My favourite Catalan res wines
Catalonia is one of Spain´s most highly visited region with over 19 million visitors annually, 23 % of the total number of tourists that visit Spain yearly ( 83,7 million visitors in 2019, the third most visited country in the world after France and the United States).
It is known for its amazing art, architecture, landscapes, beaches, cuisine and wines.
Talking about wines, what amazes me is the fact that in this small region – it represents only a 6% of the total Spanish land surface- we have such a diversity of wine styles, due to having a big variety of soils, microclimates and grapes.
69 Spanish wine origin appellations
Catalan wine origin appellations map
In Catalonia we have 11 different wine origin appellations! A 17% of all the existing in Spain ( the origin appellations are known in our country as “Denominaciones de Origen” , identified in bottle back labels as “D.O. “ for example D.O. Penedès or D.O.Montsant) . Besides those eleven, we have the Cava origin appellation, which although it is not exclusive for Catalonia, a 95% of its production is made here and widely consumed.
Among this big diversity, if I have to recommend the best red wines in Catalonia, definitely the most highly acclaimed are the ones from the following regions:
–The Empordà DO: Empordà is a landscape of contrasts, situated in the far north east of Catalonia. The Pyrenees, to the north, and the Mediterranean Sea, to the south, form natural boundaries. The breathtaking Costa Brava setting makes Empordà a truly unique place, linking the coast to the mountains, influenced by the famous northerly Tramontane wind.
The Empordà DO has very heterogeneous land, the majority of which has a sandy texture and low organic material content. This is ideal for high quality winemaking. In the Empordà plain the alluvial soils are predominant, whereas in the mountainous and mountainside areas the soils are slatey and granitic, with landscapes of outstanding natural beauty.
About its climate, the Tramontane, the strong northerly wind, with gusts that frequently exceed 120 km/h, is the most characteristic aspect of the climate affecting cultivation in the area and is highly beneficial for vine health. On the other hand, the winters are mild with few frosts and the summers are hot and tempered by sea breezes.
Which are the typical red grapes? Carignan or Samsó (Catalan name) is prevalent, forming the basis of Empordà viniculture, together with Garnacha Tinta (known in Empordà as Lledoner and Grenache in English). These traditional varieties are complemented by new ones that are being introduced: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah .
The aged red wines from the D.O. Empordà are full-bodied, structured and harmonious wines. With very characteristic, complex and spicy aromatic notes, but maintaining the characteristic fruit aromas. In the mouth they are wide, tasty and pleasant.
With the queen variety of the Empordà, Grenache, natural sweet wines are made, sweet, warm, elegant and vital, unforgettable for the table and the social gathering: civilized, old, healthy wines of generous goodness to close a good lunch.
Some of my favourite Empordà red wines are Aroa made by Masia Serra winery a round, opulent and elegant red Grenache; Finca Malaveïna made by Castell de Peralda wine state a long aged blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and red Grenache; Heusss by Celler la Vinyeta , a young fruity red blend of red Grenache and Carignan and Plus by Mas Oller state, a beautiful aged blend of Syrah and red Grenache
–The Priorat DOQ
The qualified designation of origin DOQ is the highest qualitative expression of a wine area. And in Spain there are only two: Rioja and Priorat.
When a DO reaches the “Q” level, “Qualified”, means that we are at the top of the pyramid of quality of origin; where the factors that make a good wine unique and excellent are present in the area: the geographical area, the soil, the climate, the orography, the planting framework, the production per vine and hectare and the processes of aging and bottling and product control rigor included.
The climate of this area is Mediterranean, temperate, with dry winds blowing from the northeast and with the beneficial effects of the eastern marinade, present when the sunshine is more acute. Dry summers and rainy springs and autumns.
The Priorat soil is an essential part of its qualitative identity: it is the slate stone, locally named “llicorella”. This stony copper-coloured soil is the result of the dismemberment of the rocks, and allows cultivation on the steep slopes of the terraces of the Priorat. These slates retain heat at night and avoid the effects on the late frost strain.
The dominant vineyard plantings in Priorat are Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan). These two grape varieties provide the backbone of nearly all Priorat reds, although no minimum or maximum of any variety is required by law. And, while young vineyards of Cariñena aren’t known for quality winemaking, many of the Cariñena bush vines in Priorat are 90-plus years old, which concentrates the crop load and makes for very intensely flavored mostly red-fruit driven wines.
The other grapes that combine to create the Priorat blend are French imports including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah that give to the wines deeper black fruit characteristics.
Sun-dried red and black plum, black cherry, and cassis (red and black currant) dominate the aroma profile of high quality Priorat red wine. Beyond the fruit, you’ll notice a distinct, “black stone” or “hard rock” minerality that some experts relate to the iconic llicorella slate soils of the region.
There are so many extraordinary wines in Priorat that is hard to pick one, but ok , I´ll make a choice :
Destí by Merum Priorati State, mainly red Grenache with a blend of Caringan, Cab. Sauv. and Syrah. A lot of red fruit and spicy notes. Elegant and silky, it is well balanced with sweet, rounded tannins that lead to a smooth, lingering finish.
Salanques by Mas Doix State, beautiful balanced, intense and pure. Blend mainly red Grenache with a 25% of old Caringan and 15% of Syrah, 14 months aged in French oak barrel .
Clos Mogador by the same named wine state – One of the emblematic and iconic wines in Priorat. Traditional blend of red Grenache, Caringan, Syran and Cab. Sauv. .Structured, opulent, kind, with good fruity load, ripe and sweet tannins, fresh, with hints of licorice and dense, but with good acidity. Long and very persistent.
Clos Figueres by the same named wine State– A very elegant red , blend of 80% of very old red Grenache and Carignan vines, plus some Syrah, Cab. Sauv. and Mourvedre. Beautiful ripe red and black fruits, mineral, unctuous, long and infinitely expressive
–The Montsant DO
This denomination was created in 2001 to distinguish it from the subregion Falset from DO Tarragona that until then it had belonged to.
A very interesting territory located in the Catalan administrative county ( “comarca”) of Priorat , in the south of Catalonia, where two wine regions coexist D.O.Q.Priorat and D.O. Montsant. The main difference between the two of them is the composition of their soils. While in Priorat we find mainly slate stone, in Montsant we find more granites and limestone.
Looking at it in a map both wine regions are shaped in a form that remind to a kind of a “donut”! where one is in the hole and the other one around it:
They share climate and grape varieties.
A Mediterranean climate, winters are cold and summers hot, although with a humid, cool wind in the evening which is somehow a water benefit for the vine
There is a significant change overnight and this thermal jump, especially during the fruit ripening period, is quite beneficial for the increase of balanced polyphenols and the sweet ripening. Rainfall is concentrated in spring and autumn.
The red grapes are again mainly our red Grenache and Carignan in a 65% of the total, and as well are allowed Syrah, Merlot, Cab. Sauv. and Tempranillo ( in Catalonia known as Ull de Llebre , literally it means hare´s eye since it is small and dark like it!)
Montsant red wines are known for being a great value, excellent quality, with a very good balance between fruit, freshness, roundness, and complexity of aromas for a price that is often much lower than the prestigious neighbors Priorat.
Some of my favourite wines from here are:
Boig per tu by Vinyes Domenech State Red Grenache and Carignan with 6 months in French oak barrel. Creamy and tasty, the red fruit stands out on soft toasted and spicy notes. Ripe tannins. Long and persistent finish.
Dido la Universal by Venus la Universal State–a young organic red wine , aged 9 months between clay amforas and cement deposits. A blend of red Grenache, Cab. Sauv., Syrah and Merlot. Fresh , flavourful with superb extract.
Cabrida by Cooperativa de Capçanes– an elegant 100% red Grenache wine with 12 months aged in French oak barrel. Fresh, chewy, rich, silky tannins, savoury and long.
La Florens by Josep Grau Viticultor state very elegant organic red wine made of 100% very old red Grenache vines. Aged 14 months in big round 2500l foudres . This is a pure fruit juicy wine, lush, savory and long.