The Penedes

The History & Future Of A Region Told Through Wine And Food


The Penedes wine region is in Catalonia, Spain. With the capital of Barcelona, this area is the home to great Spanish art, gastronomy, finance, and culture. Winemaking has been happening here since the time of the Phoenicians, some seven centuries before Christ.

Cava was first produced here in 1872, and has grown over time. Today there are 175 Cava producers. To be called Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine must be made by the same process as French Champagne, in which a secondary fermentation takes place in each individual bottle. Cava ranges from sweet to very dry.

To be a Cava wine, one or more of these five grapes must be used:

  • Parellada
  • Xarel-O
  • Macabeo
  • Chardonnay 
  • Malvasia

These wines tend to be simpler than Champagne, lemony, earthy, fruitier and less frothy. However, some of the best producers are making wonderfully complex wines, such as Huguet and Gramona Gran Reservas. Barcelona is famous for wine bars specializing in Cava, where you can enjoy tapas (small bites of food) with your sparkling wine.

Penedes wines continue to improve over the years. Penedes is unusual in its use of Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Merlot, in addition to the more common Garnacha, and Monastrell. One of the more famous wineries is Torres. One of their wines (called Mas La Plana) was slipped into a blind tasting in France and came out on top over a field of classified Bordeaux. Penedes has come to be known as an area with a penchant for experimentation in wine making.

This area is also known for its cuisine. Complex and richly seasoned, with a wealth of shellfish, fish, lamb, wild game, veal, pork, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, saffron, herbs, nuts and fruit to choose from. With four wonderful sauces binding these ingredients together, Aioli, Sofrito, Picada and Romesco, Catalan food is dramatic without being fussy.