Lesser Known Catalan Wine Varietals You Must Get to Know

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Spain | 1 comment

It’s no secret that Spain is one of the most famous wine regions in the world, as it belongs to the powerful class of “old world” wines that have been produced in Europe for centuries and distributed all over the world. If you’re a wine connoisseur, you have likely tried Rioja, and perhaps even Albariño. I’m here to tell you that there is a whole other fabulous list of wines that come from the lesser-known Catalan wine regions, though we will focus on a few of my favorite Catalan Wine Varietals: Cava, Montsant and Priorat.

Let’s start with one of the lighter wines, as we would do in a proper wine tasting, then venture into the more full-bodied varieties and regions that produce them from there.

Catalan Wine Varietals: Cava

This refreshing sparkling wine is Catalonia’s signature bubbly, which you can find in both white and rosé, ranging from “dulce” (sweet) to “seco” (dry) in its character.

"Cava Dreams in Vilafranca del Penedés" by Marjorie Jean Vera
“Cava Dreams in Vilafranca del Penedés” by Marjorie Jean Vera

Hailing from the Penedés region of Catalonia, some of the major producers are Freixenet and Codorníu, and the founder of Codorníu is said to have originally brought the champagne-making method to Spain. Now 95% of Cava is produced in Catalonia and distributed worldwide, though it is made in other Spanish wine regions.

Cava is much more similar to Champagne than it is to Prosecco, given that it is made in the same way. However, the most popular grapes for this delightful bubbly blend are Xarello, Parellada, and Macabeu. It is the perfect afternoon refresher and one of my personal favorite sparkling wines, being that I had discovered it at my favorite wine bar in New York. I was pleased to hear it came from a nearby region once I had arrived in Barcelona.

Catalan Wine Varietals: Montsant

Now let’s shift our focus over to full-bodied reds, or “vi negre” (black wine), as it is referred to in Catalan. The Montsant region in the mountains of Tarragona produces some of the best Spanish reds, and it is a newly approved region, only having been a producer since the 2000s.

Catalan Wine Plateau by Marc Pascual from Pixabay
Catalan Wine Plateau by Marc Pascual from Pixabay
These wines are robust and bold in character. They have a deep rich velvety shade of red with the complexity of both earth and fruit. That’s because they grow on mountainside soil where the grapes are caressed by the Mediterranean winds at higher altitudes and beaming sunshine.

While many internationally distributed varieties come from Montsant, perhaps the Garnatxa (or Grenache) is the most famous of them all. My favorite comes from Celler Can Blau, and aside from its aesthetically pleasing bottle, it is a divine red that I imagine Bacchus would have been quite pleased with, despite it being Spanish and not Roman.

Catalan Wine Varietals: Priorat

Finally, we have arrived at the region that tops all other regions according to my palate, the decadent reds from the Priorat. Elegance, pizzazz and intensity are a few of the words that come to mind when I consider the characteristics. I love this spectacular wine. The region has been a producer since the 12th century, so you can surely imagine the evolution that has come with years of production of this truly “old world” glass of perfection.

Image by Marc Pascual from Pixabay
Image by Marc Pascual from Pixabay

What makes these wines so spectacular? Well, they are produced in the most extraordinary way – the grapes grow on the side of sloped hillsides in a sunny, low-yielding region that borders Montsant.

Properties of the earth because of the volcanic soil, oakiness and minerality are the most notable characteristics, and Garnatxa is one of the favorites, followed by Cariñena (Carignan), from this internationally acclaimed wine region. I recommend the Costers del Priorat for a remarkable imbibing journey.

There is so much to explore if you are a wine-lover, and the best part of it all is that the local restaurants offer wines you might never see outside of these special localized wine regions. Then, when you pair local Catalan delicacies with these structurally complex and opulent reds or playful bubbly whites, it becomes an epicurean journey of pleasure for your palate.

Let’s talk more about all things food and wine! What are some of the best wines in your local region, or the region you’re dreaming about living in? 

by: Marjorie Vera