Kravitz still has a knack for finding good wines at great prices – Robert Parker, Parker on Wine, BusinessWeek, 8/20 & 27, 2007

Hand Picked Selections in Catalonia

East of Aragon is Catalonia (or Catalunya, in the Catalan language). As Catalans are famously creative and destructive, passionate and energetic, you would expect a huge variety of wines, of every conceivable style and quality level. And that is what you get.  Catalonia accounts for 15% of Spain's population and almost 20% of its GDP. It produces only about 10% of Spain's wine but their importance and impact are greater than their numbers, as many of Spain's top and best-known wines come from here.

Cava is the DO is for sparkling wines made by the Champagne method. Towns in 7 regions produce Cava, but 90% of it comes from vineyards south of Barcelona, in Catalonia.  Varietals are local, primarily Xarel-lo and Parellada with some Macabeo.  There are 80,000 acres in production, yielding an impressive 25-30 million cases/year.

Penedes is a large district of wide-ranging importance. South of Barcelona, it is the heart of sparkling wine (Cava) production, and a large majority of 75,000 acres are devoted to Cava. The rest of the production is split between red and white.  Penedes was one of the first of Spain's wine districts to really modernize, and its number of ‘firsts' is impressive: first stainless steel fermentors, first to use temperature controls, first district to plant substantial acreage of international varietals, first organic vineyard.  It is home to most of Spain's sparkling wine producers, and some of Spain's largest and most famous wineries. 

Priorato is a small, not tiny DO, with 4000 acres. However it has a reputation completely out of proportion to its modest size.  Priorat (in the local Catalan spelling) has had vineyards for over 800 years. They have always had a discreet local reputation for quality, although until recently production was miniscule. For such a small region with barely two dozen wineries and less than ¼ of a million cases (yields are tiny here), the region enjoys amazing international fame.  Most wines here are $30 - 70 and there are numerous offerings over $100. Scarcity is one reason. Quality is another.

Terra Alta, which translates to ‘high land', is one of the best of Spain's up-and-coming DOs.  Vineyards are upland and inland, in the southwesternmost corner of Catalonia.  Carignan is traditional here, with some very old vines, but the majority of red plantings today are Garnacha, along with Tempranillo and promising plantings of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The high altitude (1200 to 1800 ft above sea level) gives the big diurnal temperature swings that are a key to wine quality in Spain, and there is a lot of red clay and lime in the soils, both are good for quality red wine.  There are 2.2 million cases from 20,000 acres.  Yields at 1.7 tons/acre are lower than the Spanish average (actually the lowest of any major wine-producing region outside Priorat).