(extracted of web page http://www.dopenedes.es/en
by M.Angel Menor).
The D.O. Penedès is noted for its excellent white wines, fresh, fruity and with moderate alcohol content, while its reds are soft, with velvety texture and character. The rosés are fragrant and fruity. There are some outstanding sparkling wines, with intense and persistent aromas. The flagship grape variety of this region, which stands out among the 18 authorized varieties, is Xarel.lo making it the icon of the Denominació d'Origen.
The two most important items in the vilafranca del penedès Wine Museum show the existence of vines in the penedès area before the 4th Century BC, introduced by the Ancient Greeks [phocensis]. These two items. of great archaeological value, are two press plates discovered in excavations of two different Iberian villages located in the Penedès region.
At the end of the 19th Century, specifically in 1872, the "sparkling wine of the Penedès" came to life. After the catastrophe caused by phylloxera, the renewal of the vines allowed for important evolution, as right from the very start cavas of very high quality were made that in a very short period of time were conquering very large markets. During this century cava has kept up this quality tendency supported by the winegrowing sector.
The vine knows no frontiers nor geographical nor political boundaries established by man, for this reason the Appellation of Origin Penedès extends over the whole of the Penedès region.
Between the coastal hills and the narrow plains of the Mediterranean coast, right in the heart of the central depression, the vines of the Penedès region are grown and ripen. We are talking about a surface area of 1557 km2 (600 mi2) divided into three separate areas: the Upper Penedès, the Central Penedès and the Lower Penedès.
The influence of the sea and the sun makes the Penedès region an area with a mild, warm climate, most suitable for growing traditional white grape varieties such as Xarel·lo and Macabeo; and also red varieties such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cariñena and Monastrell.
On the other hand in the Central Penedès or Middle Penedès temperatures are lower. On its hillsides Xarel·lo and Macabeo are also cultivated, the majority of these grapes being for cava production. Recently, and as a result of the constant innovations and experimentation carried out by winegrowers in the area, foreign varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, as well as Cabernet Franc, pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot, have been planted and have acclimatised well.
There is still a more inland and protected area, the Upper Penedès, with altitudes of up to 800 metres (2600 feet) above sea level. It is not in vain that the experts say that these vineyards are possibly the highest in Europe. This is the area where the parellada variety is traditionally grown, a native white variety of the Penedès. In recent years the planting of other white varieties from France and Germany, Muscat d’Alexandrie, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Chenin Blanc, has become widely extended.
The land of the Penedès is quite varied but the majority is under cultivation and is of very similar characteristics.
The soil here is deep, neither particularly sandy nor sufficiently clayey, permeable and with good rain water retention. As often happens with quality winegrowing land, in the Penedès the earth is poor in organic matter, calcareous and not particularly fertile.
The geology of the region is quite varied despite the limited surface area of the Penedès. The soil of the Upper and Lower Penedès, where the majority of cultivation takes place is made up of miocene, continental and maritime sediments of considerable thickness, and at certain points is covered by quaternary sediments. The coastal hills are formed by triassic, cretaceous and oceanic material. And on the coastal hillsides disintegrated calcareous cretaceous material predominates, with small miocene plots that are still cultivated.
The surface area under vine in the Penedès is 26,000 hectares (64,000 acres) with a planting density of 2,300 to 3,000 vines per hectare (930-1200 vines per acre) and some trellised varieties such as Chardonnay or pinot Noir have a planting density of up to 5,000 vines per hectare (2000 vines per acre), requiring less production from the vine in order to grow a higher quality grape. There is a predominance of small and medium sized exploitations, and a further identifying characteristic of the Penedès stands out in that the majority of the wine producers make wine harvested from their own vines, looking after the product from the very start, right to the end of the process. This care and personalised follow-up is clearly noted in the end result of those winegrowers who make their wine from their own vines. We are referring to wines which are cared for, wines with class. In short, wines with their own style.
One of the factors which make it possible for wine of excellent quality to be produced in the Penedès is the climate. The area of the Appellation of Origin Penedès has many different microclimates, a result of its nearness to the coast and high ground, in this latter case extremely varied, since it reaches 700 metres (2,300 ft) where there are vines growing on slopes.
Generally speaking, the climate of the Penedès is typically Mediterranean, Catalan coastal and pre-coastal, that is to say mild and warm. The area of the Lower Penedès is warmer due to the influence of the sea. The Upper Penedès is an area of typical pre-coastal climate, where frosts are far more frequent and the contrast between the maximum and minimum temperatures is greater. In certain areas there is an annual rainfall of some 900 litres per square metre (18.6 gallons per square foot). At El Vendrell (Lower Penedès) the average temperature is 14.4ºC (58ºF) and at Vilafranca (Central Penedès) 12ºC (54ºF): very favourable temperatures for vine cultivation.