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Cava, the bubbly wine from mediterranean coast

The Mediterranean Coast region encompasses the entire eastern coast of Spain from Andalucía in the south to its border with France in the north. A wide range of wines are produced here, from excellent Cava and fragrant whites to deeply coloured, earthy and dense reds. The Mediterranean Sea moderates the temperatures here, allowing for a more even climate year round.

In the far northeast, Cataluña features higher elevations and close proximity to the moderating influence of the sea. Almost all of Spain’s Cava production is here, but the terrain is so varied it allows for a wider variety of wine styles. For instance, the mountains are crucial to the powerful and complex wines of Priorat, but the coastal vineyards of Alella, although elegant and refined, couldn’t be more different in strength and style. Other DO’s here include Penedes, Terra Alta, Montsant, Tarragona and Pia de Bages. Red grapes are from Garnacha, Cariñena, Monastrell, and whites from Macabeo, Parallada and Xarel-lo. There are also a smattering of French grapes like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot.

Travelling south, the climate becomes much hotter and the instance of lighter bodied, delicate wines becomes markedly reduced. There are many excellent wines made along the coast here, in the DO’s of Alicante, Jumilla and Bullas, many boasting vines that are decades old that have been able to survive even in the scarcity of water. In fact, in terms of rain it could be seen as ‘feast or famine’ – with the typical state of drought interspersed with torrential rains. Airen is the most widely planted white, followed by Macabeo Chardonnay, Malvasia and Moscatel. Reds are dominated by Monastrell, Cencibel, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

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Yecla abuts Jumilla in the far south of the region, and is famous for its Monastrell – also known as Mourvèdre in France. Old head-trained bush vines flourish in this hot region, yielding a wine with spicy, peppery characteristics that is also long on value.

Priorat in the north is an old winemaking region that has enjoyed a modern reinvention of late. The high altitude terraced hillside slate vineyards are home to old vines of Garnacha and Cariñena, often blended with French varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot. This DO has a huge reputation for quality wines of distinctive character, and some of Spain’s hottest young winemakers have made it synonymous with quality, and sometimes price. The slate soil here is very unique, and looks like broken chunks of chalkboard strewn over the hillsides. Called ‘llicorella’, it is easy to see that harvesting and tending the vines can’t be an easy task. The same could be said of the work the vines themselves must do, their roots having to dig deep to find the water and nutrients they need to thrive. The region immediately surrounding Priorat is called Montsant, and is a great alternative if you are interested in checking out Priorat but don’t want the price commitment.

Cava is the Spanish term for sparkling wine produced via the ‘Traditional Method’, as in Champagne. It is generally a blend of three grapes: Macabeo (also known as Viura), Parellada, and Xarel-lo. Cava is more of a category than a region, as it is not relegated to geography, though ironically, most Cava is produced in or around Penedés.

Other DO’s in the Mediterranean Region include Valencia, Alicante, Bullas, Cataluna, Alella, Costers del Segre, Montsant, Penedés, Tarragona, Empordà, Conca de Barberà, Terra Alta, Pla de Bages and Utiel-Requena.

© Picture: Bodegas Torres

by Rafael Segovia, Wine Enthusiast