February 15, 2024

Why you should be drinking more Penedès wine!

Penedès wines have been on the wine trade radars for some time as ‘one to watch’. Particularly over the past 10 years. Undoubtedly, the continued rise in popularity in Spanish wine has meant that winelovers expect more variety from the country. Certainly more than just Rioja. As you might expect, the rise of Prosecco took the attention of Cava for a while too. And Cava has been making some outstanding contributions to the world of sparkling wine lately too!

The region is just to the south of Barcelona, the undeniable heart of Catalunya. This is the Mediterranean heartland of Spanish culture and sits just below the border with France.  Penedès flows from the sea to the mountain range. There is certainly ample sun here. 

Penedès is a region that is dominated by white wines and Cava. In saying that, fine red wines are also produced there. These make up just over a third of the wines produced in Penedès. While you will find native grapes such as Garnatxa (Garnacha / Grenache Noir), Monastrell (Mourvedre) and Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo). And Samso which is Carignan and may be a Spanish native. You will also find French varieties too including Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon. Even Pinot Noir.

The Penedès White story – Xarel-lo & others

However, it really is mostly about the white wines for the moment. Particularly with the soils. The Penedès plain was once covered by sea and therefore, it is no surprise that it has a very high limestone content which makes it excellent for wine production. The focus here is on the groups that were traditionally used for making Cava. Those grapes are Macabeo (Viura), Xarel-lo and Parellada. 

It is no wonder really that whites are so popular. It matches the lifestyle of the people of Catalunya. Especially those living in or visiting Barcelona or the beaches of Catalunya. There is little surprise that there is a vibrant Cava culture as well. Cava is a great match to Tapas. 

What has been remarkable about Penedès as a region, is that as it has developed, the winemakers and growers have kept their eye on the future. They have shown they are not only innovative but also they are keen to promote their region’s quality. And to preserve their future.

Penedès – 100% Eco 2025 

If you need another reason to support the region of Penedès, the regulatory body has declared a goal that all wines produced from the 2025 will be organic wines. That means that all wines labelled as DO Penedès will be organic. Already more than 80% of the Penedès wines are organic (October 2023) so the region seems well on their way to meeting this target. Obviously, this is not just for wines made of Xarel-lo.

This target is truly worth celebrating.

The Cavas – there is more to Penedès wine

Cava is term used for Sparkling wine made in Spain and the Penedès region has a reputation for producing high quality Cava. This reputation is well earned.

Cava is made using the traditional method of making sparkling wine as are all Champagne wines. And all Franciacorta wines from Italy. What makes Cava different from Champagne is that Cava is made generally from Spanish native white wine grapes. Champagne uses the French natives Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier as the focus. Cava overwhelmingly uses Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada.

Now Cava can use international varieties as well. Freixenet Elyssia as an example of a wine that is 100% using a non-Spanish grape while still qualifying to use the term Cava on the label.

The ageing requirements

The basic Cava wines spend a shorter time on lees, the dead yeast cells, than Champagne. This is another major difference. A Cava de Guarda level wine only has to spend 9 months on lees before it can be disgorged and sold. Whereas a non-vintage Champagne needs to spend 12 months as a minimum on lees and 15 months in the bottle. 

A vintage Champagne requires at least 36 months on lees. Whereas Cava has several other ageing requirements. Cava Reserva must spend at least 18 months ‘ageing’. Gran Reserva needs a minimum of 30 months ‘ageing’. And finally, Cava de Paraje Calificado requires 36 months bottle ageing. Plus, it must come from a specially selected place.  

Then, there are a few label terms specific to Penedès. These have been created to specify the highest quality sparkling wines produced in this region. 

Penedès does not just produce fine traditional method sparkling wines though. The region also has some very interesting wines made using the Ancestral method as well. The Ancestral method is a type of Petillant Natural sparkling wine.

The sparkling wines made by Ancestral Method are sold with their lees still in the bottle. This makes the wines cloudy in the bottle and requires care when pouring into the glass.

Classic Penedès & Corpinnat

The term ‘Classic Penedès’ was adopted from the 2014 vintage and it is a term reserved for particular sparkling wines from the region. If you see this term on a label, you can expect the sparkling wine to be organically certified and that it should have its second fermentation in the bottle. An additional requirement is that it will have spent at least 15 months in the cellar before release. Plus each wine must be a vintage sparkling wine and the disgorgement date must be printed on the label.

At the end of 2023, there are 15 producers using this term on their label. This is significant because the wines must only contain grapes grown solely by that producer. Furthermore, the grapes must be vilified on the estate. This does limit who has the ability and the capacity to produce wines under the designation ‘Classic Penedès’.

Albet I Noya El Corral Cremat Brut Classic Penedes is a fine example of a ‘Classic Penedes’ wine. Please click here to read a review.

Not only can ‘Classic Penedès’ wines be made using the traditional method, but also using the ancestral method. Using the Ancestral method, wines start fermenting and while still fermenting they are put in the bottle they are sold in. The carbon dioxide is captured in the bottle and only released when the wine is poured into the glass. Ancestral method wines are not disgorged making them a type of ‘pétillant naturel’ or ‘pet nat’ wine.

Corpinnat

Corpinnat is a small group of sparkling wine producers who have created an umbrella brand to represent their quality sparkling wines. There regulations go even further than those to qualify for the Classic Penedès brand. Their brand values are 100% organic grapes, made at that winery and with a minimum of 18 months in the bottle. The brand goes further than Classic Penedès in that if grapes are purchased from other growers, there is a minimum guaranteed price in place. 

At the end of 2023, there was 11 of these producers in the group.  Some of these producers are biodynamic. These producers have withdrawn from the DO Cava and to my knowledge, you will not see ‘Cava’ on the label.

See Corpinnat for more information.

For more information about Penedès wine and region, please visit dopenedes.

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