Catalonia is one of the most popular destinations in Spain with amazing beaches its world-class gastronomy. Whether you decide to spend the day on the beaches of Catalonia or in the city, absolute splendour awaits. The unique architecture from the famous architect, Gaudi, Tarragona’s monastery of Poblet, the archaeological site at Tarraco, the churches of the Boí Valley in Lleida, are all not to be missed. A fun-filled array of water activities available on the beaches of Catalonia are second to none. Conversely, the region is also blessed with the Catalan Pyrenees Mountains, great for indulging in hiking, skiing, and other amazing adventures. Catalonia is also one of the top wine destinations in Spain. Among the region’s most famous wines is Cava, a fresh and fruit-forward sparkling wine made from Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada grapes.
From Catalan wines to the natural beauties, we captured everything in this guide, where you will be able to learn more about:
Catalonia is a fascinating Spanish province, home to some of the most sought-after Spanish wines in the country. Penedès is the largest and most significant wine-producing region in Catalonia. It is also one of the oldest wine-producing regions in Europe with traces of early viticulture dating back to the sixth century BC. The diversity of its terrain makes it particularly well-suited for a variety of grapes. Today it is known as the home of some of the most avant-garde wine producers in Spain.
Distinctive Territories of Catalonia Wine Region
Today perhaps the most well-known Catalan wine region on the international stage is Priorat. It is one of only two regions in Spain to have the special appellation D.O.C or Denominació d’Origen Qualificada, recognizing the outstanding quality and consistency of its wines. The special volcanic properties of the soil lend flavour to the wines and produce low yielding vines compared to other regions.
Located in the northeast of Catalonia, near the popular seaside area known as the Costa Brava, the Empordà wine region has a long history of making rosé wine. And additionally, red wine accounts for 60 % of its annual production. The reds tend to be full-bodied and are sometimes aged in oak barrels for added depth of flavour. There are more than 20 grape varieties allowed under the official appellation DO Empordà including the non-native Gewürztraminer white grape variety.
The Tarragona wine region is named after the southern Catalan town of Tarragona around which it is situated. The area has long had a history of producing rich, heavy reds, similar to fortified wines such as Port, which were already being enjoyed in the time of the Ancient Romans. Conca de Barberà is a historic wine-producing area in the province of Tarragona famous for its white wines, which account for more than 60 % of its total production.
Wines of Catalonia
The most traditional and popular wines of the region include Cava, a fresh style sparkling wine, dry white wines and powerful reds, known as “black” wine or vi Negre in Catalan, due to the colour of the wine. The grapes of the region include Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo which are used to create both Cava and white wines. Garnacha, Monastrell, and Tempranillo used for red winemaking.
Catalonia wine regions focus mostly on what are considered Mediterranean grape varieties, primarily Garnacha and Carignan among red grapes, and Garnacha Blanca and Xarel-lo among white grapes. Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Trepat are also planted throughout Catalonia, as well as the white varieties Parellada and Macabeo (Viura in Rioja) that are primarily used for the production of Cava, Spain’s premier sparkling wine. Catalonian wines tend to be full-bodied and high in alcohol, due to the grape varieties and the region’s warm weather conditions. But Catalonia’s best wines also feature intense minerality derived from vineyards planted on granite, chalk and fractured slate soils.
Story of Cava – Authentic Spanish Bubbles
While the majority of the region’s wines are the Cava blends, many varietal wines are also produced. The roots of the Cava wine industry can be traced back to Josep Raventos’ travels through Europe in the 1860s, where he was promoting the still wines of his Codorníu winery. His visits to the Champagne region sparked an interest in the potential of a Spanish version, using the same sparkling wine production methods. The local Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel·lo have since become established as the most popular grapes for producing Cava. Early versions were called Catalan champán or xampany after Champagne but this practice ended when the EU awarded Champagne Protected Geographical Status.
Catalan’s main sparkling wine producers agreed and adopted the name Cava after the Catalan word for a cellar, where the wines were traditionally stored. According to Spanish wine laws, Cava can be produced in six wine regions (such as Aranda de Duero, Navarra and Rioja) but 95% of Spanish Cava production takes place in the Penedès region. In order for the wines to be called ‘Cava’, they must be made in the traditional méthode champenoise.
A rosé style of Cava is also produced in small quantities by adding still red wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, or Monastrell to the wine.
You can taste the good quality Catalan wines everywhere across the region either in a wine bar with tapas or in a gourmet restaurant with fine dishes. However, we think that the best way to learn about these wines is to visit Wineries in Catalonia, where you will be able to discover the story and traditions behind your fine glass of Cava.
Check out some of our local partner wineries below:
At the foothills of national park
Ametller winery is located at the foothills of Ametller National Park surrounded with breathtaking landscapes.
Visit the winery and listen to their story of seven generations producing exceptional wines.
Wherever you are in Barcelona, there’s always something to see nearby around the neighbourhood or district: jewels of home-grown Catalan architecture, both modern and contemporary. Millions of visitors travel to Barcelona every year to see the iconic Sagrada Familia church or other modernist building designed by Gaudi. Even though Gaudi was born in Reus, a little town in the province of Tarragonna, most of his works he dedicated to Barcelona. Disover some of Gaudis masterpieces while wondering around the city. Casa Milà, Casa Battló, The Park Güel and many more. Several markets are located throughout the city center that entice the senses, as well as treasures of the ancient Roman and medieval city, and beautiful parks to wander through. markets that are a treat for the senses, treasures of the ancient Roman and medieval city, and parks where you can unwind.
The Costa Brava – Travel On the Footsteps of Salvador Dali
The Costa Brava runs the length of the coast from north of Barcelona all the way to the French border. The area is characterized by quaint little villages, rugged coastlines, mountainous peaks, and stunning beaches. The best way to reach some places in Costa Brava is to hire a car as many towns are difficult to reach by public transport.
One of Costa Brava’s most famous former residents is the eccentric artist Salvador Dalí. Dalí was born in the town of Figueres, around 43km north of Girona. Here you will find one of the most celebrated museums of Salvador Dali, Dali Theatre-Museum. Other great spots to visit include his quirky summer home in Portlligat and his castle in the town of Púbol. The Costa Brava is without a doubt home to some of the country’s best beaches. They may not be long and sweeping – but they’re small and intimate, surrounded by soaring clifftops and unusual rock formations. Many beaches can be reached on foot by climbing down steep coastal paths. Below you will often find private, pebbly shorelines kissed by clear blue waters.
Girona – A Classic Medieval Town
Girona, an intriguing town, which sits between Barcelona and Costa Brava, has medieval walls, narrowed city streets, and one of the best-preserved Jewish Quarters in Europe. The historic city of Girona is filled with architectural landmarks, fascinating museums, and an impressive array of churches, cathedrals and monasteries. When you’ve had your fill of history and quaint cobbled streets, however, you’ll find that there’s a lot more to Girona than meets the eye. The historic Catalan city of Girona is known for its well-preserved Jewish quarter, unique history, festivals and, of course, its architecture. Girona lies approximately 100km northeast of Barcelona and is well worth a day trip for anyone staying in the area.
Catalonia is home to a range of beautiful coves and beaches, tall and uniquely sculptured mountain ranges, wide rivers that turn into deltas when they reach the sea. Moreover, here, you can also enjoy freshwater streams, endless natural parks, lakes, dormant volcanoes and loads of fun. Nature is ever-present in Catalonia in multiple forms with thousands of options to explore.
Natural Park That Embodies the Beauty of Pyrenees Mountain
The Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park presents the typical high mountain features of the Pyrenees, as well as its own distinguishing feature, the water. This park is characterised by its crystal-clear waters that run through its many lakes and rivers, and make this Pyrenean landscape rich. As well as the torrents and waterfalls, there are thick forests which look extremely beautiful when it snows. But its landscape are not the only important feature, the biological diversity is extraordinary. It is a real paradise for nature lovers with rugged landscapes, the biodiversity of plant and interesting flora and fauna.
Cap de Creus National Park – a True Ocean Paradise
The peninsula of Cap de Creus constitutes the last buttress of the Pyrenees and the easternmost point of the Iberian Peninsula. The coast is abrupt and jagged, with towering cliffs and remote coves. The park was created in 1998 and is the first natural park covering both sea and land in Catalonia.
Within the land area there are 3 natural zones of declared national interest: to the north, the sector around Cap Gros-Cap de Creus; to the south, the sector around Punta Falconera-Cap Norfeu; and to the west, the sector of the Serra de Rodes.
Inside the Natural Park of Cap de Creus, one can take part in a very large number of leisure activities and visits. The walking and mountain-bike itineraries are especially attractive. The majority of the walking itineraries follow the tracks of former cattle-trails, which gives them an added interest. A very interesting itinerary from the botanical, geological, and scenic point of view is the path from Mas Paltré in Port de la Selva, to Cap de Creus, following the route of the GR-11 long-distance footpath.
Camino de Ronda – Exploring Catalonia on Foot
The Camíno de Ronda, also known as the Costa Brava Way, is a public footpath that traverses the rugged and picture-perfect calas all the way along the Costa Brava. This path provides a perfect out-of-season adventure, or escape from bustling beaches during the summer, and the chance to discover the Catalan Coast from a unique perspective. Dating from the 19th century, the Camíno de Ronda originated as a series of small pathways connecting one cove to the next, enabling fisherman, smugglers, sailors, travellers, lighthouse keepers and cart and mule drivers, to navigate this once remote coastal territory.
This historic hiking trail invites visitors to follow in the footsteps of the many heroes and villains, artists and dreamers who once roamed these parts, and become acquainted with another Costa Brava. The Catalan coastal mountain range, which runs parallel to the coast, sets the backdrop for the southern stretch between Blanes and Pals, where tree-clad hills drop down to erratically-shaped rocky coves, crystal clear waters, secret sandy inlets and long golden beaches.
Moving north, the landscape becomes progressively wilder, as towering limestone cliffs give way to bio-diverse wetlands and ancient Greco-Roman ruins. Finally, the igneous Pyrenean foothills emerge dramatically out of the sea between Cap de Creus and the French border. The overall trail can be broken down into 12 stages and is of easy-moderate difficulty. It can be undertaken in its entirety as a 12-day hike, backpack on tow, or simply a day or half day’s walk between resorts.
Gastronomical Specialties of Catalonia
One cannot think well, love well or sleep well if one has not eaten well
Catalonia has become renowned internationally for food and gastronomy culture. In recent years, the new wave of experimental gastronomic chefs have brought the region to the world’s attention. However, Catalonia has been a must-visit location for food lovers for many years. Its location on the Mediterranean coast offers a generous and varied selection of ingredient options, allowing for some imaginative results. Due to Catalonia’s location on the coast, seafood dishes are impressive and vegetables such as tomatoes, red peppers, aubergines, mushrooms and artichokes are in abundance. However, it is easy to forget that a lot of Catalonia is also made up of mountains and fields where pigs and sheep can roam. Thus, the Catalan interest in ‘May Y Mantagna’ (‘Sea and Mountain’ – think ‘Surf n Turf’) – the concept of having fish and meat on the same plate is continually evolving.
Esqueixada de Bacalla- the Quintessential Taste of Catalan
Esqueixada is a traditional Catalan dish, a salad of shredded salt cod, tomatoes, onions, olive oil and vinegar, salt, and sometimes a garnish of olives or hard-boiled eggs. Esqueixada is particularly popular in warm weather and is sometimes considered a summertime dish. Esqueixada is sometimes described as the “Catalan ceviche” because it is made with raw fish (although the cod is salt-cured and dried) in a marinade.The name of the dish comes from the Catalan verb esqueixar, to tear or shred. The salt cod in the dish is always shredded with the fingers, never sliced or chopped, to achieve the correct texture.
Faves a la Catalana – The Taste of Catalonia
Faves a la Catalana is a traditional Spanish dish originating from Catalonia. The dish is made with fava beans (broad beans) that are cooked in stock with a bit of botifarra negra (blood sausage). Apart from those key ingredients, the dish also contains bacon, onions, garlic, tomatoes, white wine, olive oil, and paprika. Faves a la Catalana has been prepared for hundreds of years, and some of the recipes date back to the mid-19th century. Nowadays, this hearty stew is typically consumed during the harvest season (from February to late June), and it’s traditionally served in an earthenware dish.
Espinacs amb Panses I Pinyons – Traditional Spinach Served with Raisins and Pine Nuts
This traditional dish is made by sautéing fresh spinach and adding fired pine nuts, chopped garlic, raisins, and often finely chopped bacon. The result is a healthy, tasty, and texture-filled treat.
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Map of Wineries in Catalonia wine region
Discover the long wine tradition of Catalonia and discover some of the best wineries in this region