The Vineyard Route

Sant Sadurní

LOOK, it’s really best if you find a non-drinker to take you there. Somebody who can appreciate the countryside, the history, the technique rather than the product, because a visit to the Alt Penedès, and specifically Sant Sadurní -the world capital of cava- may well require more than one sample of the fizzy stuff. And best leave behind anyone snobbish, or rich enough to claim that champagne is infinitely superior to cava – or perhaps they could drive you to the area and wait outside.

What await the visitor from Barcelona are acres and acres of vines, beautiful, rolling countryside a pip’s throw from the city’s major motorway arteries, and the site of Spain’s major cava vineyards. Some 80 percent of cava is produced around the corner, and the Alt Penedès is a graphic example of where the pre-Pyrenees begins to shade into the sandier and drier areas or Tarragona and further south.

THOSE WHO MASTER enough Catalan, or are just soap-addicts, may have caught an episode or two of Nissaga de Poder, running on TV3 every afternoon, and based in a fictitious Santa Eulália – clearly Sant Sadurní.

Visitors need not fear too many murders, incest or violent conflicts between wineries, at least during a day trip from Barcelona. The heart of the wine/growing area of cava is Sant Sadurní, though Vilafranca del Penedès is the chief town of the comarca, and is worth visiting of its Museu del Ví, which charts the history of wine/making in the Penedès region within its 14th-century, renovated walls in the town’s medieval centre.

Sant Sadurní

What the museum’s fine collection of Toby Jugs, best-suited for drinking beer or cider, is doing there is another matter. Leaving aside the town’s museum, and the Santa María basilisk, this fundamentally agricultural town should serve as a base for visiting the rest of this area.

JUST OUTSIDE, on the C243, you will arrive in Sant Sadurní, which is dominated by the production of cava – the biggest, and best-known being Codorníu and Freixenet, but with scores of smaller producers who cannot afford expensive Christmas-time adverts.

Of the two, Codorníu is by far the best organised for visitors, with its extensive caves, open most days throughout the year. The modernist-style building houses a wealth of examples of how cava is produced, where it is stored, and how to drink it.

It is at this latter point, following a thirsty introduction, a sample of the final product and an invitation to purchase more, that a driver who has taken the pledge could prove useful to get you home.

OR BETTER STILL, to drive you along another tour to sample Spain’s finest white wine from this same area. Many vintners advertise their wares and their willingness to proffer you a sample as you meander around the roads near Sant Sadurní.

As if all this won’t suffice to fill your day, there’s also Torres territory, where this highly-successful firm will be glad to explain to you that the Penedès region also produces some rather fine red wines, a fact that your taste buds will enjoy corroborating.

1 Comment

  1. you write well… but the ending was uncalled for..

    and btw,dads cannot make “prince charmings”!! (disturbing..)
    and long distance relationships never ever work..the only reason it “worked” now is obvious..

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