The DO Empordà comprises 2020 hectares of vineyards in the counties of Alt Empordà and Baix Empordà, with 423 winegrowers and 45 wineries registered with the Regulatory Council, and an estimated annual production of approximately 50,000 hectolitres or 3.5 million bottles of wine
The soils are generally dark, with a certain lime content, loose, good drainage and poor in organic matter. There is some granite content near the coast as well as up in the mountainous regions near the French border.
While historically Empordà was known for producing rosé wines, the majority of their production is red at 60%, white at 19%, and rosé at 17%. The remaining 4% is released as traditional wines including dessert versions of Grenache and Moscatell. A bit more than half of the wines sold in the region are bottled and the remainder are sold as bulk wines. There is a significant amount of Cava produced under the DO Cava in the approved villages
The following white grapes are permitted: White Grenache, Macabeu, Muscat, Muscat d’Alexandria, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Malvasia, Piquepoul, Sauvignon Blanc, and Xarel·lo. The reds are: Carignan, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Hairy Grenache. Additionally, Grey Grenache is also permitted. Other grapes are listed as “experimental” and allowed in small quantities until fully authorized such as Marselan and White Carignan.
Spanish regulations require the use of name Samsó instead of Carinyena on bottle labels do to a supposed confusion with the Aragón region of DO Cariñena although few Carignan grapes are grown there and are called Mazuelo when found. This Samsó sounds similar to the French grape, Cinsault which is a different grape and makes for a great deal of confusion.
D.O. Pla de Bages
The DO Pla de Bages is one of the smallest DOs in Spain, covering only 600 hectares.
There are two different types of soil in two well-defined topographies: a central basin (Pla de Bages) with clay and marl soils at an altitude of 200 m above sea level; and a peripheral area (Alt Bages, “Upper Bages”) where marl and lime bearing soils with a high carbonate content abound, at an altitude of 500 m above sea level.
The traditional local grape varieties are Grenache (here called Garnatxa) and Tempranillo (known locally as Ull de Llebre) for reds and Picapoll for whites, while the new authorised foreign varieties are: Macabeo, Parellada and Chardonnay for whites, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah for reds.
The newer vineyards are planted on trellises (en espaldera) to allow mechanisation of the vineyard activities, at authorised planting densities of between 2,000 and 4,500 vines/ha depending on the terrain. Most of the grape production is for the white or pink sparkling wines called Cava.
It is one of the smallest DOs in Spain as the vineyards have been encroached upon by urban development. At the present time it only covers one third of the area that it covered in 1956 when it was established, despite a territorial extension in 1989.
The lowest vineyards, at 60 m above sea level, are on dark soils over igneous rocks in an open valley overlooking the sea. The highest ones, in a new district known as Vallés, are on lime bearing rock sheltered by the mountains.
The most interesting feature of Allella DO is the distinctive topsoil which is known as sauló in Catalan. It is basically a white granite-based sand which is very porous and retains heat very well. This helps the grapes to ripen, while the low water retention properties are compensated by the local humid microclimate.
The local grape varieties for whites are arnacha blanca, Xarel·lo (Pansa blanca), also authorized: Chardonnay, Chenin, Macabeo, Malvasia, Moscatell de gra petit, Parellada, Picapoll blanc and Sauvignon blanc.
And for red Garnacha Negra and also authorized: Cabernet sauvignon, Garnacha peluda, Merlot, Monastrell (Morastrell), Pinot noir, Samsó, Mazuela, Sumoll negre, Syrah and Ull de llebre (Tempranillo)
The older vines grow freely while the newer vineyards have been planted on trellises. Planting density is between 2,000 and 3,500 vines per hectare.
Long considered one of the country’s best wine-producing regions after the Rioja, it is also one of the most ancient viticultural areas inEurope. Perhaps better-known for its cava production (a sparkling wine which has had its own Denominación de Origen since 1991) white grape varieties predominate, although the region also produces some highly regarded, oak-aged reds.
Extending from the low-lying plains of the Baix Penedès to the more temperate peaks of the Alt Penedès, the region is suited to growing an unusually wide range of grape varieties. While the more typical Spanish black grapes (Garnacha, Tempranillo,Cabernet Sauvignon and Cariñena, among others) are found in the hot and humid coastal plains, as the land rises whites become increasingly common.
On this higher inland terrain Spanish Xarel·lo and Macabeo grapes form the overwhelming majority, but Penedès growers have long experimented with small plantations of French and German strains, with notable quantities of Muscat d’Alexandrie, Riesling,Gewürztraminer, Chenin blanc and Chardonnay being more recently introduced, largely to diversify the range of grapes available for blending, which plays such an important part in cava production. The Alt Penedès has vineyards which rank amongst the highest in Europe at up to 800 m above sea level, where the native Parellada is the dominant variety.
Cava is inextricably linked to still wine production in the region, as its booming success of recent years has provided the revenue and innovation behind the rise, both in quality and in fortunes, of the region’s still wines.
The Penedès is widely acknowledged to be home to the most modern and innovative of Spanish growers. There are hundreds of independent producers, the most famous of which is probably Bodegas Torres, producer of the popular ‘Sangre de Toro’ (Bull’s Blood, not to be confused with the Hungarian bull’s blood Egri Bikavér) as well as many other fine still wines. Other notable houses include Pinord, Jean León, and Masia Bach, alongside more well-known Cava producers like Freixenet, Juvé y Camps andCodorníu. There are also many smaller, family-owned houses in the Penedes region that produce wines of high quality, but in smaller quantities. An example of these producers is Cavas Bolet.
D.O. Conca de Barberà
Most of the vines are on dark lime bearing soils, quite loose and poor in organic matter. Towards the foothills of the Sierra de Prades slate can be found in the rock.
The traditional grapes used are Macabeo and Parellada for the production of white wines and cava, and Garnacha, Trepat and Tempranillo (known locally as Ull de Llebre) for red wines. However, the Regulatory Council of the DO has also authorised some foreign varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot noir, Syrah and Chardonnay. White varieties represent about two thirds of the vines planted.
The older vines are planted as low bushes (en vaso), while the more recently planted ones are on trellises(en espaldera) to increase production.
Planting density is around 2,000 – 2,500 vines per hectare, though the maximum authorised density is 4,500 vines/ha.
Four types of wine are produced in Conca de Barberà: a white varietal wine using Parellada grapes, different blends of whites and reds, and the rosés. The rosés are made using the native Trepat variety of grape. The white wines represent about two thirds of all wine production.
Over 70% of the production of this DO is white grapes most of which are used to make Cava.
In Camp de Taragona, the soils are dark with a considerable content of lime, while the sub soil is alluvial. In Ribera d’Ebre the soils are fertile and alluvial in nature, especially if close to the river.
The three authorised white varieties are: Macabeo, Garnacha blanca and Pedro Ximénez, while the authorized red varieties are Garnacha tinta, Cariñena, Tempranillo (known locally in Catalan language as Ull de Llebre), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The older vines are planted as low bushes (en vaso) while the newer ones are on trellises (en espaldera). In both cases they are planted at intervals of 1.4 m between vines and 2.8 m between rows (marco real).
Most wineries in Tarragona DO now produce and bottle modern reds whites and rosés. Only a few still produce the traditional wines:
- Rancios (rancid) wines are left out in the sun in glass demijohns and are then aged for at least four years in oak barrels
- Tarragona Clásico (Classic Tarragona) is made with 100% very ripe Tempranillo grapes, and is fermented until it attains a maximum of 17% alcohol. It is then aged for twelve years in oak containers of up to a maximum capacity of 2,000 litres. Sometimes the solera system is used.
- Sweet dessert wine is aged for five to ten years in vats, oak casks or in the bottle.
D.O. Terra Alta
Traditionally, due to its geographical isolation, this area traditionally only made wine for local consumption and has only recently started to produce modern Mediterranean style wines.
Several cooperative wineries were designed and built in the 1920s by Cèsar Martinell, a student of Antoni Gaudí, and are notable for theirmodernist architectural style.
The soils are clayey, with a good lime content, poor in organic material, with a significant proportion of sizable elements which allows for good drainage.
There are many authorised varieties of grapes, some traditional varieties and some of foreign origin:
- White grapes: Garnacha blanca, Parellada, Macabeo, Moscatel and Chardonnay (experimentally, Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Marselan are also authorised);
- Red grapes: Carignan, Grenache, Garnacha Peluda, Morenillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo.
There are currently about 1,857 hectares (4,590 acres) of Montsant vineyards.Under the auspices of the DO Montsant, the region has seen rapid growth, starting with 28 official cellars in 2002 which grew to number 57 currently. Approximately 94% of the production is of red wine with 62% exportation outside of Spain, 28% consumed in Catalonia, and 10% sold to the rest of Spain.
Montsant DO almost completely surrounds the more famous Priorat (DOQ). In 2014, the enotourism guidebook series, Vinologue published the first comprehensive guide to the all the regions of DO Montsant as well as profiles for all the full production cellars.
Vineyards range from 200-700 meters in altitude and sit on three main soil types: chalky clay, granitic sand, and slate. The altitude tends to increase towards the Serra de Montaltin the southwest and towards the Serra de Montsant in the northwest. There is a large degree of variation from the small, relatively flat plain around Falset and Marçà to the high altitude village of La Figuera that sits on a mountain range at 575 meters.
The authorized white varieties are: Chardonnay, White Grenache, Macabeo, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Parellada, and Xarel·lo. The authorized red varieties are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache, ‘Hairy’ Grenache, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Red Picapoll, Syrah and Tempranillo.
The main style of Montsant is powerful red wines, which can be similar to the wines of Priorat when they are made from old vine Grenache and Carignan. Production also includes white wines, rosé wines, sweet red wines and ‘vi ranci’ style wines made using a Solera system.
DO Montsant has the distinction of being the only region in Catalonia (and one of only a handful) in Spain where Kosher wine is produced. There are two producers in the denomination, but the best known is Celler de Capçanes who have been producing their Peraj d’Habib line with great success in a Kosher certified cellar within their main facilities.
It is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify as DOQ / DOC (Denominació d’Origen Qualificada) , the highest qualification level for a wine region according to Spanish wine regulations, alongside Rioja DOQ.
The area is of volcanic origin which confers interesting characteristics to the soil. The basis (called llicorella in Catalán) comprises reddish and black slate with small particles of mica, which reflects the sunlight and conserves heat. The 50 cm thick topsoil is formed of decomposed slate and mica. These characteristics force the roots of the vines to reach the base for water, nutrition and minerals. These soil characteristics confer special quality to the wine and keep the vines firmly anchored to the earth during the strong winds and storms which are common to the area.
The traditional grape variety grown in El Priorat is the red Garnacha tinta, which is found in all the older vineyards. Also authorized are the following red varieties: Garnacha Peluda, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Four white varieties are also authorized:Garnacha blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximénez and Chenin.
The trend among the red varieties is that Garnacha stays constant, Cariñena decreases and the international grape varieties increase. While Cabernet Sauvignon has always been in the lead among these, in recent years, Syrah has increased faster.
Yields are very low, usually much lower than the authorized maximum yield of 6,000 kg/ha, due to the rocky nature of the soil that does not allow the accumulation of water. The vines are usually planted as low bushes (en vaso) though the newer vineyards tend to be planted ontrellises (en espaldera).
As of 2008, Priorat had 1,767 hectares (4,370 acres) of vineyards, of which 1,689 hectares (4,170 acres) or 96% was planted with red varieties, and 78 hectares (190 acres) or 4% with white varieties. The average planting density was 2,850 vines per hectare, compared to the mandated 2,500 to 9,000 vines per hectare.
In 2008, 4,796 tonnes (5,287 tons) of grapes were harvested, of which 4,580 tonnes (5,050 tons) (96%) was red grapes and 198.5 tonnes (218.8 tons) (4%) white grapes. This resulted in 27,698 hectolitres (609,300 imp gal; 731,700 US gal) of wine. During the recent expansion of Priorat vineyards, production of red grapes has expanded, while the production of white grapes has even declined somewhat. Thus, the proportion of white grapes has dropped from 10% in 2001 to 4% in 2008, while the total production increased by 92% over the same period.
The yield in 2008 corresponds to 2,700 kg of grapes per hectare compared to the official maximum of 6,000 kg per hectare, and corresponds to 16 hectoliter per hectare. The official maximum corresponds to a yield of 39 hectoliter per hectare, as a 65% conversion (0.65 litre of wine per kilogram of grapes) is foreseen. Some producers have yields of only around 5 hectoliter per hectare.
The traditional reds from El Priorat are a single grape bottling of Grenache and Carignan or then a blend of these two grapes blended in a “Bordeaux” style with other French varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon (which is falling out of favor), Merlot, or Syrah among others.
- Criança wines must remain in oak barrels for 6 months and then 18 months in the bottle.
- Reserva wines must remain in oak barrels for 12 months and then 24 months in the bottle.
- Gran Reserva wines remain in oak barrels for 24 months and then 36 months in the bottle.
Few wineries (cellers) follow these guidelines strictly and the usual practice is to produce what is known as vi de guarda (aged wine) that has been in oak barrels for 18 months followed by 6 months in the bottle, the optimal moment for consumption being 2 years later.
D.O. Costers del Segre
This DO is located in the province of Lleida.
Several grape varieties, both local and foreign, are authorized in the Costers del Segre DO: for white wines: Macabeo, Parellada, Riesling and Sauvignon blanc; and for red wines:Garnacha tinta, Tempranillo (known locally as Ull de Llebre), Trepat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell, Merlot, Pinot noir and Syrah. The grapes used for making Cava are grown mainly in the east.
The older vines grow as low bushes (en vaso), while the more recently planted ones are on trellises (en espaldera) so as to allow mechanization of vineyards activities. Maximum authorized planting density is 2,500 vines/ha. The vineyards in the west of the province use irrigation systems to mitigate the effects of the cold and the heat.
Even though the vineyards are dispersed geographically, most are on dark lime bearing soils, with a high lime content, low clay content and poor in organic matter. Height varies between 250 m and 700 m above sea level.
Cava is a sparkling wine of Denominación de Origen (DO) status, most of which is produced in Catalonia. It may be white (blanco) or rosé (rosado).
The macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo are the most popular and traditional grape varieties for producing cava. Only wines produced in the champenoise traditional method may be labelled cavas, those produced by other processes may only be called “sparkling wines” (vinos espumosos). About 95% of all cava is produced in the Penedès area in Catalonia, with the village of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia being home to many of Spain’s largest production houses. The two major producers are Codorníu and Freixenet.
In the past, cava was referred to as “Spanish champagne”, which is no longer permitted under European Union law, since Champagne has Protected Geographical Status (PGS) and Spain entered the EU in 1986. Colloquially it is still called champán or champaña in Spanish or xampany in Catalan.Today it is defined by law as a “quality sparkling wine produced in a designated region” (vino Espumoso de Calidad Producido en una Región Determinada, VECPRD).
The Catalan word cava (masculine, plural caves) means “cave”, or “cellar”. Caves were used in the early days of cava production for the preservation or aging of wine. Catalan winemakers officially adopted the term in 1970 to distinguish their product from French champagne.
Catalan cava producers pioneered a significant technological development in sparkling wine production with the invention of the gyropallet, a large mechanized device that replaced hand riddling, in which the lees are consolidated in the neck of the bottle prior to disgorgement and corking.
Catalunya is a Spanish DO for wines which was formally recognised in 1999. It was created with the specific purpose of providing commercial support to over 200 wineries (bodegas) that produced quality wine but which were not included in other specific DO’s in Catalonia.
It does not have a specific geographical location but is formed by over 40 km² of individual vineyards which are dispersed all over Catalonia.