Who's Who in Catalunya

Spain's dynamic region in the northeast is best known for cava. But Catalunya also stands for high-quality still wine and a lively wine scene. James Lawrence knows the area.

Catalunya in northeastern Spain / Credit: DO Cava
Catalunya in northeastern Spain / Credit: DO Cava

Industrious, dynamic and diverse, Catalunya is one of Spain's key wine exporters. Over 95 percent of all Cava is produced in the region, situated in northeastern Spain. Indeed, Cava's historical homeland is the small village of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, located to the northeast of the Penedès wine zone.

Spain's flagship producer of significant volumes of premium labels can also be found in Catalunya; Familia Torres has been involved in wine production or over three centuries. The ancestors of the current Torres family owners planted their first vines and founded a small bodega (winery) in 1870 in Penedès. Their focused marketing efforts and considerable resources have ensured that Torres remains one of Spain's most easily identifiable wine brands, for sale in over 150 countries.

Meanwhile, the fine wine region of Priorat, located south west of Barcelona, is associated with high prices and superlative quality. Catalunya also contains several of Spain's most famous Michelin-starred restaurants, including El Celler de Can Roca. In 2019, its regional capital Barcelona welcomed over twelve million tourists. It is home to Spain's newest sparkling wine appellation: Corpinnat. Let there be no doubt: Catalunya is vital to Spain's viticultural prosperity.

Of course, the province has been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis. The pandemic has accelerated an existing trend concerning the decline of on-trade consumption, while retail sales have exploded in the pandemic's wake. Sadly, once-lauded venues such as Monvinic and Torres Vinoteca have permanently closed. Like their European neighbours, the Catalans have had to cope with successive lockdowns and restrictions, which, paradoxically, have been a vital catalyst for the industry's renewal, forcing wineries to look outwards and embrace direct-to-consumer channels.

Nevertheless, the loss of tourism income remains a deep concern for the large number of Catalans reliant on the region's hospitality sector. Mirroring Champagne, exports of Cava declined in 2020 as global restrictions took their toll.

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