Just as champagne can only be called “champagne” when it is brewed in that specific region of France, “cava” (or DO cava; Denominación de Origen being the classification for region-specific high quality produce) refers to the Spanish sparkling wine produced mainly in Catalonia. Overlapping both the Barcelona and Tarragona regions is the Penedès wine region, where most cava – both white and rosé – are produced, along with other wines.
The Penedès region is roughly an hour’s drive from Barcelona (40km), making it an ideal day trip destination. Most of the cellars are located between the towns of Vilafranca del Penedès and Sant Sadurni d’Anoia.
While Penedès produces most of the cava, there is also a DO Penedès classification for cava exclusively made in this region – and it’s the first 100% organic sparkling wine appellation in the world. Most cava produced here use the Xarel·lo grape variety, which produces a smooth, medium body, with fruity and aromatic characteristics. A sub-classification of DO Penedès is the Clàssic Penedès, reserved for cava matured for at least 15 months in the cellar, effectively making them Reservas.
SANT SADURNI D’ANOIA
The main village to visit is Sant Sadurni d’Anoia (aka the capital of cava), which has the largest concentration of cava cellars in the area, most within walking distance.
The village is easily accessible by train from Barcelona (under €10 euros round trip), with two trains every hour. Most cellars run tours of their vineyards and cellars, and end with a cava tasting session, including some of cava’s bigger names like Codorniu and Freixenet.
Established in 1861, Freixenet’s tour involves a mini train tour through their vineyard and the cellar which dates back to the 1920s. Codorniu holds more than 450 years of history, featuring some of the town’s best architecture and cellars. The tour takes you to the Sala Puig (Cathedral of Cava), the “Celler Gran” Museum and winery, and underground cellars.
You can also visit a number of small, family-run cellars that produce wine and cava, including Pares Balta, Gramona, Cavas Nadal, and Albet I Noia, which also produces Clàssic Penedès cava along with Loxarel, whose cellar is located in an old air-raid shelter used during the Spanish civil war.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS
Every year on the second week of October, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia holds the Cava Week festival which celebrates everything cava, with events including concerts, carnival, and a bike race. During Cava Week a smaller festival, Cavatast, is held in the centre of town and focuses on pairing gastronomy and cava.
During the fall harvest season (Sep-Oct), wineries and accommodations along the Penedès Wine and Cava Route – like Castellroig and Cavas Nadal – offer visitors the opportunity to observe the production process, while the Jean Leon Winery has workshops on how to differentiate wines by their aroma.
Sant Sadurní d’Anoia has a total of 7 different trekking routes, ranging from a 3km cultural walk to a 21km trek to other villages around Penedės. There are also plenty of guided bicycle tours of the Penedès region which take you past cellar doors and vineyards in the beautiful rolling countryside.