The DO of Penedès Wine Region of Spain is where Spain’s modern-day winemaking revolution started. By the 1970s 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 two most important items in the Vilafranca del Penedès Wine Museum show the existence of vines in the Penedès area before the 4th Century BC, introduced by the Ancient Greeks. These two items, which are of great archaeological value, are two press plates discovered in excavations of two different Iberian villages located in the Penedès region. 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. Apart from documentary evidence and the large number of pieces from that time, of very special significance is the beam press of the Wine Museum, which is of great value. This type of press was invented by Catho the Old, in the 2nd Century BC. 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.
White grapes dominate 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 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 rosés 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 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 grape varieties: 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 grape varieties: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha Tinta, Cariñena, Monastrell, Samsó and Merlot. Others: Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Syrah
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