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If you’re a wine buff, then there are many French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese wines you will have tasted. Whether you have enjoyed the rich reds of Bordeaux wines, the tannins of a hearty Rioja or the crisp whites of a Veneto Soave, the buoyant wine regions of Southern Europe offer a vibrant array of wineries, the most well known in constant evolution, the up-and-coming offering the thrill of discovery. Have a look at our 10 favourite wine destinations in Spain, Portugal, France or Italy, perfect for your 2021 wine tour in Southern Europe. Relax at beautiful rural ‘Covid Clean Certified’ accommodations, enjoy private wine tours adapted to Covid restrictions or, if you prefer to wait until the Covid madness has calmed, get inspired for when you are ready to travel again :-)

 

Wine tours to go beyond the typical …. 

It goes without saying that some of the most revered and famous of Southern Europe’s wine regions are located in France and Italy, such as the Loire, Bordeaux and Chianti Classico appellations. If you are keen to learn more about wine, you will also want to try some of the lesser-known wines of southern Europe, which are still absolutely world-class. Our specialist private wine tours in Spain, Portugal, France & Italy will take you to the best (and most beautiful) wine producing regions in Europe, covering some of the most famous names in the wine-making world, as well as the more intimate and artisan wineries; all producing delicious drops!

 

Priorat wine tours – discovering (and tasting!) the small scale mind-blowing Spanish reds

An underrated and beautiful European wine destination is that of the Priorat wine region, famous for its exceptional cherry-like reds, mostly produced from Grenache & Carinena. Here in the 12th century, Carthusian Monks planted vines and gave birth to the heritage of Priorat wines. Recognizing a unique terroir, and a one thousand year old wine-making tradition, a wine revolution was born here in the early 1980s to re-awaken the spirit of Carthusian oenologists; rebuild the steep, slatey terraces and replant vines. Priorat wine region is known for producing highly concentrated, well-rounded reds, and yields in this DOC are incredibly small. Different to the well-versed reds produced in France or Italy, the complex flavours of Priorat wines are sure to please your palate and this Spanish wine region intrigue you with its history and landscape. We offer a fabulous wine getaway that allows you an insider’s look at the Priorat wine region, in our Priorat Grape Harvest Tour for Wine Lovers. This wine tour is an opportunity to get down and dirty with the delicious local grapes of Priorat!

 

 

Douro Valley – the most scenic wine destination 

One cannot talk about Portugal without thinking of its most famous drop, Port Wine. Port Wines are made from grapes picked by hand in the magnificent Douro Valley. This same area of Portugal also produces some fine and underrated reds well worth the journey, as well as viewing the spectacular Douro Valley scenery! Wine-making has existed along the Douro Valley river for 2000 years, so the locals certainly know a thing or two about producing good grapes! Touriga Nacional is the most used varietal for Douro Valley wines. Full-bodied with high tannins, this very same grape is experimentally also being grown in the Priorat wine region as the terroirs are similar. One of our most beloved wine tours takes in the sweeping landscapes of Spain and Portugal’s best wine regions, on our Wine Lovers Tour of Spain & Portugal. Starting just outside of Barcelona and ending in Portugal, this wine tour takes in some truly incredible southern European wine regions, many of which are unique and artisanal in quality.

 

 

Châteauneuf du Pape – the King of the Rhône wine region

Tiny and intimate, but producing some of France’s most prestigious wines, Châteauneuf du Pape is deep-seated in history. Its name refers to the era during the 13th century when the seat of the Roman Catholic church was based in Avignon (a mere 12km away). Much like the Priorat wine region, Châteauneuf  du Pape is small and has a 1000 year-long history of wine-making. It was only in 1936 that it was made France’s first wine appellation. Being such a small region, it is worth adding to a longer wine tour, incorporating either the Spanish Emporda, Priorat and Penedes wine regions across the border, or heading north to the Atlantic and tasting more incredible wines in Bordeaux! Our France & Spain Food, Wine & Cultural Tour includes stops in Avignon and the surrounding picturesque villages; so a day or two spent exploring the best of Châteauneuf du Pape wineries is always an easy detour!

 

 

Bordeaux – drinking some of France’s best wine

It would not be right to talk about Southern Europe’s stand-out wine regions without including the Queen region of Bordeaux, home of the most sought-after and expensive red wines in the world. The Bordeaux wine region has 57 appellations, with about 7,000 wine-producing chateaux and 13,000 wine growers! Bordeaux’s reputation as a great wine region rests on its most superb reds, legendary and long-lived wines made by historic French wine estates which improve for several decades. The Romans cultivated the first vines here, so the history of wine-making along the Garonne river is rich indeed! If you’re looking for further insight and inspiration, why not take a look at our Grand Wine Tour of Spain & France to see our carefully chosen Bordeaux wine routes.

 

 

La Rioja – the must see wine region of Spain

Located partly within the Basque country, la Rioja is known for its rich reds generally made from the native Tempranillo grape. This Spanish wine region is not only known for its sophisticated red wines, but also an array of surprising whites, including some fine barrel-fermented and oak-aged styles and roses. Along with the Priorat wine region, la Rioja also has DOC classification; the only two Spanish wine regions that have been granted this prestigious wine category. Much like the wine destination of Bordeaux, la Rioja has had vines growing on its landscape for 2000 years, thanks to the Romans. La Rioja wine destination is worth a visit on your next wine tour not only because of the delicious array of wines available, but also because the scenery is spectacular. The la Rioja landscape is a flat plain of thousands of vineyards, on either side of which rugged mountains overlook the valley and towns below. If you are fortunate enough to plan your wine tour here for fall, not only will you be greeted by grape harvest season, but the honey and auburn coloured vines are sure to lure you in for more wine tastings! See our Essential Wine Tour of Spain & France for ideas! 

 

Wine Lovers Tour of Portugal, Spain & France

Ribera del Duero – home of the most exclusive Spanish wineries

If you are a fan of the Tempranillo grape, then Ribera del Duero is another wine destination which should be on your list. Here you will taste the more modern, full-bodied and slightly more sophisticated of Spanish Tempranillo wines, as Ribera del Duero’s wine-makers love to experiment and push the envelope of wine-making tradition, defining their individual style. Part of Ribera del Duero wines’ uniqueness is due to Tinto Fino (the local name for Tempranillo), but other grapes are grown here, such as Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The most mythical and inaccessible Spanish wineries are here, laid along the flat expanse of Spain’s legendary Ribera del Duero Golden Mile. If you’re keen to explore more of Spain’s wine regions, why not take a look at our Wine Lovers Tour of Spain for ideas and inspiration?

 

 

Barolo & Barbaresco wine regions – amazing Italian red wines

Not as well-trod as Tuscany, but with scenery that is just as spectacular is the Italian wine region of Piedmont. Here, wine-making is an activity which dates back 2500 years! As far as wine is concerned, the Piedmont has more DOCGs and DOCs than any other Italian region, and is challenged only by Veneto and Tuscany for the top spot among Italian wine regions. Piedmont is a region which has identified its star grapes, while continuing to experiment with new varieties in the background. There are several areas within the region worth a visit, but the two top wine destinations would have to be Barolo and Barbaresco. Located a mere 20kms apart, these two towns produce some of the best and most sought-after wine in the world. But don’t be filled into thinking the wines produced taste similar! The star grape of these wines is Nebbiolo, prized for its rich anise aromas and mouth-drying tannins, but Barolo wines are much higher in tannins than the softer Barbaresco wines. Barolo’s colour is a pale garnet, but its bold flavours and high alcohol content can be compared to the wines of Bordeaux. Enjoying wine and food is synonymous with Italian culture, so if you want to delve deeper into Italian wine destinations, Barolo & Barbaresco, home to great truffle and other Piedmond delicacies, to be savoured in relaxing rural setting, away from Tuscan crowds, are both a perfect place to start. To continue with rural vibe, but with amazing sea views too, you could easily combine Piedmond with the nearby Cote d Azur and Provence villages, home to great wines, delicious food and amazing views. Take a look at our Food, Wine & Culture Tour of Italy and France for further inspiration. 

 

 

Valpolicella wine region – sip the best Amarone with friendly wine-makers 

Located in northeastern Italy’s Veneto wine region, Valpolicella is another ‘wow’ of a wine destination. This winemaking area is nestled against the low mountains of the spectacular Dolomites and a stone’s throw away from Italy’s biggest lake of Garda; which means the temperature for vines is kept more constant despite the nearby mountains.  It’s not hard to understand why this wine destination is beloved, given the easy-drinking appeal of Valpolicella’s reds, coupled with the prestige of its powerful and intensely flavored counterpart Amarone della Valpolicella. The valley also produces white wines – both dry and sweet – under the various Soave titles. The grape varieties used to make Valpolicella are Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara. Corvina is understood to be the finest of the four varietals, and is also the most traditional. Our Authentic Italy Bespoke Food & Wine Tour takes in the Valpolicella rural and picturesque wine destination, as well as the villages of Barolo and Barbaresco.

 

 

Alentejo – up-and-coming bold Portuguese wines

The Portuguese wine region of Alentejo is sun-drenched with low rolling hills of wheat, even hot temperatures, cork and olive groves, which covers ⅓ of Portugal.  There are many progressive and modern wineries here making red wines that offer generous fruit and mocha flavors with refined tannins from careful wood aging strategies. White wines from the Alentejo range are medium-bodied refreshers to full-bodied, similar to Chardonnay. Portugal is an often overlooked destination for a European vacation, but its depth of culture and varied landscapes, proximity to the sea and sunny weather make it an ideal country for exploration. Wines of Alentejo were born when (you guessed it!) the Romans settled here. (they really did love their wine) In recent years the Alentejo region has become a wine destination to those seeking a very authentic and pared-back wine vacation; as Portugal offers an idyll away from the typical hustle and bustle of holiday-seekers in France and Italy. Alentejo red wines are typically blends, often made with Tempranillo as well as native Portuguese grapes of Trincadeira, Castelão, Alfrocheiro and Alicante Bouschet. Our Independent Wine & Culture Tour of Portugal will inspire you with the wine destination of Alentejo as well as the other wine destinations that Portugal offers.

 

 

Montalcino & Montepulciano wine regions -the belowed not to be missed classics

Tuscany is home to Italy’s most scenic vineyards, verdant rolling hills and likely the country’s best known wine internationally, Chianti. But as I mentioned already, there is much more to southern European wine destinations than this one! Tuscany is Italy’s most ancient wine-producing region, starting with the Etruscans in the 8th century BC, and its wines are often blends that incorporate its native Sangiovese grape. Sangiovese produces tannic, acidic wines that span a range of flavors depending on the local terroir: from earthy to fruity. The towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino are separated by 30km at the edge of the Val d’Orcia, but both wine destinations are upheld for their wines made from the Sangiovese Grosso grape. 

Here in this majestic and sweeping rural landscape of Italy, you can roam from winery to wine bar; quaffing and tasting the intricacies of the local drops. Brunello di Montalcino is made with 100% Sangiovese grapes and has Italy’s highest DOCG classification.  Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, on the other hand, is made with 70% of Sangiovese grapes, Canaiolo Nero for up to 20% and the remaining part other locally grown varietals. Despite being regarded as ‘easy-drinking’, Sangiovese is a savoury wine which has elements of cherry and oftentimes, tomato. Both Montalcino and Montepulciano wine destinations are the perfect relaxing addition to your next Italian vacation, see our Wine Tour of Italy – Campania & Tuscany for more info to whet your palate!

 

So there you have it, the top 10 not-to-be-missed wine destinations in Southern Europe for your 2021 wine tour!

Our specialist wine lovers’ tours in Spain, Portugal, France & Italy  will take you to the best wine producing regions in Europe, covering some of the most famous names, as well as the incredible and lesser-known in the wine-making world! These spectacular wine regions take wine making very seriously, so you know you’re in great hands on your European wine tour with us! Take advantage of our extensive wine expertise and discover the most fascinating and delicious wines in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy on your private wine tour with us!

In October, every year, the Peñin Guide stages the much anticipated El Salón de los Mejores Vinos de España (Salon of the Best Wines in Spain)  in Madrid.  Last year was the 18th edition and over 300 wineries with 1,300 wines from sixty-eight Spanish wine producing regions were united. The wines are divided into categories by points: Vinos del Podio/Podium Wines (95 to 100 points), Vinos Únicos/Unique Wines (93 and 94 points) and Vinos Excelentes/Excellent Wines (90 to 92 points).  This year, organic wines, which have been on the rise in recent years, were also integrated into the selection for the very first time.

One of the most anticipated events every year is the naming of the Guía Peñín “Best Revelation” wine.

A revelation wine is considered as such as it has somehow imposes a change, either in the conception of the variety, the vintage or the processing. It often creates a new category in the market or even dislocates the philosophy of the region somehow. In already consolidated producing areas a revelation wine may have revealed itself through its excellent quality, where to excel in its first appearance in the guide is much more complicated and exceptional.

Whichever road a wine takes to be considered a revelation wine what they all have in common is quality, balance and their native representativeness. What’s more a revelation wine will always awake an interest and provoke surprise in the official Peñín Guide tasters.

 

WINNER of the Guía Peñín “Best Revelation” wine for 2018: PIRATA 2014

Pirata 2014 is the product of a collaboration between two well-known enologists in the Spanish wine world, Benjamín Romeo (Bodega Contador) and Ismael Gozalo (MicroBio Wines and the co-creator of Ossian).

Benjamín and Ismael join their knowledge and experience to bottle together the La Rioja and Castilian Leon landscapes and the product? Pirata 2014.  Ismael contributes 50% of prefloxeric verdejo from sandy soils with clay accumulated from different soils while Benjamín contributes the other 50% through a blend of three native La Rioja varieties: white grenache, viura and malvasia from common clay-calcareous soils.

Pirata 2014 is an exceptional white wine of a curious blend of coupage, grapes, soils and climates and with less than a thousand bottles being produced in magnum format it is both a revelation and a rarity.

The TOP 10 Spanish wines to watch:

Here are all ten nominees considered for the Guía Peñín “Best Revelation” wines for 2018 with their corresponding Peñín Guide points. Wines to watch, if you will, representing a wide range of styles and Spanish wine producing regions:

 

  • A Coroa 200 Cestos 2015 (D.O. Valdeorras) from Adega A Coroa – 93 points

 

  • Amador Medrano Graciano 2016 (D.O.Ca. Rioja) from Bodegas Medrano Irazu – 93 points

 

  • El Buen Alfarero 2016 (D.O. Ribera del Duero) from Bodegas Pradorey – 93 points

 

  • Eulogio Pomares 2015 (D.O. Rías Baixas) from Fento Wines – 93 points

 

  • Fondillón 1996 Fondillón GR (D.O. Alicante) from Bodegas Monóvar – 94 points

 

  • La Pujada 2014 (D.O.Ca. Priorat) from Saó del Coster – 93 points

 

  • Pirata 2014 (Vino de Mesa) from Benjamín Romeo and Ismael Gozalo – 96 points

 

  • Telm Colet 2006 Barrica (D.O. Penedès) from Colet – 93 points

 

  • UBE Carrascal 2015 (V.T. Cádiz) from Cota 45 – 93 points

 

  • VO “Cal” 2015 (D.O. Bierzo) from Verónica Ortega – 92 points

 

 

Join us on a Private Wine Tour to include some of the great Wine Regions of Spain like our Wine Lovers Tour of Spain of Portugal to explore the Ribera del Duero, La Rioja, Priorat and Penedes Wine Regions of Spain and enjoy expert  guided visits to some fantastic wineries and taste some great Spanish wines.

viñedos3

Spain, Portugal and SW France are three great Wine Producing Countries and home to some of the most famous names in the wine-making world. Big, complex wines with character, style and quality are just waiting to be tasted in Bordeaux, La Rioja, Priorat, Penedes, Ribera del Duero, Alentejo, Douro Valley

… and you can visit some (or all) of these fantastic wine regions of Spain, Portugal and SW France on a Private Luxury Wine Tour like our Wine Lovers Tour of Portugal, Spain & France

Spain, Portugal and SW France are just the ticket to visit top wine estates and meet vineyard owners and in-house experts who lovingly show you into their world – a big world at that!

Spain has many Wine Appellations known as “DO’s”, Denominaciones de Origen, but just two of them have been distinguished as “qualified”, meaning that their quality standards are a bit higher than the rest: DOC (Denominación de Origen Calificada) Rioja and DOQ (Denominació d’Origen Qualificada) Priorat. Aging is a very important aspect of Spanish wines so Spain has an aging classification system as well, meaning you will find Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva on the label too.

Portugal is divided into 14 Regional Wine areas: Vinho Verde, Trás-os-Montes, Porto and Douro, Távora-Varosa, Bairrada, Dão, Beira Interior, Lisboa, Tejo, Península de Setúbal, Alentejo, Algarve, Açores and Madeira. Portuguese wine is categorized using the ‘DOC’ (Denominação de Origem Controlada) system meaning Controlled Denomination of Origin. In the Douro there are separate DOCs for unfortified wine and for Port, although geographically they both lie within the same boundaries.

In France the appellation d’origine contrôlée “AOC” meaning “controlled designation of origin” sets the rules and today there are hundreds of AOC’s. In France there is a further classification system, existing mostly for Burgundy and Bordeaux, in which the quality of their AOC wines is further rated. In Bordeaux this is the Cru, also referred to as ‘growths’ of which there are five levels, attached to particular chateaux.

So you see there’s a lot going on behind that bottle of wine on your table, standards to adhere to and rules to follow.

Discover some of the best wine regions in Spain, Portugal and/or France on a Private Wine tour designed just for you – the wine enthusiast – and sip fine wine in the Mediterranean breeze, along the left bank of the Gironde or visit the vineyards and cellars of century’s old family owned wineries!

From Crasto Winery Barrels

Located in the Emporda DO Wine Region of Spain, as the name implies, the site of this winery, Terra Remota (Remote Land)  is isolated and secluded, feeling even more so since the devastating fires that destroyed much of this region recently- leaving a path of charcoaled lifelessness in its wake.

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Thankfully Terra Remota, in the Emporda DO Wine Region of Spain, was, for the most part, unharmed with only a small plot of vines damaged but learning more about the history behind the Spanish winery it is terrifying to think not only about the possible destruction of the building but also of everything it stands for.

The land here, in the Emporda Wine Region, symbolizes more than just wine production, for the family it stands for identity.  Terra Remota winery is owned by Marc and Emma Bournazeau.  Emma’s grandfather was a man from Catalonia that, after the Spanish Civil war, escaped to France to live in Perpignan. For the family, Terra Remota represents a return from exile and to the land of origin, reclaiming the lost identity of a family.

Terra Remota Winery

The first thing you notice when driving up to Terra Remota is the extraordinary raw concrete “bodega”, which is designed by the Spanish architects Pépe Cortés & Nacho Ferrer and is made up of “Three shoeboxes” nestled into the hillside with the intention of integrating the building into the surrounding landscape- respect for the natural environment is a reoccurring theme here at Terra Remota. The three levels of the structure reflect the three stages the grapes go through from sorting at the top level to bottling, ageing and tasting on the bottom floor, respecting the principle of gravity.

Terra Remota Winery

Every process inside this building is designed to treat the grapes with utmost respect and care.  The key principle at this winery is to avoid excessive manipulation of the original quality of the grape- convinced that the better the raw material the less need for interference.

The idea is that each wine is different and must be treated as such.   The wines “Caminante”, (white) “Caminito” (rosé) and  “Camino” (red), named in homage to Machado’s poem, are the product of respect, and perseverance from the team.

Emporda Wines

Many of guests have thoroughly enjoyed a visit and relaxing picnic in the vineyards at this great Emporda winery!  Join us on a Private Food, Wine and Culinary Tour including the Emporda DO Wine Region of Spain and you too could be visiting this wonderful winery for a private tour and exclusive wine tasting!

Our Gourmand Breaks DO the Vineyards series is covering some of the great Wine Regions of Spain: Ribera del Duero, Priorat, La Rioja …… and now the Jerez Spanish Wine D.O. Region.  Located in the autonomous community of Andalucia the Jerez Wine D.O region produces world-renowned sherry.

Quality Spanish wines are classified, using a system called the “Denominación de Origen” or “D.O.”, which in English translates as “designated origin”, to determine where they were produced. Spanish wine laws first created the “D.O.” system in 1932 and each “denominación” D.O. has its corresponding regional regulatory council or “Consejo Regulador”.

The Jerez Spanish Wine DO Region is based around the three Spanish towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. All Spanish sherry producers source their grapes from the bright, chalky ‘albariza’ soils of Jerez.   The main sherry grape in the Jerez Spanish Wine DO Region, Palomino, thrives in the vineyards here alongside the other two key grapes – Pedro Ximénez, which makes a rich, black, raisiny wine for blending and treacle-like dessert wines and Moscatel which makes a lighter dessert wine.

Before the phylloxera infestation in 1894, there were over an estimated 100 grape varieties used to make Sherry in Spain but now there are only three white grapes grown for Sherry-making:

  • Palomino: the dominant grape used for the dry sherries. Approximately 90 per cent of the grapes grown for Sherry are Palomino.
  • Pedro Ximénez: used to produce sweet wines. When harvested these grapes are typically dried in the sun for two days to concentrate their sugars.
  • Moscatel: used similarly to Pedro Ximénez, but it is less common.

Jerez Palomino grape

Spanish Sherry wines in the Jerez Spanish Wine DO Region mature in large 500 litre barrels made of oak, which are arranged in three row high ‘soleras’. The young wines are poured into the top row and wine is then transferred downwards enabling the fresher wines to blend with those of more maturity and a consistent style for each bodega year after year.

The wines in the Jerez Spanish Wine DO Region fall into three broad categories: Very dry Manzanillas and Finos to  richer amber and mahogany coloured Amontillados, Olorosos and the rare Palo Cortado style. Sweeter sherries include pale cream, medium and cream. Finally there are natural sweet sherries which are made from the Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes. The alcoholic strength of sherries ranges from 15.5˚ for the lightest styles (Manzanilla and Fino) to 22˚ for sweeter wines.

In the Jerez Spanish Wine DO Region there is a long association with the UK,  where sherry has been enjoyed for over 400 years, indeed many names of the original English, Scottish or Irish sherry shippers can still be seen in the industry today.

Jerez Spanish Wine DO Region principal  Grape Varieties:  Palomino, Pedro Ximenez, Moscatel.

If you love Wine you can’t miss the Wine Regions of Spain!

Join us on a Private Wine Tour of Spain and enjoy expert  guided visits to some fantastic Spanish Wine Regions and wineries and taste some great Spanish wines.

Just some of the great wineries you may be visiting in the Jerez Wine Region of Spain:

Lustau – boutique sherry winery, 15 min walk from the station, In 2013 they won the Best Sherry of the World Award in IWSP International Wine and Spirit Competition.

The House of Sandeman Jerez – Sandeman’s Sherry Visitor Centre is in a perfect location, close to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in the heart of the city of Jerez de la Frontera, in the south of Spain.

Gonzalez Byass Winery – The Gonzalez Byass collection of Vintage Sherries are amongst the rarest wines in he world. The founder was mentored by his uncle, who was affectionately known as Pepe, and what is now the world’s best-selling Fino was named after him – Tio Pepe (“tio” being Spanish for uncle).

 

More of our Gourmand Breaks DO the Wine Regions of Spain series:

Wine from the Spanish Priorat region is not only the most highly regarded in Catalonia—it is some of the best in the world. That is why it has been granted its elite label of D.O.Q., or Qualified Destination of Origin.

Priorat Stamp

Quality Spanish wines are classified using a system based on the “Denominación de Origen” or “DO”, designated origin, which determines where each wine has been produced. Spanish wine laws created the “DO” system in 1932 and it was later revised in 1970. In addition to the “DO” system in Spain there is also the Denominación de Origen Calificada “DOCa” or “DOQ” in Catalan, a status for DOs that have a consistent track record for quality. There are currently only two DOCa/DOQ regions in Spain: Rioja and Priorat.

Perhaps what gives the wine in the Priorat Wine Region of Spain its famous and unique personality are all the extremes in both its climate and beautiful geography. In addition to sharp temperature fluctuations between night and day, this slate-soiled land is full of majestic cliffs and steep hillsides where terraces sometimes have to be built to grow parts of vineyards.

The most planted grape varieties in the Priorat Wine Region of Spain are red ones, with Carinyena (Carignan) and Garnatxa (Grenache) being the most important and recommended native varieties.

The permitted grape varieties of the DOQ Priorat Wine Region of Spain are the following:

  • Red Priorat Grape Varieties: Grenache, Carignan, Hairy Grenache, Tempranillo, Piquepoul, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah.
  • White Priorat Grape Varieties: Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximinez, Chenin Blanc, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Xarello, Piquepoul

 

Carignan grapes

Part of the Priorat region overlaps with another highly esteemed region, the Montsant DO, where the Capçanes cellers produce kosher wines in accordance with Jewish tradition in addition to other high quality wines.

Montsant Wine Region of Spain Grape Varieties:

  • Red Montsant Grape Varieties: Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon, Samsó, Mazuela, Garnacha Tinta, Garnacha Peluda, Merlot, Monastrell, Picapoll  and Syrah
  • White Montsant Grape Varieties: Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Chardonnay, Muscat, Parellada, Pansal

Among the most interesting spots in the region is where the Carthusian Priory (or Priorat) of Scala Dei founded its first monastery on the Iberian Peninsula in the 12th century. This site, situated at the foot of the Montsant mountain range, is where the region’s winemaking tradition originated. The society thrived there until 1835 when the church shut the monastery operations down, but the ruins can still be toured through alongside vineyards that are stronger than ever before.

In 1900 an outbreak of phylloxera devastated the region’s vineyards and, as the textile industry was taking off in Catalonia, entire work forces fled to the city to work.  New vines were therefore not planted again, except on a small scale, which fortunately, is what remains today.

Some twenty odd years ago, the Priorat region was on the verge of extinction, with grape prices so low that this was one of Spain’s most impoverished regions. It took a few visionaries to realise Priorat’s potential and most people agree that René Barbier initiated the Priorat revival. In the 1980s he established a co-operative that put its first wine on the market in 1991 and the rest, as they say, is history.

While refining your palate, you may also want to note this region’s production of world-class olive oils, which are also classified into DOs. One of the best olive oils comes from the Priorat town of Siurana, which is set upon a mountain rounded with austere cliffs. As the last Moorish stronghold in Catalonia, this town also comes with its own set of intriguing historical legends.

Priorat wines

 

If you love Wine you can’t miss the Wine Regions of Spain!

Join us on a Private Wine Tour of Spain like our Wine Lovers Tour of Spain and Portugal to explore the Ribera del Duero, La Rioja, Priorat and Penedes Wine Regions of Spain and enjoy expert  guided visits to some fantastic wineries and taste some great Spanish wines.

Some of the wineries you might visit in the Priorat DOQ Wine Region of Spain are:
  • Clos Mogador
  • Costers del Siurana
  • Gratavinum Spanish Winery
  • Mas Blanc Pinord
  • Mas Doix Spanish Winery

 

More of our Gourmand Breaks DO the Wine Regions of Spain:

Our Gourmand Breaks DO the Vineyards series is covering some of the great Wine Regions of Spain.

Quality Spanish wines are classified using a system based on the “Denominación de Origen” or “DO”, designated origin, which determines where each wine has been produced. Spanish wine laws created the “DO” system in 1932 and it was later revised in 1970. In addition to the “DO” system in Spain there is also the Denominación de Origen Calificada “DOCa” or “DOQ” in Catalan, a status for DOs that have a consistent track record for quality. There are currently only two DOCa/DOQ regions in Spain: Rioja and Priorat.

Rioja stampLocated partly within the Basque country, Rioja  DOCa  Wine Region of Spain is perhaps best known for red wines and the Tempranillo grape. The Rioja Spanish Wine DO Ca region’s red wines cover many different styles from young wines through to more sophisticated wines which are capable of many years of cellaring – proving the versatility of Tempranillo. Some producers also offer white wines, including some fine barrel-fermented and oak-aged styles and rosés.  The best known of the Spanish wine DO regions, Rioja Spanish Wine DOCa carefully preserves its wine styles but interestingly there are some modern trends which are starting to show through.

Rioja Spanish DOCa wines are mainly aged according to strict specifications and not released until they are considered to be ready to be drunk, which is unique to this part of the wine world. Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, the various ageing categories are indicated on the back label of each bottle. With an indication often given of other grapes which may have been utilised in the blend.   For example, Tempranillo is supported by Graciano, Garnacha and Mazuelo depending on the producer and even Cabernet Sauvignon occasionally. More especially in barrel aged wines, this gives Rioja Spanish Wine DOCa region wines their very distinctive style.  Not all Rioja Spanish Wine DOCa region wines follow the traditional age classifications and indeed some modern types of wines have more focus on a specific vineyard, reflecting the strong interest among producers to offer wines with distinctive local character.

tempranillo grape

The first Spanish Rioja bodegas date from 1870-1890 but the region expanded dramatically and established its reputation at home and abroad during the 20th century. The early years of this century has a new wave of modern architecture appearing on the landscape and also for new cellars many metres under ground.  Wineries/Cellars designed by famous architects such as Santiago Calatrava and Frank Gehry now stand next to those with an historic background, making Rioja Spanish Wine DOCa region an incredible place to visit for wine, food, spectacular scenery and architecture.

The main towns on Rioja’s wine routes include Haro, Labastida, Cenicero and Elciego, which all have a concentration of wineries with tours and tastings available.

Rioja Spanish Wine DOCa Region Principal Red Grape Varieties: Tempranillo (approximately 80% of all varieties planted), Graciano, Garnacha, Mazuelo. Other authorised red varieties: Maturana Tinta

Rioja Spanish Wine DOCa Region Principal White Grape Varieties: Viura, Malvasía, Garnacha Blanca. Other authorised white varieties: Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Turruntés, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo

rioja cork

If you love Wine you can’t miss the Wine Regions of Spain!

Join us on a Private Wine Tour of Spain like our Wine Lovers Tour of Spain of Portugal to explore the Ribera del Duero, La Rioja, Priorat and Penedes Wine Regions of Spain and enjoy expert  guided visits to some fantastic wineries and taste some great Spanish wines.

Just some of the wineries you might visit in the La Rioja DOCa Wine Region of Spain are:
  • Marques de Murrieta 
  • Miguel Merino
  • Ysios
  • Roda
  • Torre de Oña

 

More from our Gourmand Breaks DO the Wine Regions of Spain:

If you love Wine then don’t miss our series on the Wine Regions of Spain.  Our Gourmand Breaks DO the Vineyards series is covering some of the great Wine Regions of Spain, like our previous posts of the Ribera del Duero, Bierzo and Cava DO Wine Regions. New Year is just around the corner, and the sparkling Spanish Wine of Cava will feature in many meals on New Years Eve. The majority of Cava is produced in the Penedès area of Catalonia, a D.O wine region in itself that produces some great Spanish Wines. The Penedès DO Wine Region of Spain spans the provinces of Barcelona and Tarragona in the region of Catalonia.

The DO of Penedès Wine Region of Spain is where Spain’s modern-day wine-making revolution started. By the 1970’s stainless steel tanks had been adopted here and the area began to develop in wine terms with similar dynamism to the nearby city of Barcelona.  The area stretches from the coast to the higher altitudes inland and it features an array of hillsides, coves and valleys providing a rich choice of terroirs for the viticulturalist and winemaker.  Penedès divides into three areas. The lowest “baix-Penedès” (0-250m) is home to the white Cava grapes Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada. In the middle “mitja-Penedès” (250-500m) Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon perform well as do the Cava trio. The highest “alt-Penedès” (500-800m), taking in some of the highest vineyards in Europe, is where Chardonnay and other cool climate varieties are grown as well as the finest Parellada grapes.

The Roman influence in the Penedès led to the cultivation of different red varieties, imported by the Phoenicians and Greeks from the Middle East and Egypt. But the real evolution of the vine and the winemaking in the Penedès took place in the 6th Century AD, because the heart of Mediterranean wine culture was centred in the Penedès. The via Augusta, which crossed the Penedès, from the puente del Diablo [Devil’s Bridge] to the Arco de Berà [Arch of Berà] was the centre for the wine selling.

The well placed geographical position of the Penedès converted this land into an important production area, increasing its prestige in time both in the production of white and red wines. Despite the fact that red wines were more highly prized than whites, as happened all over the Mediterranean, it was said that the white wines were the better offer to Bacchus. The production of quality wines continued until the Middle Ages, the Arab invasion was of no benefit to the cultivation of vines in certain areas of the Penedès, but the period of domination was not very long and vines continued to be grown in the region.

A factor which contributed in a decisive manner to the continuation of the vine in Catalonia was the need, from the poorest of parishes to the richest monastery, (basically those of the Cistercian and Benedictine orders) to have wine available for holding mass. The old white varieties that are more acidic were used for distilling and making brandy. One century later, overproduction affected the Penedès and for this reason many varieties were eliminated in order to plant vines of higher quality. The technique used in the distillation process was very similar to that currently in use. The first brandies were distilled in the 14th Century, following the secret formulae of Arnau de vilanova. The varieties were distilled in copper stills and followed a process of ageing over a long period in oak casks.  At the end of the 19th Century, specifically in 1872, the “sparkling wine of the Penedès” came to life. After the catastrophe caused by phylloxera, the renewal of the vines allowed for important evolution, as right from the very start cavas of very high quality were made that in a very short period of time were conquering very large markets. During this century cava has kept up this quality tendency supported by the wine growing sector.

Xarel.lo grapes

White grapes dominate the D.O Penedes wine production; there is a slight downward trend in the volumes produced for Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada and an upward trend for Chardonnay and other aromatic white varieties. Red varieties are increasingly favoured, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Merlot while the ancient traditional variety Samsó is enjoying a renaissance.  The Consejo Regulador of Penedès has recently introduced the classification “Vino Dulce de Frío”, an ice wine equivalent. This natural sweet wine can be made from a wide variety of grapes including Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, authorised Moscatel varieties and Riesling.

The D.O. Penedès Wine Region of Spain is noted for its excellent white wines, fresh, fruity and with moderate alcohol content, while its reds are soft, with velvety texture and character. The Penedès rosé wines are fragrant and fruity. There are some outstanding sparkling wines, with intense and persistent aromas. The flagship grape variety of this region, which stands out among the 18 authorized varieties, is Xarel.lo making it the icon of the Penedès Denominació d’Origen. The 2010 vintage has been clearly marked by the weather. The rain fall on the 20th August forced an early start to the vintage, making the selection of grapes in the vineyard key to the quality of the wines of the D.O. Penedès the last year. Of one thing wecan be very sure, and that is that the raw materials – the grapes – brought into the cellars during the 2010 harvest were of a very good quality.

Penedes Spanish Wine DO Principal white grapes: Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Parellada, Subirat-Parent (Malvasía Riojana) and Chardonnay. Others: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc and Muscatel varieties (Muscat d’Alexandrie and Frontignan)

Penedes Spanish Wine DO Principal red grapes: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha Tinta, Cariñena, Monastrell, Samsó and Merlot. Others: Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Syrah

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If you love Wine you can’t miss the Wine Regions of Spain!

Join us on a Private Wine Tour of Spain like our Wine Lovers Tour of Spain and Portugal to explore the Ribera del Duero, La Rioja, Priorat and Penedes Wine Regions of Spain and enjoy expert  guided visits to some fantastic wineries and taste some great Spanish wines.

 

Just some of the wineries you might visit in the Penedes Wine Region of Spain are:

  • Pares Balta
  • Jean Leon
  • MasTinell
  • Mas Comtal

 

More from our Gourmand Breaks DO the Wine Regions of Spain:

 

Our Gourmand Breaks DO the Vineyards series is covering some of the great Wine Regions of Spain like our previous posts of the Ribera del Duero and Bierzo DO Wine Regions.

With the Christmas holidays just around the corner, now is the perfect time to introduce some bubbles and the Cava D.O region of Spain. Cava is a sparkling Spanish wine that is permitted to be produced in various wine regions, however the majority is produced in the Penedès area of Catalonia.

Quality Spanish wines are classified, using a system called the “Denominación de Origen” or “D.O.”, which in English translates as “designated origin”, to determine where they were produced. Spanish wine laws first created the “D.O.” system in 1932 and each “denominación” D.O. has its corresponding regional regulatory council or “Consejo Regulador”. The Cava Denominación de Origen (D.O.) was officially recognized in 1986.

Because of its immense impact on the culture and economy of Catalonia, Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) has its own Destination of Origin (D.O.). Cava comes in four variations: brut, dry, semi-dry and sweet. This celebrative libation—made from Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes—is usually served in a glass flute to highlight the bubbles sparkling upward.

Cava holds a special place in the hearts of Catalans because it represents the viticultural renaissance Catalonia had in the mid-19th century. A phylloxera epidemic had previously wiped out almost all the region’s vineyards—many of which had been growing grapes for centuries. But when the microbiological research of Louis Pasteur was used both to overcome this epidemic and enable control of the second fermentation for sparkling wines, Catalonia’s vineyard culture was revived. The joy of this revival can also be seen in the great care some of the most popular Modernist architects put into new wine cellars, like the one at Codorniu by Puig i Cadafalch.

Cava originated in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia with the research and experimentations of people like the Raventós family, who still own Codorniu cava. Sant Sadurní d’Anoia still produces 75 percent of the 200 million bottles made every year in Catalonia. This is also where Cava Week is held in the beginning of October, complete with a Cava Queen, her speech and a train to tour different cellars.

Sant Sadurní d’Anoia and its surrounding areas in the Penedés region are ideal for cava production because its soils are calcareous and permeable to water while the typical Mediterranean climate offers many sunny days during mild winters and not excessively warm summers.

Cava DO Wine Region of Spain White Grape Varieties: Mostly Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, but in a few areas Chardonnay, Subirat Parent, Malvasia Riojana

Cava DO Wine Region of Spain Rosé Grape Varietes: Garnacha Tinta, Monastrell, Trepat, Pinot Noir

 

If you love Sparkling Wine you can’t miss the Cava Wine Region of Spain! To learn more about the cava-making process join us on a private wine tour including the Cava DO Wine Region of Spain: Private Luxury Wine Tours

 

Just some fantastic Cava Wineries in Spain you could be visiting :

  • Agustí Torelló Mata
  • Codorníu
  • Albet i Noya
  • Gramona
  • Segura Viudas

 

More of our Gourmand Breaks DO the Wine Regions of Spain:

Our Gourmand Breaks DO the Vineyards series is covering some of the great Wine Regions of Spain.

First, and in no particular order, we presented the excellent Ribera del Duero Spanish Wine D.O. Region and now it’s the turn of the young and up and coming Bierzo Spanish Wine D.O. Region.  Located in the autonomous community of Castile and León some exciting Spanish Wines are being produced in the Bierzo DO Wine Region of Spain with the principle Red Grape Variety being Mencía. Do Bierzo

Quality Spanish wines are classified, using a system called the “Denominación de Origen” or “D.O.”, which in English translates as “designated origin”, to determine where they were produced. Spanish wine laws first created the “D.O.” system in 1932 and each “denominación” D.O. has its corresponding regional regulatory council or “Consejo Regulador”.  The Bierzo Denominación de Origen (D.O.) was recognized in 1989.

The young, up and coming, Spanish Wine DO Region of Bierzo, is tucked away in the north western corner of Castile and León, somewhat removed from the main hub of the Duero Valley but still attracts a great deal of interest.

Mencia grapes

 Thanks to the impressive wine making skills of both local Bierzo winemakers and those from other Spanish wine DO regions that have recognized its potential here, Bierzo DO Region red wines, made from the Mencia grape, are developing into something quite exciting. The Mencia vine is comfortable in Bierzo’s Wine DO Region mild climate and slate soils which combine to produce a wine which is more structured than the light, fruity reds of Galicia but leaner than the powerful styles of the Duero. They have a character of their own which brings a welcome diversity to Spanish red wines with their dark chocolate and black fruit flavors which are enhanced by French oak.

The climate and wines of the Bierzo Wine Region of Spain  could be described as a mix between Galicia and Castille.

The Bierzo DO Wine region of Spain covers 22 municipalities, including the largest town of the area, Ponferrada, and an attractive mix of castles, vineyards, pine forests and delightful mountain scenery. The area consists of numerous small valleys in the mountainous part called Alto Bierzo and a wide, flat plain called Bajo Bierzo. The focal point for wine is the market town of Cacabelos, a popular place for pilgrims to rest along the Camino de Santiago.

Bierzo wines
Bierzo DO wines must be elaborated exclusively with the following varieties: Mencía, Garnacha Tintorera, Godello, Doña Blanca and Palomino.

If you love Wine you can’t miss the Wine Regions of Spain!

Join us on a Private Wine Tour of Spain and enjoy expert  guided visits to some fantastic Spanish Wine Regions and wineries and taste some great Spanish wines.

 

Some Top Bierzo DO winemakers include:

  • Descendientes de J. Palacios –  Villafranca del Bierzo Alvaro Palacios, credited with putting the Priorat Wine region of Spain on the map in the 1990s, along with his nephew Ricardo Pérez, pay respect to their subsequent father and grandfather with this fantastic Bierzo DO Winery. They have completely restored the old stone bodega although their first priorities are the vineyards. Las Lamas, La Faraona and Moncerbal are not only the names of 3 great Bierzo DO Wines but also the vineyards that give the Wine it’s independent and particular character.
  • Dominio Tares – San Román de Bembibre A collective venture uniting various young oenologists with a healthy obsession for old mencia and godello vines to produce the interesting wines of Godello F.B, Baltos, Cepas Viejas, Bembibre and Tares P-3.
  • Prada a Tope – Canedo In the 18th century, the nobility of Canedo had their own vineyards and a cellar storing over 32,000 liters of good wine. Prada A Tope continues with this tradition and recovered the abandoned land and hillsides. Their respect for the land combined with ecological and traditional methods produce authentic wines.
  • Pittacum – Arganza del Bierzo The Terras Gauda Group  acquired Bodegas Pittacum  in 2002 with a clear idea of making quality wines with a mencia marked personality. Quality red wines are produced from the grapes of an ancient vineyard where they are later aged in oak barrels.
  • Paixar – Cacabelos A joint venture between Alejandro Luna, owner of the Luna Beberide winery and Eduardo and Alberto Garcia, sons of Mariano Garcia, one of Spain’s top winemakers – ex winemaker of Vega Sicilia in the Ribera del Duero Wine Region of Spain and founder of the Mauro winery. These young wine-makers focus on the production of a unique expression of Mencia, using Luna Beberide for vinification and a conditioned subterranean bodega in a Palace-house in Villafranca del Bierzo for ageing.
  • Castro Ventoso – Valtuille de Abajo Founded in 1752 by the Perz Family and family-owned ever since. They produce five different Mencía wines; Valtuille, El Castro de Valtuille, El Castro de Valtuille “Joven Mencia”, El Castro de Valtuille “Mencia Selección” and Castro Ventosa Vintage. Their trademark Valtuille wine is made from five plots with pre-phyloxeric vineyards that are located on the only sandy soil found in Bierzo.
  • Bodega del Abad – Carracedelo Inaugurated in June 2003, Bodega del Abad offers modern facilities and technological innovations for the elaboration of its wines, which allow a thorough quality control of the whole process from start to end. Their 100% grape variety wines are represented by the Vinos Abad Dom Bueno range and the Gotín del Risc range, both using 100% Mencia or Godello and the singular Carracedo  – 100% Mencia.

 

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