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The beautiful Spanish wine region of Catalunya has a history of viticulture which stretches back for over a thousand years, and has been influenced by a wide range of people who moved through the region, and brought their wine making skills and expertise with them. The region itself is a sizeable one, covering an area of sixty thousand hectares, and within this space there resides over two hundred individual wineries, ranging from small, independent and traditional ones to the larger, mass production bodegas known around the world. The terroir of Catalunya is varied, and ranges from being dry and arid, to more lush and green in the wetter parts of the region which are closer to the coast. This variation in terroir results in a fantastic range of grape varietals being grown, and a wide range of wine styles are produced within Catalunya.
The vital, active Penedes wine region is located in the province of Catalonia along the northeastern Mediterranean coast. Marine influence allows production of many different styles of wine in three separate elevations (Bajo, Medio and Superior, between 825 ft (250 m) and 2600 ft (500-800 m)). Beginning in the 1960s, the active Torres enterprise helped to revive the area, starting with experimental vineyard plantings of native, French and German varieties. They also introduced modern vinification methods and temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel, with the result of clean, dependable wines in a reasonable range of prices. Many Penedes red wines are well made and well priced. Common red varietals are Garnacha, Carinena and Monastrell, with some Tempranillo (here known as Ull de Llebre) and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Modern methods were also critical in sparking the region's cava (sparkling wine) industry centered around the Penedes town of San Sadurna de Noya. After old red vineyards were lost to phylloxera around the turn of the century, replanting featured white varieties that came to be most used for sparkling wines: Macabeo (Viura), Xarel-lo, Parellada, and increasingly, Chardonnay. Cavas are produced in huge quantities with automated production that allows the traditional methode champenoise, but these sparkling wines, described as earthy, mushroomy, or rubbery in taste, have distinctly different flavors from Champagne and may be an acquired taste. The best cavas contain more chardonnay and can have notes of pear, peach and mandarin orange. For still white wines, Parellada is favored, supplemented by Riesling, Muscat of Alexandria and Chardonnay.
Ever since the Phoenicians and Romans brought their knowledge of vine cultivation to Spanish soils, the country's culture has grown alongside wine production, with wine being a vital part of Spanish identity and Spanish traditions. Each region of Spain has a wine quite distinct from the others, and it is produced by smallholders and families as much as it is by large companies and established wineries. From the relatively mild and lush regions of La Rioja to the arid plateaus that surround Madrid, grapes are grown in abundance for the now booming Spanish wine industry, and new laws and regulations have recently been put in place to keep the country's standards high. By combining traditional practices with modern technology, Spanish wineries are continuing to produce distinctive wines of great character, flavor and aroma, with the focus shifting in recent decades to quality over quantity.
There are plenty of notable native Spanish grapes which have made a big impression on the wine world at large, but none are as renowned or as widely loved as the Tempranillo varietal. This black skinned grape has been used for wine making for centuries, with several ancient civilizations noticing the fact that it is highly versatile and holds some delicious flavors and aromas, perfect for those looking for a powerful yet elegant grape for their wines. Tempranillo often causes winemakers some trouble, however, as it is highly susceptible to many diseases. Despite this, plenty continue to persevere with this varietal, as it is perfect for producing delicious and complex single variety and blended wines, packed full of classic Spanish flavors and plenty of aromatic and intense surprises.