Two Key Areas In Catalonia Wine Scene: Cava and Priorat

Catalonia is a fascinating region both for its political history as well as it’s diversity of wine regions.For this month’s blogging group called #WorldWineTravel, we are travelling to Catalonia, in Spain. Two areas of Catalonia in particular are very well-known world wide, Cava DO and Priorat DOQ. During the 19th century, Catalonia began making a name for itself as a producer of sparkling wines. Josep Raventos had visited Champagne in the 1860s and came back intent on creating something similar in Spain. He began making wines in the style he had seen in Champagne but it was still not labelled as Cava. That would happen almost 100 years later.

The Cava DO was awarded in 1986 and is a 100% sparkling wine areas. The soils are calcareous with limestone and clay while the climate is mostly Mediterrean with some Continental influences. As mentioned earlier, the Raventos family is responsible for the beginning of the industry in this area. It was Raventos’s son, Manuel who made the first sparkling wine from Xarel.lo, Macabeo, and Parellada, a blend which continues to be used to this day. Other grape varieties used in Cava include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Trepat, Garnacha Tinta and Monastrell. The word Cava though didn’t come into play until the 1950s and was first used not for the wines but for the caves where the wines were stored. I wrote this post on Cava some years ago after an amazing tasting. I also wrote this post about Cava after a tasting during one of the Society of Wine Educators conferences.

DO Cava includes 150 municipalities and is spread over seven autonomous regions: Catalonia, La Rioja, Comunidad Valenciana, Aragon, Navarra, Extremadura and Pais Vasco. Yet it’s true home basis remains Penedes. Infact, 95% of Cava is still produced in Penedes. There is also a Cava Rosado which calls for 25% red grapes but makes up only 8% of total production. Cava is a fully sparkling wine with 5-6 atm of pressure. It’s less acidic than Champagne and shows less yeasty notes than some of its sister sparkling wines. Much depends on the style and aging regime.

There are apparently four Cava categories: Traditional Cava which is released after 9 months, Cava Riserva, released after 15 months and Cava Gran Riserva which is released after 30 months. The new category, Cava de Paraje Calificado has specific rules including minimum yields, hand harvesting, vines over 10 years of age, vinification on the estate, minimum aging 36 months, and precise traceability, among others.

I drink a lot of Cava. Tonight I tried a Segura Viudas Brut, an approachable and nicely priced sparkler. Segura Viudas is a brand in the Freixenet-Monetto portfolio. Gabriel Suberviola is the winemaker at Segura Viudas. He’s been in his current position since 1998. The company has been focused on indigenous varieties for many years. For Cava, they work with Xarel.lo, Parallada and Maccabeo. La Heredad, located in Sant Sadurni is the headquarters of the winery which was founded in 1959. Built in 11th century, it has seen many changes in Spain throughout the years.

Gabriel’s youth was spent amongst the vineyards, replete with rustic family winemaking activities.

The Brut Blend is 50% Macabeo; 35% Parellada; 15% Xarel.lo. It spends three months on its lees before it is bottled and then another second period of at least 15 months in the bottle. It was fresh and lively on the nose with white fruit, flowers and some almonds. Those same notes and yeast came through on the palate. I paired it with salmon sashimi and it was perfect.

I also bought a wine from Priorat, Clos Corriol 2012. I learned the wine was made by the Familia Ametller. They are in their 8th generation. Joan Ametller was the visionary here who bought property Porrera and then in other areas such as in the Morera de Montsant. This natural park has a dramatic backdrop of the Sierra del Montsant mountains. The winery has parcels in different areas.

The Mas Mustardó vineyard is the location of the winery since 2004. The soils here are quite complex and ancient with a mix of slate and clay. The wine I tried has changed labels in its more recent vintages so it was hard to find much information about how it was made but I got lots of red and black fruit, spice and white pepper. I also got some vanilla and eucalyptus which made me think it was aged in oak, likely barriques.

Priorat received its prestigious area got its DOQ in 2009, it is one of two DOQs in all of Spain. It was the Carthusian monks who started winemaking in this area in the 12th century. Although Priorat was recognized as an official wine region in 1932, it wasn’t until the 1980s that it began to develop into its latest iteration. The area has mountain ranges on all sides. The local wind is called the Cierzo and has a drying effect on the vineyards. Another topographical feature is the Siurana River which eventually leads to the Ebro River. The vineyards in this DO are planted at high elevations and are hand harvested. Soils are very ancient, the oldest in Catalonia in fact. Llicorella is the name of the famed decomposed granite sand as mentioned earlier which gives the wines a fantastic mineral note and elegant aromas. The area also was forward looking in terms of its classification system, creating an estate designation and a village wine category.

In addition to this new pyramid, the Consejo also set out new rules for wineries using the term Vinyes Velles or old vines. They must come from at least 75 year old vines, a tall order. Red wines dominate and Garnacha Tinto and Samso (Carinena) are the grapes of choice in this soil. Some 95% of the wine produced here is red and it is usually a blend of the two, like in Montsant. There is a lot of use of barriques for aging in Priorat, unlike what we see in some other regions of Spain.

I paired this wine with pork cooked with tomato sauce. It was ruby rich in color, with aromas of red fruits, sweet spice and lovely acidity despite its nine years of life.

Join us tomorrow, February 27, 2021 at 11:00am ET under the #WorldWineTravel hashtag on Twitter for our chat on Catalonia. Our blogs and titles are below:

  • Allison and Chris from Advinetures look at “Cava: Spain’s Answer to Champagne” 
  • Andrea from The Quirky Cork enjoys “Tapas with Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava”
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Pollo a la Catalana + Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2019”
  • David from Cooking Chat shines with “Mushroom Fricassee and Red Wine from Priorat”
  • Gwendolyn from Wine Predator brings “Sparkling Wine Secrets: Catalonia Cava from Marqués de Cáceres with Spanish Chorizo Kale Bean Stew”
  • Jeff from Food Wine Click looks at “Exploring the Variety of Still Wines from Catalunya”
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass showcases “Pere Mata Cupada Rosé Cava: Finesse in a glass”
  • Lynn from Savor the Harvest posts “Beyond Cava: Loxarel and Gramona Organic Sparkling Wines”
  • Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares “A Taste of Can Descregut; Grower Spanish Sparkling Wine From The Corazón del Penedès”
  • Melanie from Wining With Mel muses about “Innovative winemaking in Catalunya’s Penedès: Torres Gran Coronas Reserva”
  • Nicole from SommsTable pens “On a Hilltop in Priorat”
  • Payal from Keep The Peas joins with “Bartender’s Choice from Priorat”
  • Pinny from Chinese Food And Wine Pairing writes about “Enjoying Cavas of Different Price Points”
  • Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles focuses on “Priorat DOQ in Spain’s Cataluña region and Franck Massard’s 2015 “Humilitat”
  • Steve from Children of the Grape describes “Cava by the Sea”
  • Susannah from Avvinare.com thinks about “Two Key Areas in Catalonia Wine Scene: Cava and Priorat”
  • Terri from Our Good Life dishes about “Chicken Empanadas and Azimut Cava”
  • Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm adds “Enjoying Tapas with Spanish Wines from Catalonia”

15 comments

  1. What a great overview of these regions! There’s so much information for both of them but you distilled it really well. I really enjoyed the Segura Viudas, wish I could get another bottle!

  2. Thanks for hosting us this month! I sent my readers to you to learn about the cava! Thanks for the in-depth information!

  3. There is so much fantastic history in this region and an amazing variety of wines. It’s really something to wrap your head around! Thank you for leading us fearlessly on this journey and sharing so much information. (This and your preview post, I have now bookmarked as references to the region!)

  4. So much great information on the regions. Thanks for updating me on the new regulations as well, and of course, for hosting this month.

  5. Thank you for hosting this month and for the exceptional preview post! Your wine picks – especially the Brut blend – sound delicious!

  6. This is the first time I’ve seen an age requirement to say old vines, a great addition. How many conversations I’ve had with people asking what the requirement is when they see ‘Old Vines’. I’ll now steer them toward Priorat Vinyes Velles. Thoroughly enjoyed this month, thanks for the theme and hosting!

  7. Thanks for leading us in our exploration of Catalunya Susannah. Such a fascinating region, I thought I knew more about that I actually did! You’ve inspired me to find a Priorat!

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