In 2019 a dear friend who is closely associated with The Islander, suggested we organise a wine trip to the mainland. We decided to stay relatively close to Barcelona and head to the Catalan regions of Penedès and Priorat. We initially planned the trip for our guests to visit some prestigious and historic wineries. But we also wanted to share with them our love for smaller, more dedicated wineries with a more personal business approach.
Due to the pandemic, plans were postponed until March 2022. But after a small amount of advertising and promotion, we quickly had 12 people keen to join us on our first wine weekend in November. We kept the group small as it was our first-ever wine trip and, in all honesty, we weren’t sure how smoothly it would run.
Everyone met in Barcelona on a Friday at a wine-themed (of course) hotel called Hotel Praktik Vinoteca where we would spend our first night. Dinner was pre-booked at a nearby wine bar called AmoVino. As a group of 12, we were given a private room and allocated a Costa Rican Sommelier (with a very strong American accent), who looked after us throughout the evening. Despite being difficult to understand at times, our Sommelier did a superb job of suggesting some amazing wines to pair with our tapas meal. It proved to be a great start to the trip and set the mood for the weekend.
The following morning, after a plentiful breakfast at the hotel, we met up with Eduardo – our driver for the following two days. Eduardo proved to be attentive, chatty, and knowledgeable, as well as an efficient and smooth driver. A 50-minute drive south of Barcelona took us to the Penedès region in the Catalan countryside, where we visited our first winery, Llopart.
Llopart is one of the oldest and better-known Cava producers in the Penedès region and is also now part of the Corpinnat association of wineries. The wineries in this association are committed to excellence in their field as well as environmental sustainability. All Corpinnat sparkling wines are produced from hand-harvested and certified organic grapes. Llopart has been making superb high-quality sparkling wine for centuries, so we were excited to be visiting.
We were greeted by an incredibly enthusiastic guide, who immediately apologised for his inability to stand still. This quickly became apparent! Our guide then introduced us to the historical elements of the winery, and afterwards, we headed upstairs to admire the view from the winery’s turret. We took a stroll among some Xarel-lo vines – a grape variety used in most Cava blends. We then returned indoors, were shown a video and given a tour of the Llopart caves. We walked through caves where the Cava is aged whilst our guide clearly explained the production process, which differs greatly from still wine. The tour finished in a small gated room where some of the oldest Llopart bottles are stored. The whole tour was completed with meticulous precision, in a very informative yet entertaining manner. The hyperactivity of the guide simply added to the entertainment value.
After the tour, we headed back to the ground floor and the all-important tasting room. We were presented with 3 different Cavas from Llopart’s wide range of wines and given some classic platters of cheese and cured meats.
Before visiting our second winery of the day, we took a break for lunch at a nearby restaurant and then headed to Sant Sadurní D’Anoia. This second winery was a small family business by the name of Mas Xarot.
Mas Xarot is not housed in a fancy building with any particular historical importance attached to it. When we approached the family about visiting, they were extremely accommodating as they do not normally host tourists for wine tours. However, they made an exception with our group, so we were their ‘guinea pigs’. Mas Xarot is run by the Centelles family and operates in a building in the centre of Sant Sadurní D’Anoia that once belonged to a winery called Monastell.
At first glance, the building didn’t look like much. It appeared to be very functional, but after entering, we were taken down a couple of floors to underground caves that opened up into a space that can hold up to 500,000 bottles of Cava! The charming brothers, Sergi and Lluc, guided us around the dark, secret chambers where bottles of Cava were piled up to the ceiling. We had to use the torches on our smartphones to illuminate a special chamber as the Cava in this room was exceptionally sensitive to light. Towards the end of our chamber walk, we saw a Giropalet; a type of machine invented to accelerate the riddling method. It was introduced in Spain by Codorniu to help reduce costs. During our walk through the chambers, we could sometimes feel broken glass underfoot. Sergi explained that in this type of environment, it is normal for some of the piled-up Cava bottles to burst due to pressure or because of some defect in the glass.
After the tour, we were given six different Cavas to taste – four of them from the range available to purchase, but two of them were de-gorged just a few days before our arrival – especially for us! These two Cavas were from the family selection which they only open a few of on special occasions. All of the Cavas were amazing, but these last two were a real treat. Sergi and Lluc were incredibly humble and friendly and went out of their way to accommodate us. This was a truly unique experience that can only come from visiting a small winery.
When we eventually left Mas Xarot, it was already dark outside, and time to head to our nearby country hotel for the night. We had chosen a small and homely hotel, with just enough bedrooms to accommodate us (and no other guests). Upon arrival, our rooms were ready and the open fire was blazing in the living room – a blissful end to a wonderful day!
Look out for Part 2 in the March edition of The Islander.
Wineries we visited:
Llopart – https://www.llopart.com/
Mas Xarot – https://www.masxarot.com/en/
Where we stayed:
Hotel Praktik Vinoteca – https://www.hotelpraktikvinoteca.com
Masia Can Canyes Hotel Rural – http://masiacancanyes.com/?lang=en
Where we ate:
AmoVino – https://amovino.es/
Mirador de les Caves – https://www.miradordelescaves.com/
Written by Iván González Gaínza & Lara Corfield
Iván – 0034 657 88 32 48
Lara – 0034 638 60 19 43