Wine Tourism Heritage: the vineyards’ legacy
Wine tourism in Catalonia explores the millennial journey that has been the exploitation of the vineyard and the production of wine in our country, in a tour through wineries, soils, terroirs, and varieties.
The history of vine cultivation and winemaking in Catalonia begins 2500 years ago, with the Iberian, Greek, and Roman peoples who settled here. The latter, since the time of Augustus, did not want to waste the exceptional conditions of this land for wine production, and in the first century BC the wines of Tarragona were the most prized by the Roman legions.
After all this time, the heritage we have been given, bound at the culture of the vineyard and the wine, scatters around almost all the Catalan territory. In the Alella Designation of Origin (DO), for example, you can visit the remains of a Roman winery and the two largest reconstructed Roman presses in Europe, all dated to the first century BC.
Alella Vinícola, the first cooperative winery in Catalonia, was founded in the same town of Maresme in 1906. Its building, completed in 1907, is the work of Jeroni Martorell i Terrats, an architect trained in modernism alongside others such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch. It may not have been the most colourful or the most remarkable, but it gave way to a list of modernist properties associated with the impressive wine production.
The cathedrals of wine in Catalonia
Thus was impressed the writer Angel Guimerà who, when visiting the Cooperative Winery in l’Espluga de Francolí, found it so monumental, that he named it exactly this way: “the cathedral of wine”. Today this magnificent building houses a Wine Museum, but it is not the only winery that has become a heritage element of modernism: we find up to six more villages in the region that have their “cathedral”, such as Montblanc, Pira, or Barberà de la Conca.
Modernism, as an architectural movement, found in this area an unbeatable space to express itself. These are wineries characterized by the same style, large, with spectacular naves and Catalan vaulted ceilings, as well as unmistakable façades. Great architects such as Cèsar Martinell (who was a disciple of Antoni Gaudí), Pere Domènech i Roura, or the already mentioned Jeroni Martorell worked on them.
The area between Conca de Barberà, Alt Camp, Priorat, and Terra Alta, where the Gandesa Cooperative Winery is, concentrates the most significant number of Cooperative Wineries that today are part of the list of Wine Cathedrals, as the book by Raquel Lacuesta and Angle Editorial details in depth. In fact, this monumental heritage extends to many other Catalan counties and DOs, such as Anoia and Vallès, or Costa Daurada.
The impetus of wine tourism: a sector that moves millions
For many of these centuries-old cooperatives the path has never been easy, but well worked out, and so it remains. Production must reach levels of quality for an increasingly understanding and demanding consumer. The work is hard and not everyone feels able to do it: depopulation greatly affects many rural areas. Wineries and DOs know that the advantage of heritage and the momentum of wine tourism cannot be let slip, and they work on it. The latest reports before the pandemic by the ACEVIN (Spanish Association of Wine Cities) estimated that the turnover generated by wine tourism reached 240 million euros in 2019, with the routes of the Penedès among the top positions with the most visitors.
Today we can find a strong wine tourism sector in Catalonia, with a very varied range of destinations. The twelve Catalan DOs, which plant vineyards from the Pyrenees to the Ebro and the limits of Aragon, today offer routes, experiences, and interpretation centres, both for the traveller and for the lover of wine or cava who wants to have a greater knowledge. And there is also the Route of the cork in the town of Cassà, an industry more than three centuries old. A sustained effort to preserve and teach the legacy of a wine culture with a very long history.
11Once supports the country’s wine sector, as the main sponsor of the Vinari Awards 2021. If you want to know the winners of the summer awards and the best wine tourism proposals, you will find them here.
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