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Taking in the view at Mastinell, Penedès, Spain.

How I did not realise this sooner, I will never know. The booming, tonnes-to-do city of Barcelona is only a 40 minute drive from Penedès, the motherland of cava (it is also accessible by train for less than €10 return). Upon realising this, my Barcelona holiday was quickly re-routed south for one day of cellar door action.
I struggled to find much DIY wine tour information online. Most Google searches brought up links to rather expeny wine tourism companies that were not about to give up their routes to non-paying self-guided explorers.  Feeling confident at having successfully explored a fair few wine regions in my time I decided to wing-it.

 

For the most part the day was filled with mountainous scenic beauty, historic bodegas (wineries), and Spanish wines from near and far. However, much of the day was spent driving in circles looking for clues as to how to get to the bodegas and figuring out if they were actually open for tastings. To make sure that you get to spend more time in the wineries than in your car, take a look at my five tips to navigating Penedès.

 

Wine Tasting at Torres, Penedès, Spain.

Wine Tasting at Torres, Penedès, Spain.

1. Getting to Penedès
Penedès is the name of the region winos are taught to associate with cava. It is a huge area and once you near it you will be bombarded with road signs for the Alt Penedès, Penedès Central, and Baix Penedès. When you’re on the road, its hard knowing which place to go towards. I recommend aiming for either the town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia or Vilafranca del Penedès. Both of which are well sign-posted and where many of the caves (cellars) are based. Sant Sadurni has the lion’s share of wineries based in the region, and the town center also boasts a lot of specialty cava bars. Vilafranca del Penedès has its fair share of wineries, too, along with a wine museum.

 

2. Finding the Wineries
My plan was to follow the winery road signs until I reached a cellar door, as one might do in North America, Australasia or Argentina’s popular wine destinations. There I hoped to collect a vinotourism map and make a quick agenda of wineries to visit that day. Well Toto, we’re not in the new world anymore. There are few winery road signs and, of those, many are difficult to spot and follow – certainly not enough information to guide you on a full day of tasting.

A map is needed to explore this region so I’ve linked to three that I found most useful. The first shows all of the bodegas in the greater Penedès area, but does not give specific details of where wineries are located inside the towns of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia or Vilafranca del Penedès. Tourism maps to these two towns are also linked. I recommend taking each of these maps with you.

Many thanks to Commerce and Tourism Vilafranca City Council and Enotourism Penedès for providing the maps.

Over looking the Garraf Massif mountains and Vinlafranca Vilafranca del Penedès, Spain

Overlooking the Garraf Massif mountains and Vinlafranca Vilafranca del Penedès, Spain

3. Winery Tours
A lot of the tourist information suggests that you call ahead to book a tour or visit, and I suppose that is the safe option to make sure wineries will be able to receive you. However, I didn’t book anything and I was given a tour or guided tasting at each bodegas I went to, so long as they were open for business.

The cost of tasting the wines ranges from €5 to €12 for a selection of four to ten wines.  Tours cost a little more than that, but your tasting is usually included in the price.

 

 

4. Cave (cellar) opening, closing and siesta times
There isn’t a uniform set of rules as to when wineries open and close. Generally  they are open from 10:00 AM, then close from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM for siesta, and shut for the day at 5 PM. That being said some places open earlier, close later, and stay open through siesta. I also learned the hard way that closing times are strict when, shortly after 5 PM, I was chased out of the Codorniu driveway by a woman blowing a police whistle and repeatedly yelling at me ‘‘It’s not free!’’.

 

The walk up to Freixinet near, Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, Penedès, Spain.

The entrance to Freixinet near, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Penedès, Spain.

5. Where to eat
Touring a wine region, for me at least, is synonymous with splashing out on a beautiful meal overlooking the vines. However in Penedès, the function of a winery is to make and sell wine. Food is not really part of the wine tourism formula at most cellar doors. However, two wineries that do offer winery lunches are Mastinell and Ferré I Catasús. If you can suggest others please let me know in the comments section.

On the bright side, restaurants in the area are taking advantage of the unique breed of food loving wine tourists trickling through. Try a local’s recommendation or consult Trip Advisor for more details on where to eat.

 

6. The big estates                                                                                                                        Finally, if you’re blasting through the area and want to stop by the most famous bodegas you will want to check out these places:

  • Torres offers a winery tour by trolley train, and have a huge range of wine for tasting from their properties in Spain, Chile and the USA.
  • Freixinet offers a full cellar tour and has a fantastic collection of cars on display from their long history in advertising, including one shaped as a cava bottle.
  • Codorniu is noted for the architecture of their cellars and beauty of their gardens — just don’t be late!

Overall Penedès is an area steeped in history, natural beauty and offers a plethora of wine styles, even beyond cava. And it’s all located on the door step of Barcelona. Vamos cariños, get amongst it, and let me know how it goes!

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