Penedès is a natural and historical region of the autonomous community of Catalonia, Spain.
It is located in the south of Catalonia between the pre-coastal mountain range (Serralada Pre-litoral) and the Mediterranean sea.
The provincial division of the 1833 divide the region between the provinces of Barcelona, which includes Alt Penedès and Garraf, and the province of Tarragona, which includes Baix Penedès.
Penedès is a wine making region included in a spanish denominació d’Origen (DO) for wines in Catalonia (Spain). Penedès DO includes all Penedès region and municipallities of four other comarques: Anoia, Alt Camp, Baix Llobregat and Tarragonès. The area is framed by the coastal hills of the Garraf and the higher inland mountains which skirt the Central Depression. Long considered one of the country’s best wine-producing regions after the Rioja, it is also one of the most ancient viticultural areas in Europe. Perhaps better-known for its Cava production (a sparkling wine which has had its own Denominació d’Origen since 1991) white grape varieties predominate, although the region also produces some highly-regarded, oak-aged reds.
The Denominació d’Origen Penedès is centered in the regional capital, Vilafranca del Penedès, with nearby Sant Sadurní d’Anoia the acknowledged centre of Cava production. Besides these two, the principal towns are Vilanova i la Geltrú, Sitges and el Vendrell. The Penedès denominación includes 16 municipal areas of the Tarragonese jurisdiction within its borders, along with 47 municipal areas in the south of the province of Barcelona.
A distinction must be drawn between the boundaries of the traditional wine growing region and those of the historical administrative area. The wine-growing region is divided into three main subzones:
Alt Penedès, the most inland and mountainous subzone, characterised by relatively low yield and high quality
Penedès Central, situated to the southwest and resposnsible for the majority of the region’s total production
Baix Penedès, comprising mostly low-lying, coastal areas
The region has a highly varied geology characterized by very poor-quality, well-drained soils of mostly Miocene sediments, both continental and maritime, with occasional quaternary deposits. The sandy, clay-like soil is poor in organic matter and rocky in the main, the pre-litoral uplands consisting of Triassic, Cretacious and oceanic deposits, while coastal mountains are mostly jagged Cretaceous limestone.
Whereas a largely Mediterranean climate prevails, the Penedès enjoys a wide variety of micro-climates, due to the proximity of the coast and a varied terrain ranging from sea level to over 800m. Coastal areas are hot and dry, while upland vineyards are much more prone to frosts, with some areas recording annual rainfall of up to 900l/m².
Extending from the low-lying plains of the Baix Penedès to the more temperate peaks of the Alt Penedès, the region is suited to growing an unusually wide range of grape varieties. While the more typical Spanish black grapes (Garnacha, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cariñena, among others) are found in the hot and humid coastal plains, as the land rises whites become increasingly common.
On this higher inland terrain Spanish Xarel·lo and Macabeo grapes form the overwhelming majority, but Penedès growers have long experimented with small plantations of French and German strains, with notable quantities of Muscat d’Alexandrie, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay being more recently introduced, largely to diversify the range of grapes available for blending, which plays such an important part in cava production. The Alt Penedès has vineyards which rank amongst the highest in Europe at up to 800 m above sea level, where the native Parellada is the dominant variety.
Cava is inextricably linked to still wine production in the region, as its booming success of recent years has provided the revenue and innovation behind the rise, both in quality and in fortunes, of the region’s still wines.
The Penedès is widely acknowledged to be home to the most modern and innovative of Spanish growers. There are hundreds of independent producers, the most famous of which is probably Bodegas Torres, producer of the popular ‘Sangre de Toro’ as well as many other fine still wines. Other notable houses are the well-known Cava producers like Freixenet and Codorníu.