By Regina W. Bryan in Barcelona—
Cheers! The holidays are here, and in Barcelona this means about six serious celebrations, beginning tonight, December 24. This is quickly followed by Christmas Day, Sant Esteve (December 26), New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and King’s Day (January 6), all of which are celebrated with the same gluttonous abandon. A party in Barcelona requires three main ingredients: a lot of food, a lot of family and a lot of wine.
Spain is known for its wines by region, and Rioja and Ribera del Duero are perhaps the most famous. Recently though, there has been a push in Barcelona to buy local wines from Catalonia. There are many fine wines and cavas (Catalan champagne) to be found in close proximity to the city.
Here are a few of my faves and where to buy them, cheap to splurge-worthy:
Vilafranca del Penendès
Located just 60 kms from Barcelona it’s a cinch to visit this Catalan wine capital for the day. Once there you can visit several Bodegas (wine cellars) including Anotnio Mascaro, Bodegues J Trias, Castell Perelada, and Pinord Vins i Caves.
You’ll also find a huge selection of Penendès wines in Barcelona proper in your neighborhood supermarket. Usually, they are pretty inexpensive (starting at €3), although I recommend not buying anything under €5 (about $6.50). There are people who do, and then they mix their wine with Coca-Cola. (Not recommendable for many reasons.)
For something eco-friendly, try Pinord’s Natura Vintage 2005, which has the organic stamp of approval from the CCPAE. This will set you back a few euros, but hey, it’s good for the environment!
Sant Sadurní de A’noia
This is the go-to village for cava, a Catalan spirit that very much resembles Champagne. Cava is served, well, anytime, but especially during the holidays for toasts and with dessert. You can also order a glass of cava at any nice tapas bar, and sip it with your garlic clams or grilled squid. Yum.
I only recently visited Sant Sadurní de A’noia and loved it. The Modernist Route runs through Sant Sadurní de A’noia and the architecture alone is something to see. People don’t usually come for the pretty houses though, they come for the cava! Here’s the game plan: take the train from Barcelona to Sant Sadurní de A’noia so you don’t have to drive, tour a couple of bodegas, sample some bubbly, pick up a few bottles of cava, and then have lunch at Cal Joan Marina.
Some of the bodegas worth visiting are: Caves Castellblanch, Segura Viudas and Recaredo. The largest bodega in the town is Freixenet, which also sells some of the cheapest cava around. Those looking for a deal will want to take this tour and pick up a bottle of Freixenet. Some cava enthusiasts will pooh-pooh Freixenet, but in addition to their cheapo stuff they also have high-end cava.
You can buy cava in any supermarket in Barcelona. Like wine, try to spend at least $6.50. For $15.00 you will get a nice cava. Prices skyrocket from there.
This is my favorite Catalan wine and perhaps my favorite Spanish wine. Visiting Priorat is not as simple as a day-trip to Penendès. You’ll need a car and a couple days to see Priorat, as it is located in the south of Catalonia in the mountains.
If you don’t have time to visit the region’s bodegas, then at least pick up a bottle of this fine wine at your local supermarket in Barcelona. You won’t find it for less than €10.00.
This is one of Catalonia’s most expensive wines, because of its fame and low production. If you don’t need the whole bottle then order a glass of Priorat with dinner. If your restaurant doesn’t carry it, go somewhere else quickly. I recommend a tour in Priorat at Buil & Gine, which also carry Montsant wines.
This holiday season, toast with a crisp white from Penendès, a bubbly cava from Sant Sadurní de A’noia and a rich red from Priorat. Here’s to your health! Salud!