Barcelona sits on the doorstep of one of Europe’s most important winemaking destinations: the Penedès wine region. A train journey of less than one hour from the city will take you to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, a picturesque village that is home to over 100 wineries at the beating heart of Penedès. After paying a visit to the region, here we give an introduction to its landscapes and heritage, as well as a glimpse into the winemaking traditions at Recaredo, one of its most celebrated and prestigious wineries.
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In this article:
A brief introduction to the Penedès wine region
While Rioja is perhaps Spain’s most famous region for making red wine, Penedès is the home of sparkling wine production in the country. If you have ever enjoyed a glass of Cava, it probably originated from here; around 95% of the world’s Cava production happens in Penedès.
Stretching along the Mediterranean coastline between Barcelona and Tarragona, and inland into the sprawling Catalonian countryside, Penedès is a place of spectacular beauty. It covers more than 1,500 square kilometres, including over 16,000 hectares of planted vineyards.
You can imagine the scenery. Rows upon rows of grapevines as far as the eye can see, like a green blanket across the landscape during the growing season. Postcard-perfect villages and hilltop towns are sprinkled in between, with old stony churches poking out above the sleepy rooftops.
It is the proximity of rural scenery like this that makes Barcelona such a great place to work remotely. When taking a workation in Barcelona, you can escape on your days off to the restorative beauty of landscapes like Penedès.
The mild and warm climate of the Penedès region not only makes it a compelling place to visit, but it is also perfect for making wine. With just the right amount of sunlight and rainfall, combined with high-yielding limestone and clay soils, many different types of grape thrive in this landscape.
A wine culture thousands of years in the making
Penedès is one of Europe’s oldest wine regions. The first grapes were planted here some 2,500 years ago in the days of the Phoenicians. Cultivation techniques and traditions evolved under the influence of the Greeks and the Romans, with wine remaining an ever-present focal point of the region’s culture.
The development of winemaking in the region has yielded many important innovations that have advanced the industry worldwide. In the 20th century, for example, it was in Penedès that stainless steel and cold fermentation were first used.
For many centuries, red wine was the foremost product of Penedès. But this all changed in 1872 when Cava was first introduced to the region. Some reds and dessert wines are still made here today, but sparkling white wine dominates the region’s output.
White grapes today account for about 90% of all grapes grown in the region. The predominant varieties are Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada, which are the common foundation for making Cava.
From the hills to the coastline
The Penedès wine region is separated into three distinct regions: Alt-Penedès, Baix-Penedes and Garraf.
Inland and up in the hills, the Alt-Penedès (Upper Penedès) accounts for the majority of production. The Baix-Penedes (Lower Penedès) occupy the lowlands by the coastline, while Garraf combines a seaside location with a mountainous natural park.
Sant Sadurní d’Anoia: at the heart of the region
More than half of the wine producers in the entire Penedès region are located around one scenic hillside village: Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, high in the Alt-Penedès. In fact, this village alone produces most of the sparkling wine in all of Spain.
With a population of only 12,000, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is emblematic of the Catalonian countryside. Quaint narrow roads are lined with modernistic and art-nouveau style buildings, dating back to the region’s boom in the late 19th century. Bollards on the roadside are shaped as bottle corks, in a creative, subtle testament to the local wine culture and heritage.
The village is surrounded by a panorama of lush, bountiful vineyards. This setting is home to more than 100 wineries, including over 80 Cava producers, hence it is sometimes known as the “Cava Capital”.
Among the winemakers in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia are some major household-name brands. For example, Freixenet produces more than 200 million bottles of wine per year from its main headquarters in the village. Its facilities are an impressive sight, carved into the side of the valley where its cellars permeate many layers deep into the ground below.
But it is the dozens of small, family-run wine producers that really make the essence of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Places like this, where you can see intimate, handmade processes, and traditions that have been passed down multiple family generations, are reflective of its true roots.
Recaredo: a family winery rooted in local history
Recaredo is one of the finest examples of a family-run winery that has earned a reputation for quality and prestige. I was welcomed to its premises in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia where I had the chance to explore the cellars, see the processes and taste some of the excellent vintage wines, guided along the way by in-house expert Lluba.
Family winery businesses often simply take the family’s name as a brand name. Recaredo is unusual in this respect, as it was actually the first name of the father of the original founder, Josep Mata Capellades. As you delve deeper into the premises and the winery’s story unfolds, it soon becomes clear that the naming of Recaredo is far from the only thing that makes it unique.
Originally opened in 1924, Recaredo is still run by the same family as it approaches its centenary. Ton Mata, a grandson of the founder, is at the helm today. While visiting I saw him busily walking around the premises with a spring in his step, clearly still full of passion for the family business, and exuding an energy that resonated throughout the whole operation.
While Recaredo has grown over the years, you get the clear sense that everyone who comes to work here is part of the family. Ton Mata, formerly a professional disgorger, is held in a special regard among the community.
Preserving age-old traditions
There are plenty of wineries that use organic production methods. But very few remain in the world that still complete every step of the process manually by hand. Recaredo is among this rare, special number.
The winery still uses the same methods stretching back nearly 100 years to when it was founded. All wines are long-aged using natural cork stoppers to preserve their character.
Everything is done manually, including riddling and degorging the bottles; there is no freezing of the bottle neck, as is the case with the vast majority of sparkling wine producers today.
Manual degorging has become so rare that there are only a few dozen people in the world today with the skill needed to do it. In the cellars of Recaredo, you can witness some of the world’s only professional degorgers applying the technique by hand. It’s quite a marvel! You can see a glimpse in this video:
Recaredo’s cellars are beautifully photogenic, but seeing them up-close gives a different perspective entirely. And there is no replacement for being there in person to witness the expert handcrafting that goes into Recaredo’s wines.
The subtleness of the lighting reflecting against rows of dark bottles and the deep, earthy aromas filling the cellars combine to invigorate your senses. Experiencing this atmosphere first-hand gives you a true connection with the journey that every wine bottle takes.
“Biodynamic” is a word that is synonymous with the approach to winemaking at Recaredo. The processes are designed to be in step with nature, ensuring a balanced ecosystem, without any use of herbicides or insecticides.
A meticulous effort is made to reuse everything, wherever there is an opportunity to do so. For example, I took home some grape-infused tea from Recaredo’s shop. Nothing is wasted.
This approach is exemplary of the village’s traditions, which are not just a modern fad, but rooted in a long local history of respecting the environment. I even learned that recycled wine corks from Sant Sadurní d’Anoia have been used over the years in the construction of La Sagrada Familia.
Corpinnat: a coalition of quality sparkling winemakers
While the sparkling wines made at Recaredo are held in high prestige, they are not technically classified as Cava.
Together with ten other wineries in the region, Recaredo has formed a new association to recognise and classify high-quality local sparkling wines. This coalition is known as Corpinnat.
The name Corpinnat translates to “born in the heart of Penedès”, which speaks to the essence of its membership criteria. Corpinnat wines must be harvested by hand, 100% from organic grapes, vinified entirely within the winery’s premises, and aged for a minimum of 18 months.
Tasting the wines
When you visit Recaredo, you can round off your experience perfectly by tasting some long-aged Corpinnat wines. It feels like a privilege to sample these special productions after witnessing the beauty of the vineyards and learning so much about the processes in the cellars.
Wine always tastes better when you are connected with its story. Lluba talked through the uniqueness and significance of each wine before we tasted them, paired with some local charcuterie and nibbles.
“In Barcelona, there is a certain prestige attached to Recaredo”, she explains. Once you have tasted the elegant and majestic flavours of Recaredo’s sparkling wines, you will see why the winery has nurtured such a distinguished reputation in the region.
More things to do in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia
Wine and cycling tour in the Penedès
Another way to experience the lush landscapes surrounding Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is to take a wine tourism cycling tour through the Penedès.
This is a great way to experience the region if you are just visiting for a day from Barcelona. Exploring on two wheels enables you to get out among the sprawling vineyards and witness the countryside beauty, while also having the chance to tour one of the family-run wineries and taste some sparkling wines.
Festivals in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia
As if having over 100 wineries wasn’t enough, there is a schedule of festivals around the year to celebrate wine and gastronomy in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.
Spread across two days in September, the Phylloxera Festival is a big street celebration of how winemaking traditions in the village endured through the ‘phylloxera plague’, a parasite that attacked grapes. There are fire displays, music performances, and of course, Cava tastings!
The beginning October is time for Cavatast, a three-day-long open-air festival celebrating Cava and local gastronomy. It’s a special time to see the village, and to enjoy wine and food tastings, take part in workshops, and see live music throughout the week.
The Corpinnat Gastronomic Festival is a new event that sees 50 dinners hosted at Corpinnat wineres (including Recaredo) between the middle of June and the end of July.
On the Penedès Turisme website you will find details of more local events and festivities.
Simón Coll chocolate
Chocolate-making has long been an important tradition in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia alongside wine cultivation. In 1840, more than three decades before Cava first arrived in the village, the Simón Coll chocolate company was established here.
Simón Coll is now with the sixth generation of the same family and still going strong. Today you can visit the ‘Espai Xocolata’ (Visitors Centre) in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.
The wonderful aroma of chocolate in production is impossible to miss outside the building, and once you step inside it is irresistible! You can take part in all sorts of chocolate-related activities here, including tours, workshops, tastings, educational movies, and seeing the production-line process as it happens.
Afterwards, make sure you stop by in the shop to take away a delicious chocolate treat. My visit happily coincided in April, and the array of huge, decorative Easter eggs were like nothing I’d ever seen before!
How to get to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia from Barcelona
Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is easy to reach by train from Barcelona on the route operated by Renfe. From Plaça Catalunya station at the heart of the city, the journey takes just 50 minutes, and trains go approximately every half hour.
The journey is a scenic one, too – you will soon find yourself gazing out of the window at the hilly countryside.
For more about the Penedès wine region and things to do, see Penedès Turisme. You can also find activities in the region and other destinations around Barcelona on Barcelona és molt més. To make the most of a trip to the city itself, see our 3 day Barcelona itinerary.
Looking for more places to visit near Barcelona? Take a look at our guide to visiting Sitges for insights into one of the prettiest towns on the Mediterranean coast.
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