Spain has more land planted with vines than any other country in the world and, wherever you look, you will find unique local grape varieties and interesting and different wine styles. From the sherry region in Andalucia in the south, to Galicia in the north-west with its crisp, fragrant Albariños to the famous reds of Rioja and Ribero del Duero.
But this blog concerns Catalonia (Cataluña to the locals) in the north-east of the country; a region with its own language and culture and a diverse and characterful range of wines that would take a lifetime to explore fully. The region’s most famous wine, Cava, is one that many consumers may not even associate with Spain, let alone this one region; it has become a generic name for those looking for a cheap and cheerful alternative to Champagne. If only they looked a little further (and paid a little more) they would find some attractive, distinctive Cavas that stand as quality sparkling wines in their own right.
And, although large producers such as Torres dominate the Catalonian wine scene, it’s also a region where smaller growers can thrive, particularly in the hilly, inland areas. Priorat is, perhaps, the best example of this with talented, artisan producers exploiting its rugged terrain and centuries-old vines to create remarkably intense and focussed wines. Inevitably, wine prices there have rocketed and Terra Alta, hidden away in the hills to the west, is a better choice for value.
Dardell’s organic red (Majestic, £8.99) is a robust mix of mainly Garnacha Tinta (known more commonly as Grenache) with some Syrah giving a rich, spicy full-flavoured wine with delicious dried-fruit flavours and a savoury, smoky finish. I opened and decanted it an hour or so before drinking to allow it to develop all the flavours and aromas and was pleased I did. It also needs generously flavoured food to show its best (a warming venison casserole was our choice).
I began by highlighting the wealth of different wines from Spain; by buying a bottle from one of that country’s hidden corners, I found not only a delicious wine but also a real bargain.