Catalunya

Catalonia (Catalunya in Catalan and Cataluña in Spanish) is a proudly independent region in the north east of Spain. It stretches from the historic county (comarca) of Montsia in the south to the border with France in the north. The Mediterranean Sea forms its eastern border and offers 360 miles (580km) of coastline.

The Catalunya DO appellation was Spain's first region-wide, cover-all DO title. Created in 1999, it covers all of the scattered vineyards that were not covered by any of the region's other 11 DOs.

The capital of Catalunya is bustling Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain and home to one of the biggest ports on the Mediterranean Sea. This seaside location has certainly fostered the region's wine sector throughout history, as have the millions of tourists who flock to the city each year.

Catalunya has a distinguished tradition of winemaking. Viticulture is thought to have been introduced by the Phoenicians and the Greeks around 400 B.C. through trade. The Romans then expanded the growing of grapes and the industry flourished until Moorish occupation, when vines were neglected or the vineyard sites turned over to new uses. Christians later spearheaded the resurgence of viticulture, by way of their monasteries and convents. By the late 18th century, wine and spirits were some of the most important exports of the region. Catalunya has since proved to be a dynamic wine producing area and has been at the forefront of moves to reform the Spanish wine industry through the introduction of international grape varieties and modern viticultural techniques.

Catalunya is regarded as distinct from Spain's other wine growing regions because of the versatility of its wine styles. There is a strong French influence on two of its most recognisable wines, the Champagne style sparkling Cava and its red table wines, which have similar characteristics to those produced in Roussillon, just the other side of the Pyrenees.

Unsurprisingly, given its location, Catalunya's climate is strongly Mediterranean, with warm coastal areas experiencing moderate rainfall. Inland areas are more similar to Spain's arid central plateaus, although there are plenty of cooler zones among the foothills and on elevated sites where grapes for the region's signature Cava are grown. These include Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel.lo and some Chardonnay.

Catalunya's red wines are made from Tempranillo (known in Catalan as Ull de Llebre), Garnacha and Monastrell (France's Mourvèdre). Red Bordeaux varieties also play an important role in some of the top quality blends, as well as in varietal wines.

While there are numerous reasons for the success of Catalunya's wine industry, Cava has played an important role. In the 1870s, José Raventós, founder of the Codorníu group, began producing sparkling wines around the town of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia in Penedes, employing the traditional method used for Champagne. Such was the success of this wine that the area became the center of Cava production in Spain. The prestige of the wine earned it an exclusive DO in 1986.

The quality of Catalunya's wines has also been boosted by the creation of the Catalunya DO. It catches all of the scattered vineyards not covered by the region's 11 other designations. These are the Emporda, Costers del Segre, Pla de Bages, Alella, Cava, Penedes, Conca de Barbera, Tarragona, Montsant and Terra Alta DOs and Priorat, a DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada, the highest classification).
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