan qualified DO with such international aura. Priorat is a mountainous region of vineyards growing in the llicorella costers and a stone slatt confers a unique taste to the Priorat wines.

If you go to Gratallops, you can take a stroll through the vineyards on an electric bike, it´s the guarantee of an entertaining experience in small groups or with friends. And then take the opportunity to make a picnic with the producers of the region. You can also visit the Cartoixa d'Scala, a place where all began for the denomination wines of Priorat, back to the origins of the vine production.

DO Pla de Bages: a land of contrasts where the vineyards lie protected at the foot of the mountain of Montserrat. There is a compelling offer in constant renewal around culture, gastronomy. Among the recreations offered, the route of dry stone tubs (Ruta de les Tines), which is a new walking /  cycling route. A well marked itinerary will lead you in the Montcau valley (Valle del Montcau), a place of important wine legacy. Besides, slowwines team recommends another winery route (Ruta del cellers), starting with celler d'Abadal in Santa Maria d'horta d'Avinyó. Finally, a stopover at the Benedictine monastery of Món Sant Benet, one of the best preserved medieval monastic sites in Catalonia. This site is also home to the Alícia Foundation, a research centre leader in the field of applied research in gastronomy, open to those who eager to learn on health eating habits.

DO Tarragona: at the crossroad of wine and ancient culture and near the Mediterranean "Costa Daurada". This area was already producing wine during the ancient Roman times for its mild climate and proximity to the sea. This is the right place to enjoy wine as ancient sites of interest such as the Roman Tarraco, the Gaudí Centre Reus.

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To add to an already long list of possibilities, the Cistercian monasteries route (Ruta del Cisters) proposes many guided tours, among those the modernist winery of Nulles, a monumental winery cathedral. Slowwines has designed a catalonian wine tour to provide visitors an insight into its history and architecture of this fantastic region.

DO Terra Alta : the land of Garnacha (Garnatxe). Terra Alta DO is Catalonia's southernmost wine region and one of the most mountainous. Terra Alta literally translates as "highlands". The district has a strong tradition of ancient wine estates. Vines planted are in majority represented by the Garnacha blanca variety. The strength and character are the main virtues of these wines.

In conclusion:

A special editor's (Slowwines team) mention to the wines of Costers del Segre, where the vines grow near the river Segre. As part of a Wine tour of the less known Catalonia, Slowwines arrange visits and guided tours to a winery whose vineyards grow about 1.000 m above sea level and where the wine ferments in stone cubes dating from the 12th Century. These are biodynamic wines, with great aromatic complexity.

If you want to taste a wine of the DO Conca de Barbera, choose a rosé that has a lot of quality and is made with Trepat grape variety. If you have the opportunity, try a wine from the AO Pla de Bages, with lots of freshness. The vineyards of Pla de Bages are almost at the foothill of the Monastery of Montserrat, slightly further North.

Wines bathed by the Sea mediterranean Sea. If you are staying on the coast and you fancy a wine tour with friends, match your white wine with fish and seafood that can be found in every local markets and restaurant (whether in fashionable or not so trendy places).

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Wine enthusiast wishing to turn every crushed grapes into fine wine

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