The Mediterranean Coast Wine Area Map

The Mediterranean Coast

This massive area includes much of present day Cataluña; there is a DO by that name as well that encompasses many of the top areas. These vineyard areas, whether near or far from the coast, share exposure to the warm winds of the Mediterranean. Many of the vineyards can be fairly moderate in climate and coastal, as in Alella, or remote and mountainous, as in Priorat. In Cataluña, elevation and proximity to the sea are crucial to understanding what is made there and why.

Alella offers some delicious whites from the Pansa Blanca grape (known as Xarel-lo in Cava country); it can be aromatic and expressive. White wines prosper in a number of sites along the Mediterranean, though not as frequently as the reds. Empordá makes some generous and textured Garnacha Blanca based wines, as do Montsant and Priorat. The Penedés region, home of 95% of the country’s Cava, is awash in white grapes: Parellada, Macabeo (or Viura) and Xarel-lo (or Pansa Blanca).

Alella's white, flowery wines and its lesser known red ones, come from a very old vineyard area which has been receding in the last forty years under the pressure of urban development.

Today the DO is only a third of its original size when it was created in 1956, although in 1989 it was extended to spread up the slopes of the coastal mountains.

In the 1980s a series of new grapes were introduced here and wines were modernised, revealing new potential. Wineries are urban farmsteads built up stepped slopes which drop away to the sea.

The range of altitudes governs which grape varieties are grown and what kind of wine is made in which part of the vineyard.

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The DO Catalunya was created in 1999 covering all the traditional grape planting areas, putting on top of the existing catalan DO's and offering the DO's certification for wineries located in excluded DO areas with high quality wines.

The DO Catalunya allows the wine's production with greater regulatory flexibility, affording cupages between varieties from different regions, with the aim to provide a commercial product with a symbol of identity, respecting its origin's philosophy and the qualitative procedures generally admitted.

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Cava, a sparkling wine which is made in exactly the same way as Champagne, has fully established its identity in markets abroad in the last thirty years. Native grapes, a warmer climate and the growing country all contribute to its distinctive character. The heartland of Cava making is the country around Sant Sadurní d'Anoia in southern Barcelona province, where specialised bodegas - or Cava houses - have been producing on a commercial scale since the end of the 19th century. Today this area makes 85% of all Cava. However, today's regulated growing area includes 160 muncipalities in seven Spanish regions.

As for Champagne, each producer makes a particular cuvée from vineyards anywhere within the demarcated zone. The Cuvée may be one of seven types of Cava, distinguished by the level of sweetness. The bodegas are highly mechanized. It was here, for example, that the mechanization of bottle-turning was invented.

Cava's name derives from the Spanish word for an underground cellar, which became the term for the production method now known simply as 'método tradicional' (traditional method), in Spanish, and is now protected, so that bottles do not necessarly have to quote the DO status. New developments include the increased planting of Chardonnay grapes, vinification in satellite bodegas built in the vineyards, and a review of regulations to introduce the quoting of the vintage year on labels of Brut and Brut Nature Cavas.

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Protected from the sea by the mountains, this denomination, long known for its white wines, is located in southern Catalonia, between the provinces of Tarragona and Lérida, in the basin carved out by the Francoli and Anguera rivers.

Producers in this DO are now beginning to diversify with new grapes to make both white and red wines. The future of these wines has great potential given the excellent qualities of the terrain and climate as well as the location of the vineyards and the investment being made in new equipment.

The vineyards are for the most part quite young, designed with modern cultivation for and meticulous care. Less promising varieties are increasingly being replaced by others of higher quality.

At present, a large proportion of the production from the vineyards in this denomination of origin, 5,094 hectares in total, is allotted to the production of base wine for Cava.

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Costers del Segre - which means 'the banks of the River Segre', a tributary of the Ebro - was created less than twenty years ago. However, it has seen many changes since then, with both cooperative and private bodegas incorporating new subzones and experimental grapes from abroad alongside traditional native varieties.

Today that has produced a series of wines with great personal character, some of them considered among the most unusual in Spain, their styles based on intelligent blending of local grapes with recently planted French varieties. At the same time, thanks to the climate and soil conditions, there is also plenty of potential for future development.

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Growers and winemakers in the vineyards of Empordà have turned their attention to healthier clones of vines and new fermentation technology. As a result this area promises to become a producer of high quality wines.

Although this is traditionally cooperative country, new small family bodegas, often guided by young oenologists, are springing up. They, too, are renovating vinification methods. Traditionally sweet natural wines have been the speciality here, as in France, just over the border, but today the bodegas are winning recognition for modern young reds.

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Approved as a DO at a regional level in autumn 2002, this young denomination had already acquired considerable prestige as the Falset subzone of Tarragona DO.

The vineyards fall in spectacularly beautiful hilly country, sharing the slopes with almond and olive groves and pines. The land forms a horseshoe around Priorato, but the wines here have a clear identity of their own. 

In the Montsant winemaking region with 1,900 hectares of vineyard and a global production of 5 million bottles, the difference is centred  on the local grape varieties: Grenache and Carignan, grown on Montsant soils, influenced by its climate and blended with recently introduced grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot). Production is divided between cooperatives and family bodegas, which are often advised by locally trained young oenologists.

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Penedès has long been associated with innovative vineyards and wineries. In the 1970s, it became the first area in Spain to use stainless steel equipment and cold-fermentation. Since then the Penedès producers have been making excellent modern wines blending native with French varieties.

They are helped by the variety of altitudes, landscapes and microclimates which allow many different grapes to grow well here. More recently there has been extensive research work on recovering native varieties, on the development of integrated and organic cultivation techniques, and on experiments with further new varieties and densities of planting. There is a wine museum in the area's main town, Vilafranca del Penedès.

Since 2013 a number of new producers have joined the DO increasing the weight of quality sparkling wines, always produced in much smaller quantities than still wines. In 2014 these wines are given the brand name of Clàssic Penedès, and a new line of regulations is drawn up to better define the sparkling: organic, only from Penedés and Reserva (the producers must hold Clàssic Penedés wines for at least 15 months in the cellar).

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Bagés is a small but old winemaking area that has been enjoying a resurgence thanks to the work of pioneering bodegas who won regional DO status in 1995, then national status in 1998.

Small family-owned wineries and larger cooperatives are studying new production methods and new varieties. For the time being native grapes, especially Picapoll and Macabeo, predominate, but it seems likely that the French varieties so well adapted to the climate and terrain here will soon become the focus of attention.

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On July 6 2009, Priorat becomed the second Spanish wine region to be promoted as DOCa (Qualified Designation of Origin) nationwise, a higher category reserved for wines maintaining a proven consistency and quality over a long period of time. Since 2000 Priorat has endorsed this higher quality designation mention at an autonomic level as approved by the Catalan government.

Priorato - called Priorat in Catalan - is a small, unique pocket of black hills where powerful, deep red wines of superb quality have been made for over eight centuries.

Located in the province of Tarragona, the QDO leaped to fame in the last decade after producers began to apply new technologies in their winemaking. Since then the vineyards, planted at the beginning of the eighties with French as well as native varieties, have produced the acclaimed ‘new Prioratos’. Today these wines have become some of the best known not only in Spain but also internationally.

The quality of the wines, both the traditional and the new, is founded on a unique microclimate and soil. It is this terroir and the mixture of old and new wines that have made Priorato one of the most closely watched European growing areas.

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Tarragona is one of the largest of Catalonia's wine DOs with the right soils and climate to produce anything from young red, rosé and white wines to others approaching good port in their style and maturity. This was its best-known wine in other centuries.

Currently the production area extends through 73 municipalities located mainly in the regions of Camp de Tarragona and part of the Ribera d´Ebre.

Today its full-bodied aromatic whites, which make up nearly three-quarters of production, and younger red wines are finding their way on to the market.

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This rural denomination of origin in southern Catalonia is comprised of both new wineries and long-established and experienced cooperatives that cultivate both native and imported grape varieties. The DO consists of a total of 12 municipalities located in the west of the province of Tarragona.

As the name of the growing area indicates, it is situated in rolling hill country of great beauty, captured by Picasso in paintings during summers that he spent here.

Due largely to its geographical isolation, this area primarily produced wine for its own local market until recently, and it continues to preserve a variety of traditional winemaking methods. At the same time, small private wineries and larger cooperatives are now also producing very good Mediterranean red wines. There is considerable investment in new technology. 

Some of the cooperatives in this DO were built in the 1920s and are famed for their Modernist design by César Martinell, a student of Antonio Gaudi. Pinell de Brai and Gandesa are considered outstanding examples.

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Bullas is the youngest of the Murcian denominations although it is an old growing area. The vines are spread over a very large area running down from the region's sierras, bordering on to Andalucía in the west, towards the Mediterranean plains.

The red and rosé wines made from their grapes have a distinctive character acquired from the Monastrell grape grown in its southernmost territory but nonetheless with a cool, sierra-influenced climate.

The granting of DO status later in the day than the other Murcian growing areas has encouraged the search for quality through experimental planting of new varieties for red, rosé and white wines vinified in new wine-making equipment. Harvests have risen considerably in the last seven years and export began in 1999.

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Jumilla DO was created in 1996. Its current regulations were approved in November 1995, replacing those of May 1975. Last amendment is from April 2012.

It is one of the oldest DO in Spain. Jumilla's wines have been revealing new potential since the early 1990s. Careful harvesting and investment in new equipment has improved the wines' quality. The result is a new generation of elegant wines, some organic, and the majority young, in which the Monastrell grape is showing remarkable results in the hands of skilled winemakers. Jumilla wines have, therefore, begun to make an impact abroad.

Associated to this DO a wine route has been created, Ruta del Vino de Jumilla, to develop tourism around wine. Among its attractions it offer a wine museum, and archeological museum and an etnographic museum. In mid-August a week-long festival celebrates the arrival of the grape harvest.

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Yecla, once a farming town and today a furniture-making centre, is surrounded by nearly 8,325 hectares of vineyards. Of these, three quarters are classified for making DO wines. Designation of Origin is made only with the lands of the municipality of Yecla, northeast of the Region of Murcia, in southeastern Spain.

In 1975 the Ministry of Agriculture awarded the PDO to this earth and adopted its first regulation. It is from this moment when a quiet, slow revolution, pioneered by small private wineries and cooperatives here in the mid-1980s , has allowed the area to start producing red wines made with temperature-controlled stainless steel equipment. Thanks to this special effort, those fortified wines of the past have now become much more balanced, and have gained enormously in aromatic complexity.

The low yields give concentrated wines with great potential. The number of vineyards registered with the Regulatory Council is steadily increasing, a clear indication of local producers’ interest in quality. Some wines have already won their place among the most prestigious in the Spanish winemaking world, and one of Spain's largest cooperatives is located here.

Although there are no subzones, the Campo Arriba district is outstanding for producing grapes with a higher extract than other DO areas. 

Yecla uses a wide variety of wine styles, although mainly produces red wines, which are based on the variety Monastrell alone or with other approved varieties, specific varietal Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot are also produced is obtained.

Protected Designation of Origin Yecla is a dynamic appellation, with great export potential, since about 95% of its production is sold outside Spain, is present in over 40 countries worldwide.

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In the last ten years, Alicante DO has been winning respect for its new light, fresh wines and interesting varietal reds produced by pioneering bodegas.

The winelands divide between two contrasting areas. The largest one is the arid valley of the Rio Vinalopó, which stretches behind Alicante city (also called Alacant in Valencian dialect). Here the Monastrell grape shares the vineyards with new varieties. The second smaller one, incorporated into the DO in 1987, is La Marina, on the northern coast, where Moscatel grapes flourish in the warm, humid climate.

Alongside the new red wines emerging here, Alicante’s classic dessert wine, Fondillon, has been exported for centuries and is enjoying a renaissance. This traditional wine is made from grapes allowed to over ripen on the vine; it has a high alcohol content and turns from red to amber with ageing.

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Located in the western part of the Valencia Region, this is the largest and the most homogeneous inland of this area’s three DOs . It is named after two neighbouring towns, Utiel and Requena.

Today it is establishing its own identity, promoting the Bobal grape, and at the same time, producers are learning to take maximum advantage of the excellent growing conditions, particularly well adapted to organic vineyards. In addition, the area has attracted increased investment in new, well-equipped bodegas and replanted varieties. As a result, red wines are now being made up to Gran Reserva level.

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Winemaking in the northern part of Valencia region - spelled València in the local language, is dominated by old growing areas around Valencia, Spain's third largest city.

Their reds, rosés and whites include famed dessert wines from a variety of grapes grown in four distinct subzones. Each has its own wine-making traditions.

Thanks to centuries of export through the city's port, production here is more strongly focussed on markets outside Spain than those at home, which has worked as an impetus to keep quality high throughout the 20th century. A formalised arrangement allows Valencia DO bodegas to buy in wine from neighbouring Utiel-Requena, as needed for each vintage, and permits laboratory methods allowing the wines to be tracked in the bottle.

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