Exploring Catalunya: Wine Tasting in Penedès

Torres WineryPenedès is THE wine region of Cataluyna. Considered one of the best wine producing regions in Spain (after Rioja), Penedès produces a dazzling array of wines and cavas. Torres is the largest & best-known winery in Spain, and from their base in Penedès they export wine such as Viña Sol and Sangre de Toro all over the world. Still a family run business, the company has grown exponentially from its foundation in 1870, to a huge multinational business, and was awarded the prestigious title ‘World’s most admired wine brand” in 2014 by Drinks International.

I had the chance in April to go and experience what Torres has to offer at its Pacs del Penedès Winery, where they arrange tours, tastings and more.

We began our day with a tour of the facilities in the vineyard, climbing aboard a little train reminiscent of the cars in Jurassic Park, with a voiceover explaining of each part of the tour. Thankfully avoiding a run-in with a T-Rex, we were wowed by barrels upon barrels of wine maturing in the cool underground cellars, covered from above with white sand to reflect the light. The grounds were pleasantly landscaped, and we trundled around admiring wine production on a scale I had never seen before.

Every rose has its thornAfter the tour we clambered out of our little train and took a few moments to gaze at the rows of vines, stretching into the distance.   Answering various questions from the group, our guide explained that planting rose bushes at the end of the rows acts as an early indicator of disease in the plants, as the delicate roses succumb before the vines, giving them time to treat any potential problem before it takes hold in the precious vines.

Entering the main building of the complex, we were shown to our tasting session, where we were offered 3 different wines (2 red, 1 white) and 3 different cheeses to taste and match as we wished. Our guide explained how to correctly taste the wine – not just slugging it back in one as I usually do – but rather to smell the wine first to get a sense of the aroma, then gently swirl the wine around the glass to release its full bouquet and smell again. Then, take a sip of the wine and hold it in your mouth, inhaling through the wine, before finally swallowing your first mouthful. Having never properly tasted wine before, usually swigging it casually from the bottle, I was amazed at the different scents the wines had, and the difference the swirling made to the smell and taste of the wine – even I as a wine heathen could tell the difference before and after.

The cheeses too were delicious, and cleansing my palate with water after each tasting I played around with different combinations and again found a difference in the taste of the wine and the cheese depending on each pairing. Feeling thoroughly enlightened and slightly tipsy we were then shown to the sampling room – set up rather like a trendy bar, with glass tables hosting different wine tasting groups, and a long bar running along one side, displaying behind it an impressive selection of wines & brandies.

We joined our fellow tasters at one of the glass tables, and sampled another 5 different wines, and each time our knowledgeable guide Ingrid told us the history and denomination of each wine, explaining the delicate flavours; some more fruity, others oaky, rich, full bodied, and all exceptionally delicious.

More wine.....Feeling even more tipsy after this tasting, we wandered over to the bar, where we selected yet more wines to taste from the menu of samples, all varying in price. Provided with a booklet of the list of wines, we ticked off our favourites so we could purchase them in the shop afterwards. My personal favourite was Esmerelda, a fruity white wine worthy of any hunchback’s adoration, and I made a note to buy a couple of bottles on my way out.

By now we were pretty drunk, having consumed at least a bottle of wine each throughout the day, and we just managed to resist the temptation to buy everything in the shop.  We controlled ourselves to a certain degree, and only bought 12 bottles of wine and a bottle of brandy between 2 of us, and stumbled outside to head home (not driving, I hasten to add).

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Torres and would definitely recommend the tastings – they have various options to suit your budget and taste. The best time of year to go would be during the harvest from August – September when you can even take part in a Grape Stomping experience, although there are tours suitable for a visit any time of year. Make sure you have someone to drive & pick you up at the end of the tour as I do not recommend drinking and driving! If you’re travelling on public transport you can grab a taxi back to the train station at Vilafranca if you ask the receptionist to call one for you.

For more information visit the Torres website


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