Long‐thought to be the best wine‐growing region in Spain next to Rioja, Penedés is one of the oldest viticultural areas in the country. Being at the crossroads of the ancient world, the wines of the Penedés region were in high de‐ mand by the people of the Mediterranean and today, all over the world. Barcelona, the cultural influence of Penedés, built by the Romans because of its strategic proximity to the rest of the Mediterranean, continues to be the busiest port in the Mediterranean Sea today.
Vineyards were planted throughout the area, some of which date back to the Phoenicians, who originally planted Chardonnay. Wines made from red grape varietals were the most abundant and popular. White wines, made with Muscatel and Malmsey, produced sweet wines.
During the Middle Ages, the wine‐making trade was not hindered by the presence of the Moors because of the large demands of the export markets. Real demand for the wines of the Penedés, however, came about in the eight‐teenth century by Latin American countries. It was at this time, that extensive grape plantings were made throughout the area. The soil, largely limestone, is perfect for viticulture, the climate is temperate with ideal rainfall for growing grapes.
With the 1950’s, came the renewed interest and development of the sparkling‐wine industry, known as CAVA. Cavas have been made in the Penedés since the late 1890’s. Parellada, Macabeo, Xarel‐lo, and Chardonnay are the principle varietals used in the production of CAVA. By law Cava must be aged in bottle a minimum of nine months before release. 95% of all Cavas are produced in the area in and around Cataluña. Cava was established as its own denominacion in 1986.
Modernization of the region’s still wines began in the 1960’s, experimentation with the French varietals of Chardon‐ nay, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon and combined them with the more traditional varietals of Tempranillo, Cariñena, Parellada, Xarel‐lo, and Macabeo.
There are three sub‐regions of the Penedés: Bajo Penedés, Medio Penedés, and Alto Penedés.
The Bajo Penedés, borders the coastline, and is the hottest sub‐region because of its proximity to the water. The climate here gets as hot as in Jerez or the central plains of Spain. The soil in this subdivision consists of limestone, clay and sand. This is the best region for growing black grape varietals, such as Garnacha, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cariñena.
The Medio Penedés produces approximately 60 percent of the total grape harvest for the region, and most of the production is of white grape varietals of Xarel‐lo and Macabeo (Viura). This subdivision is separated from the coast by stretches of low‐lying hills, which are best seen from the air. The climate is cooler than on the coast, but still warm. The soil consists of limestone and clay.
The Alto Penedés, (also known as the Penedés Superior), is the highest region and the most humid. The climate here is very similar to that of the climate in Bordeaux. The soil is very chalky, so the white varietals thrive here, especially Parellada.