Did you know that Spain has 96 individually recognized wine regions, and 12 of those are in Cataluña alone? They are called DOs – denominaciones de origen – and the reason they were created is because each area has a specific flavor and flare to its wines that set it apart from the rest. If you are interested in Catalan wine, keep reading to get an insight into each of Cataluña’s 12 DOs, but an even better idea would be to go out and have a taste of their unique charms for yourself!
Though practically unknown on the world stage until the 1990’s, Priorat’s wines have become some of the most prestigious labels on the global market. This region currently holds the highest classification of DO – Denominación de Origen Calificada. It’s no surprise considering the region has been perfecting its bold craft since the 12th century. Priorat is known for being one of the warmest and driest wine regions in Spain with some of the richest flavors in its red wines. Often you will experience notes of licorice, brandied fruit, or chocolate. The arid region’s well-draining soil is also responsible for its success in producing the best Garnacha and Cariñena grapes to be aged typically in oak barrels.
Penedès is known for its variety: in this region you can find dry, sweet, and sparkling wines in all three colors. This diversity is possible thanks to the unique topography of the Mediterranean coastal hills that define this region. The different flavors and colors come from the differing altitudes. For example, lowland vineyards produce more full-bodied reds, while the freshest whites come from the highlands. In addition, we can’t talk about Penedès without mentioning its famous Cava and Penedès Espumoso sparkling varieties. In this region, sparkling wines are made organically and with ancestral methods that have proven successful for over a hundred years. This traditionally-made sparkling wine is often labelled as “Corpinnat”, which is a combination of Latin and Catalan meaning “from the heart of the Penedès”.
Empordà, home of Salvador Dalí, is the region where the vast Pyrenees meet the beautiful Mediterranean. The typical warm climate of Cataluña receives a breath of fresh mountain air, known as the Tramontana winds, and the often-rugged terrain allows only the best grapes to take root. Like Penedès, the combination of higher altitudes leading down to sea level allows for a variety of wines to be crafted here. Another unique feature of this region is the availability of wineries from traditional family farmhouse style, to sleek modern venues, to incredible ancient buildings that have been repurposed. Empordà truly has something for everyone.
Costers del Segre
This wine region on the “banks of the river Segre”, located near Lleida, is the furthest inland in Cataluña. Its arid climate experiences harsher winters and summers, which gives its grapes a higher concentration of bold aromas. A wide variety of these hardier grapes can be cultivated here, both reds and whites, and the region is known for producing some of the famous Cava sparkling wines as well.
Pla de Bages
Pla de Bages has been home to wine cultivators since the Middle Ages, and you can still see the antique stone vats and buildings that were used to make it scattered throughout the region. Many of the vineyards in this region have been run by the same families for generations, resulting in the utmost care and attention to their grapes and the unique and delicate flavors to match.
Alella is one of the smallest DOs in Spain, but don’t let its size fool you. This region has been perfecting its wines since ancient Roman times. The wine of Alella was even recognized by and served to the Royal Court of Aragon during the Middle Ages. Today, the talented winemakers of Alella are focused on quality, excellence, and passion for their craft.
Conca de Barberá
This special wine region is characterized by a native grape variety, Trepat, known for being plump, hearty, and creating a fresh and fruity wine. This scrumptious grape is most commonly used in rosé, both sparkling and still, as well as to produce refreshing red wines that have a unique aroma and color.
Montsant nearly surrounds the prestigious region of Priorat, so one can imagine the quality and flavors will be similarly prestigious here as well. Like Priorat, this warm region characterized by terraced vineyards is also on the rise in the international market. While whites, rosé, and dessert wines are still produced here, the primary attraction is its high quality reds.
This large DO starts at the beautiful coastal city of Tarragona and spreads inland at a leisurely pace. This area is well known for its Roman ruins and Gothic influence present throughout the city, and, of course, for its wines with the same rich history. Historically and in the present day, the wine from this region has often been used for Christian sacraments and exported around the world for this purpose. Tarragona has a variety of delicious wines to choose from, but in recent years it has been perfecting its varietal whites to be enjoyed in their uniqueness, or white blends to be used for Cava sparkling wines.
The rolling hills of the Terra Alta wines region make it a picturesque location to enjoy its high quality white wines, made from some of the finest white Garnacha grapes in Cataluña. This region in the southern tip of Cataluña receives a perfect combination of cooler air from the north and warmer from the south, which promotes healthy vines. Notes of peach, citrus, and honey are often found in the whites, while the reds are characterized by hints of red berry flavors.
Cava sparkling wine is Spain’s answer to French Champagne, but with a smoother, more Mediterranean luxe to it. It is almost exclusively produced in DO Penedès, but it is such a highly-regarded beverage that it was given its own DO. Cava specifically refers to sparkling white wines and rosé, but the name actually comes from the cave-like cellars where the wine was historically made. For Cava Reservas, the regulations are very specific and highly focused on quality of taste as well as careful cultivation. Cava can be found in restaurants all over Cataluña, but for the best tasting experience, keep Penedès in your itinerary.
Cataluña takes so much pride in its wines, all of which have over 2000 years of rich tradition and history behind them, that a specific DO was created to include renowned winemakers from nearly 200 Catalan municipalities who fall outside of the other designated regions. As one can imagine, these wines come in a vast variety, and they are characterized by traditional methods of cultivation. In fact, many of the wines from this designation come from beautiful monasteries such as Montserrat, where they have been crafted and perfected since the Middle Ages. The best way to enjoy DO Cataluña wines is to visit the cellars where they were first made for a unique and personal wine tasting experience.
If you are passionate about Catalan wine and would like to learn more about (and taste!) some of these DOs, have a look at our Wine Tours and Day Trips, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to design a tailor-made wine experience for you, your family and friends!