Appellation Appreciation: Penedès

Let’s be honest, no one’s ever turned down a glass of sparkling wine. And it’s no surprise why. Sparkling wine is as refreshing as it is thirst-quenching, pairs perfectly with a plethora of foods, and is appropriate at (basically) any time of day. For most, sparkling wine breaks down into two categories: Champagne, or something like it, and Prosecco… or something like it. So, what makes up these ‘something like it’ categories? Today, we’re focusing on the former – and eastern Spain’s answer to it. For high-quality sparkling, look no further than Penedès, home to the world-famous Spanish Cava.

Located in Catalonia, the Penedès DO encompasses the entire region, as well as Anoia, Alt Camp, Bai Llobregat and Tarragones. Penedès’ winemaking roots run pretty deep, with evidence of Chardonnay vines in the area dating back to the sixth century BC. Long known for its red wine production, the appellation is now almost entirely dominated by white grapes, a switch which took place post phylloxera crisis. Red wine production minimally exists within the appellation, though in extremely small quantities.

Penedès is located in eastern Spain, optimally situated along the salty Mediterranean Sea. The wine-producing area of Penedès is broken down into three main areas: Alt Penedès, Penedès Central and Baix Penedès. Alt Penedès is the most inland of the three, characterized by mountains, and known for its low-yielding, high-quality fruit.

Penedès Central is just southwest of Alt, producing the largest quantity of Penedès’ wine, while Baix Penedès is characterized mainly by seaside areas. These three zones are drastically different, giving way to an array of soil types, terrains and climate conditions. As a whole, the region’s soils are well-drained and mostly consist of sand and clay. The climate is mostly Mediterranean, but tons of microclimates exist within the larger region.

Cava is, without a doubt, Penedès’ claim to winemaking fame. These delicious, Champagne-style bubbles are produced via the methode traditionelle, with secondary fermentation occurring in bottle. Though unlike Champagne, where Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier dominate, Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada are Cava’s famed trio. In addition, small plantings of Riesling, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc are popping up, as well as common Spanish red varieties, like Garnacha and Tempranillo.

With certain vineyards soaring over 800 meters above sea level, Penedès is home to some of the highest grape-growing elevations in all of Europe. Extreme climates, salty sea influence, and crisp mountain air keep grapes balanced and fresh, giving way to refreshing, thirst-quenching sparklers – and equally interesting still wines. The next time bubbles are on the agenda, look no further than a bottle of Cava – your tastebuds, and wallet, will simultaneously thank you. *Insert red dress emoji*

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