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I would recommend a visit to Bodega Pirineos in Barbastro, the region capital of Somontano situated close to the mountains. Wines from the Somontano are often referred to as the “new world wines of southern Europe”, with their elegance and vibrating fruity aromas. This is a great region to visit if you’d like to combine your wine experience with hiking in the Pyrenées.
There are a number of wine growing regions in Levante on the east coast of Spain, where you will also find the third largest city of the country, Valencia. The Valencia region primarily creates sweet Merseguera and Moscatel desert wines, while you find grapes for white wines being grown at high altitude in Alicante and the reds dominate the Utiel-Requena region. Less famous table wines come from the Murcia area, dominated by Monastrell grapes – and even called the Monastrell Imperium by some.
The entire Levante region is a haven for the sun lover, the history buff and the Monastrell wine connoisseur. Start off a tour from Valencia, maybe with a drink at Enoteca – with 6000 wines from across the world they have something for everyone. If you rent a car, go north along the Júcar river to the Utiel-Requena region for what some believe is a future star of Spanish reds, or go south to Jumilla in Murcia, for some excellent light reds. If you want to combine your wine discovery adventure with sunny beach days, Alicante is probably one of the best places in Spain for you – ask any of the millions of European tourists visiting the beaches every year.
If you see a few battered windmills, you might think back to Don Quijote’s fictional adventures in the area, which is located on a plateau between Madrid and Andalusia. Having little rain and moderately hot summers, the area produces fully ripened grapes. For the reds, you will find Cencibel is the main grape, accompanied by Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnaca, Merlot and Moravia. White wines from La Mancha contain Airén, Macabeo and Pardilla according to regional standards.
Starting off in the amazing city of Pamplona, you have a region producing fruity deeply colored wines in the Navarra wine region – a region with more than 2000 years of wine history started when the Romans were here. Stretching from the Pyrenees to Ebro River Valley in the north of Spain, you will find more than 13.000 hectares of vineyards in the area.
Start off a Navarra wine tour in the shadows of the Pyrenees mountains, in the regional capital Pamplona, possibly with the famous bull running event in July. Going through the region, you can discover a rich culture and history, combined with a diversity of climates including Atlantic, Mediterranean and continental European weather patterns. There are so many vineyards worth a visit in the region that it’s impossible to name them all, but make sure to at least visit Bodegas Artajona if you start from Pamplona, Castillo de Monjardin if you love Merlot and Bodegas Ochoa with at least 700 years of history in the same family.
As usual in Spain red wines usually contain Tempranillo grapes, but you will also find a lot of Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – however often enough you can find Syrah, Pinot Noir and Mazuelo wines if you look around a bit. If you enjoy white wines more, you would usually find Chardonnay or Viura wines in the Navarra region – but there are a few others as well, including Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia. The rosé wines are still very present though, with 40% of total production and a long tradition in the area.
Already 2500 years ago, in the 6th century BC, the Phoenicians were growing Mourvedre grapes in the Barcelona area – where it had probably been brought from the Caucasus and Anatolia Regions. In the 6th century, there were Chardonnay grapes growing in this western Spanish region. Much later, the region was the birthplace of the sparkling wine Cava, which is nowadays accompanied by some powerful red wines and dry whites, where most wines are blends.Catalonia includes famous subregions such as Priorat, Penedes and Tarragona. Wines from the region can however simply have Catalunya on the label, basically meaning the wine doesn’t fit with any other DO classification area. Starting off any wine tour, you should definitely go from Barcelona, visit at least one of the multitude of great wine bars such as Monvinic, Ginger, La Viña del Señor or Vinatera del Call. I would love to give more recommendations for things to do or places to visit in Barcelona, but with lomited space comes fewer recommendations – and of course you should have to visit the many amazing places in the city which aren’t wine related as well.
Considering that Catalonia is one of the most dynamic wine regions in the world, it’s difficult to give you the ‘perfect trip’ through the area, but I would certainly recommend the origin of modern Spanish wine making in Penedés, finding out where the Cava production first began, and visiting the great vineyards of the Priorat region. You will probably need a few trips to the region before starting to feel like you covered some ground though, and a good idea is probably to follow the wine world in differing between Priorat, Penedès and Tarragona, and take one subregion at a time.
Rioja is the first of ten Spanish wine regions we will pay a visit in this new series. Some of the tips were included in the text we sent to the great guys over at GotSaga, but we felt that each region deserved more space than we could give through just one post. If you enjoy the text, feel free to follow us on Twitter, Facebook or using RSS.
Rioja, probably the most famous Spanish wine region, doesn’t only produce great wines, but also has some excellent places to sit down and try those wines – or perhaps fly above in a hot air balloon. With seven rivers flowing through, mountains for skiing, hiking or climbing combined with great places for horse riding there’s something for everyone.
The main place to stay is the regional capital Logroño, which is a nice base for your wine tour to take off. The city has some great wine bars and taperias around the market and of course a lovely cathedral, being on the pilgrim route to Compostela. For someone who has never been to the region and enjoys letting others do the planning, I would recommend the La Rioja Alavesa wine tour. The tour takes you through the mountains, along the rivers and into a few charming medieval towns with relaxing wine tastings. If you however decide to go without a guide, it’s still an easy task to navigate through Rioja, and I would recommend visits to Bodegas Muga, Baron de Ley and Bodegas Riojanas as places with interesting character.
Looking at grape varietals, the region allows Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano and Mazuelo for the reds, while the whites show up with Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. The Tempranillo is the most dominant, with a vast majority of vines, as in most of Spain. Look out for words such as Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva to see if and how long the wine has been aged in oak barrel – although longer doesn’t have to mean better.
While writing this post, I’m actually having a Crianza 2006 Viña Amate from Rioja with my girlfriend (from FashionStylizer), which I would certainly recommend. It’s full of Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes, giving complimenting aromas in the great 2006 year vintage – excellent both by itself and with a bloody steak.
Corsica is also known as the Isle of beauty, and it’s easy to understand why once you set your foot on the island. The wine growers have influence both from Italy and from France. The Mediterranean island is actually one of the oldest wine growing regions in the world, and already 6000 years ago there were vines there. However, the island has seen quite a few ups and downs, for example when Napoleon Bonaparte ruled the island and started allowing the islanders to sell their wines without taxes, the industry had a boost – which was destroyed by disease, the first world war and emigration. In the 70′s the island saw the French-Algerian immigrants giving the wine industry a new boost, which was soon halted by new regulations – again to be overcome by the locals, who are now seeing a growth in fine wine production.
Most of the Corsican vineyards are situated along the coast, making it a great place to visit if you like to combine wine tasting with relaxing days on the beach, or maybe take the sailboat for a visit to the island. Besides the sea, I would recommend going to Patrimonio for a sample of wine at Domaine Orenga de Gaffory. No matter where you go on the island, you will most probably come across some excellent local rosé wines to try out – whether in the hills or down by the coast.
I found a really inspiring video of views from Corsica to share with you:
This is the ninth part in a series about the French wine regions, where we go through some great wine regions with a few tips on where to go and what to do in each region. Next up is Corsica (on Thursday), then we move on to wine regions in Spain, and then we’ll have a look at South America. We will also show you some other of the greatest wine destinations in the world, so stay tuned by subscribing to the RSS feed or Like us on Facebook.
The South-West wine region (French: Sud-Ouest) is often overshadowed by the reputation of neighboring Bordeaux, which geographically could be seen as part of this ‘poor region’. The area between Bordeaux and Languedoc-Rossillion, historically having great amounts of export to England and Holland (later ruined by taxation) and much monastery wine growing, is now often seen as the origin of cheap wines in vast amounts by wine lovers – although wines from the region have been praised since Virgil and Horatius days.
The wines are often based on Merlot, Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and both Cabernet varietals in combination with a number of less common local grapes. There’s a similar varietal blend compared to Bordeaux, which also shares the same basic climate near the Atlantic Ocean. If you enjoy Armagnac, you will be happy to know that the area of origin is situated in the South-West region – or perhaps a visit to Cognac, just north of Bordeaux and Bergerac, would be of more interest.
Although the region has a long history of wine growing since the Romans and Visigoth enjoyed the drink, parts of it were all but destroyed by the Saracens, the subsequent Viking raiders, and then the Muslims ordering the uprooting of all vines – which in the end made communities cancel all trade. The Bergerac area has still produced wine continuously since the 13th century, and had similar tax exemptions to Bordeaux for export to England – something the rest of the South-West wine region did not enjoy, and therefore suffered financially from. For an excellent bio-dynamic visit Domaine du Pech in the Bergerac area – although it might be difficult to find, the surrounding countryside and some great Cabernet Sauvignon will help you forget any extra travel time.
Unknown to many, the Languedoc-Rossillion wine region is the most productive wine region in the world. They produce a third of the France total, and as recently as 2001 the production was actually higher than entire USA. One reason might be the long history as a wine growing region – it is believed that grapevines were growing here even before the first humans walked the planet, and of course the Romans took advantage of the local grapes for their own wines.
The region borders the Mediterranean and Spain, is in general dry and sunny, and as such has an excellent climate for growing grapes. Often you will see wines from Languedoc-Rossillion with the text Vin de Pays d’Oc on the label – meaning country wine from the land of the Occitan, which used to be the language of the region. Another famous appelation is Coteaux du Languedoc. Historically, the Languedoc region actually spanned down to Northern Catalonia in Spain, but now spans from the Spanish border to Provence along the Mediterranean.
Considering the proximity to the Mediterranean, you won’t be surprised to find water practically anywhere you go, whether by the Pyrenees mountains or closer to Provence. This makes it possible to take a few days hiking in the mountains followed by visits to the historical Cathar castles before going for a swim in one of the many lakes or in the Mediterranean. For the experience, I would recommend getting started in Carcassonne to see the spectacular La Cité, then visit the Domaine de Martinolles for widely recommended tastings and don’t miss a visit to the high-tech wine cave Terra Vinea near Narbonne for all your historical needs in the region.
People from Britain might have seen the region in the Chateau Monty TV series a couple of years ago, where wine critic Monty Waldin started his own wine growing in a vineyard by the Pyrenees, and has since released both his own wines and books about his adventures.
As a wine region, Beaujolais is separated from Burgundy (French: Bourgogne) because of the differing blend. However, looking at the map from a travelers perspective, and how France is divided into administrative regions, Beaujolais is actually a part of Burgundy – and some even argue that they should be seen as one even from a wine perspective, despite the differences.
The Beaujolais area might actually be most famous for the autumn harvest festival, on the third Thursday each November – which sees celebrations across the planet at the stroke of midnight for the Beaujolais Nouveau festivities. The day is actually celebrated across the world, but of course if you want to be there for the unveiling of the current years fruity and light-bodied wine, the best place would arguably be where it’s made, and the biggest festival is typically in Beaujeu – the regional capital. Meanwhile, you could visit Lyon for their ‘Beaujolympiades’ (Beaujolais Olympic) or almost any Paris restaurant or bistro for parties where hundreds of bottles are uncorked.
The Burgundy wine region has been referred to as the fairytale land of wines, with stories of kings, conquerors and commoners alike coming to the region for the seductive effects of the local wines. There are amounts of reds and whites, where Chardonnay grapes form the base for the whites, and Pinot Noir is typically found in the reds – and despite the popularity of both in wines around the planet, Burgundy is still seen as home for these varietals. Beaujolais is based on Gammay grapes, which go from vine to bottle in just a few weeks – leading up to the festivities coming so soon after the annual harvests.