Cava – Spain’s answer to champagne – is grown largely in the Penedès region, which also produces quality white wines and sturdy reds. “Cava” simply means cellar, and was the word chosen when the French objected to the word champagne. The eminently drinkable, and very affordable, sparkling wine is usually defined by its sugar content: seco (literally “dry”) has around half the sugar of a semi-seco (“very sweet”). In addition to selling cheap bottles of bubbly, the region’s famous bodegas often offer informative tours and tastings, and are located in stunning properties, attractions in themselves. Most can be found in the Penedès region near the town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, about 30km west of Barcelona, and easily accessible via the highway that zips right past it. The countryside around Vilafranca de Penedès, 15km southwest of Sant Sadurní, is also dotted with wineries, including wine giant Torres. There are regular trains from Estació-Sants Barcelona to Sant Sadurní (40min) and Vilafranca de Penedès (50min).
Around Sant Sadurní d’Anoia
Codorníu Avgda. Jaume Codorníu, just outside Sant Sadurní d’Anoia t938 913 342, wcodorniu.com. Codorníu, one of Spain’s best-known cava brands, is credited with bringing champagne production to Spain in 1872. On a tour, you’ll explore the cellars, view the beautiful modernista premises designed by Josep Maria Puig i Cadafalch and enjoy a tasting at the end. Reservations are essential – you can call, email or book online. The winery is about 2km from the highway and well signposted. Tours €6. Mon–Fri 9am–5pm, Sat & Sun 9am–1pm.
Freixenet c/Joan Sala 2, visible from the highway t938 917 096, wfreixenet.com. This celebrated producer offers interesting tours which include a visit to their oldest cellars, originally excavated in 1922, a ride on a tourist train around the winery and samples of bubbly. There’s also a well-stocked shop. Tours must be booked in advance, either by phone or the website. Tours €6.10. Consult the website for information on hours.
Jean Leon Pago Jean Leon, El Pla del Penedès, 10km west of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia t938 995 512, wjeanleon.com. Owned by Torres, the boutique wine-maker Jean Leon features an American-modernist-inspired visitor centre set in particularly bucolic surroundings. Tours include a visit to the vineyards, the wine cellars, ageing barrels and a small museum, followed by a tasting. They also offer Segway tours for groups. Book in advance, via phone or web. Tours €10. Mon–Fri 9am–6pm, Sun 9am–1pm.
Around Vilafranca del Penedès
Bodegas Torres Finca el Maset, Pacs del Penedès, 3km northwest of town t938 177 487, wtorres.es. Torres, one of Spain’s big-name wine producers, leads well-organized tours, which include trundling through the fragrant vineyards in a small tourist train, slick audiovisual presentations and a tasting at the end. Oenophiles can opt for a more in-depth experience with wine-tasting classes on Saturdays (4–6.30pm; €22). Tours €6.10. Mon–Sat 9.15am–4.45pm, Sun 9.15am–1pm.