Today we have a post from our friend Timmer to share his tips for visiting vineyards near Barcelona! Timmer knows how much we love Catalan wines (we feature 10 local wines (including cava and vermouth) on our Tapas & Wine Tasting Tour, and wine tastings are included on all of our other food tours too!) and thanks to his tips we have plenty of weekend trips planned!
Big news! We also are starting a vineyard tour of our own, beginning in Spring of 2017! Check out all the details of the tour here: Barcelona Wine Country Daytrip.
Barcelona Vineyard Tours
When you normally think of visiting wine country the idea of being close to one of the top 100 metropolitan areas in the world usually isn’t in the equation. Most wine regions around the world require at least a two-hour drive from a major city, or sometimes more.
Barcelona, however, offers the opportunity to visit Catalunya wine country within a very small radius. Some of the top-rated vineyards in the world are located within 90 minutes from the city center, and there is one Denominación de Origen, DO Alella, a mere 20 minutes away!
Without further ado, here are our top five vineyard tours near Barcelona, in no particular order or ranking. It wouldn’t be fair to the many winery friends we’ve made, and the list is based on proximity to Barcelona and, in a couple of cases, historical merit.
There has been much acclaim for Alta Alella in the wine world for their fine cavas, sweet wines, and a wide selection of still wines. Giorgia runs the tours for the vineyard, under the direction of communications chief Valerie Veilleux; the depth and breadth of the tour is phenomenal. You can tour the vineyard on quads, by foot, or by bike and since it is 10 minutes from the Mediterranean beaches of Maresme, the view is breathtakingly spectacular.
The visitor center is situated near the side of one of the hills surrounding the vineyard, where you can sit, sip, spit, and drink in sight of the incredible Mediterranean sea. Alta Alella also has musical events, special dinners, Wednesday night yoga, and other events beyond just the tour. You can purchase a tour, lunch, and tasting on their website, or by contacting their office. Alella has over 27 wine varieties, so you’ll have no shortage of selection.
If you aren’t up for renting a car, you can catch the Rodalies regional train service out of Barcelona to El Masnou, only a 22 minute train ride. You’ll still have to find a way to go the 3.5 kilometres from the train station up to the vineyard. The hill is easy if you have a mountain bike, but a folding bike is not recommended. We did it on a folding bike (for the challenge), but both Michael and I are in pretty good shape.
You can do the tour in half a day, but if you’d like to take the full day, we recommend also visiting the wine museum in nearby Teia, where you can view the ancient Roman remnants of winemaking made famous by Pliny the Elder.
Tours can be conducted in Spanish, Catalan, English, and French.
We fell in love with Pau and his family vineyard, Bouquet d’Alella, in Alella. His vineyard is a straight shot up the main road from El Masnou to Alella, just north of the town limits. Pau has personalised visits where you are pampered by him and his wife, and you can even use a couple of his bicycles to tour around his vines.
The winery has been in the family since the 1400s, and the original buildings from that time are still in use on the property. You can view some incredible presses from the 1700s in their cellar, which they have on display. Bouquet d’Alella currently has four main varieties (two whites and two reds), plus a few limited edition wines and one sweet wine.
Bouquet d’Alella offers dining experiences in the vineyard, with either breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can contact them directly to set up your exact desires. Pau also has a once a month full moon dinner where you dine in the vineyard underneath nothing but moonlight, and you can watch more about it in our visit to Bouquet d’Alella. We recommend contacting them to find out what day of the month the dinners are done (which run until the weather turns too cold).
If you’re looking for a more one-on-one, or intimate winery tour experience, this is the one we recommend. Pau says his English isn’t very good, but we think it certainly is. He’s known for his humble nature and modesty, and is a wonderful host.
The history of wine in the Emporda region starts in the town of Perelada, where the Mateu family began making wine as Castillo Perelada in 1923 when Miguel Mateu purchased the vineyard which had a history dating back to the Middle Ages. Three generations of Mateus have been making wine, and their brand has worldwide recognition.
The town of Perelada is very touristy, complete with a museum to the Mateu family where you can see incredible museum pieces related to general history and wine history. In the summer, the grounds of the Castle Perelada come alive with a theatre/concert series which runs from July to August. Noteworthy national and international musicians, actors, ballet performers, and symphonies have performed in Perelada. If you’re into history, architecture, and wine, this is definitely a good stop. We recommend bringing a bit of bigger wallet, as the prices are a little higher than other places, and if you want to gamble at their casino, bring a little more.
Perelada can be paired with a visit to the Salvador Dali museum in Figueres, who was known to drink Perelada cava back in the day. You can catch the regional train service to Figueres from Barcelona via Barcelona Sants (or Passeig de Gracia, Granollers etc), and then hop a bus from Figueres to Perelada. Alternatively, it’s easy to reach via highway/rental car, a 90 minute drive from downtown Barcelona.
Tours are done in Spanish, Catalan, English, and French. Usually by the same tour guide on the same tour as we found out!
Cellers Scala Dei
The oldest vineyard and first vineyard bottled under DO Catalunya, in 1974, is Cellers Scala Dei. The 1975 Cartoixa is the vintage treasured by Josep Roca of the famous Celler de Can Roca restaurant in Girona, and their current wines are just as beautiful. Located in the DOQ Priorat, Scala Dei is full of wine history, and incredible geography.
You can create a custom tour at a custom price, or you can take one of their visits which kick off at noon and five on weekdays, or 10:30, noon, 13:30 and 17:00 on weekends and holidays. While it’s a two-hour drive from Barcelona (not many other alternatives unless you sign up with a tour company out of Barcelona), it’s worth it to see the legendary barrel room, the winery operation, and the rugged views of the surrounding Montsant mountain range.
While you’re out at Scala Dei, you MUST take in the Scala Dei monastery tour, where monks planted vines back in the 1200s. The history of the area is steeped deep in “vinocultural” aspects, and if you are a wine connoisseur, this is a must. The hiking in the region is also amazing, so if you’re into the outdoors, we recommend doing your research and take in a few of the many hiking trails in the area.
One of my favourite wines in the world comes from Scala Dei, Cartoixa, and the current vintage is just as spectacular as those from the past. Not many red wines can match the punch and the flavor from Scala Dei.
Celler Can Sais
We have some major bias towards winemaker Marta Arenas and her wines at Celler Can Sais, but she is becoming one of the legends in DO Emporda for her operation. Marta is one of the most knowledgeable winemakers in Catalunya, in an industry that has been traditionally dominated by men during the past three decades.
Celler Can Sais is not only unique as it has been developed by a Catalan woman, but the vineyard itself has been in the family for hundreds of years. The plots of Can Sais have beautiful views of the Mediterranean via Palamos, and Marta even welcomes tourists who want to come help in the harvest and learn more about the wines.
The winery buildings and the houses surrounding Can Sais have been built, renovated, and added on by each generation, to the point where it’s almost a little village in the hills of Baix Emporda. Marta’s current project is reclaiming the tiered plot, where vines had been torn out by previous generations, behind the winery building and the tasting area into a space for more reds.
We recommend pairing a visit to Can Sais with a trip to the beach at Palamos/Platja d’Aro, either spending time on the beach in the morning/early afternoon and then heading to the vineyard, or the opposite.
Can Sais has one of the most unique white wines we’ve tasted in recent years, the 2012 Mestral, which embodies all the flavors you’ll find in this region of the Mediterranean, including a subtle minerality. Marta will welcome you to her family with her warmth and exuberance. If you want to learn more about Catalan grapes, soil, and history, her vineyard is definitely a must-see.
All in all, you can easily visit a few wineries using public transportation in Spain, or via the many wine tourism operators out of Barcelona, or simply by renting a car. If you’re looking for more information on the Catalan wine scene, be sure to check out our website at catalunyawine.com.
Our Barcelona Wine Tours
Our new winery day trip from Barcelona! We will visit the nearby town of Alella and the first bodega on the list above, Alta Alella! But the trip is much more than a wine tour and tastings– on our Barcelona winery day trip you will also visit a super traditional (and impressive!) Catalan bodega, taste vermouth straight from the bottle, learn to drink from a porrón (Don’t know what that is? You’ll find out!) and have an incredible gourmet lunch with wine pairings!
No time for a day trip and looking for a wine tasting tour in Barcelona? You have to check out our 3-stop evening Barcelona tapas and wine tasting tour! You’ll visit four completely unique wine tasting spaces (think a modern Barcelona bar, a hip place to sip cava, a renowned restaurant and a super traditional Catalan bodega) and taste 10 wines and lots of delicious tapas. It’s fun– guaranteed!
About the Author:
Timmer is one-half of Catalunyawine.com, two English speaking Expats who have immersed themselves in the wine region of Catalonia, where both live full time. Timmer has been a freelance writer and copywriter for 15 years, working in a variety of industries around the world which has allowed him to explore his love for photography and videography. While developing Catalunyawine.com, Timmer has also been working on his first novel, an action thriller with a tech angle.