VINSEUM Catalan Wine Cultures Museum in the Penedes Wine Region
VINSEUM Catalan Wine Cultures Museum at Villafranca in the Penedes wine region, southwest of Barcelona, is one of the most engaging wine museums in the world. Forget about the gift shop. This museum tour ends with a tasting in the bar.
VINSEUM Catalan Wine Cultures Museum, in the town of Villafranca in Spain‘s Penedes wine region southwest of Barcelona, was one of our stops on our five-day tour to taste 50 Great Cavas and learn about Catalan cuisine (including how to eat calcots).
On a previous trip to the Catalan capital we had learnt what makes Cava special, and had been told that we needed to “go to Penedès and drink the Cava” to “really feel the place!” But we’d learnt little about the region itself and its long viticultural history. VINSEUM provided just that.
VINSEUM Catalan Wine Cultures Museum
“What does a glass of wine contain? A wish, a memory, a story…” our guide at VINSEUM, the Villafranca wine museum had suggested poetically to our small group at the start of our morning visit.
By the time we’d finished the tour we’d learnt that a glass of vino contains so much more than grapes, yeast and sugar.
Set in an historic palace opposite the handsome cathedral in the centre of Villafranca, the VINSEUM museum, which reopened two years ago after an impressive remodelling, is the first museum dedicated to wine and Cava in Catalonia.
We began our visit on the top floor of VINSEUM with an introduction by our guide Cecilia to the collections, including archaeological relics that demonstrated the long history and origins of wine in the region.
An audio visual presentation, enhanced by timed illumination of displays, told us that wine was introduced to Spain 2,700 years, when it arrived by sea, most probably with the Phoenicians, whilst a collection of objects related to the history of the vine and wine in Catalunya included treasures such as the oldest grape seeds dating to the 7th century BC.
“Viticulture became important under the Romans who were already organising their wines by age,” Cecilia revealed as she described the beginnings of viniculture in Catalonia and the disastrous affect of phylloxera on the early industry.
Many grape varieties were lost although it was thanks to phylloxera that oenology began after more scientific techniques were introduced to the study of wine.
Another video delved deeper into the winemaking process. It explained the many parameters used to measure, monitor and identify wine quality, from using Ph levels to gauge acidity to calculating sugar content to check alcohol. It also demonstrated with cute animations how yeast consumes sugar and once it’s consumed all we’re left with is wine.
Downstairs we browsed displays of ancient amphorae from Iberia, Rome, North Africa used to transport wine across the sea, along with beautiful old bottles and the very first barrel labels.
In VINSEUM’s final room, windows gave onto the leafy streets of Villafranca and the splendid city cathedral, while an ornate Gothic alter piece from 1456 reminded us of the religious uses of wine, and a handsome antique bar of its immeasurable social value. Not that we needed any reminders.
Most museum tours end in the gift shop but at VINSEUM visitors finish with a tasting in the bar, included in the €7 fee (along with an audio tour). The stylish little bar specialises in wine from Catalunya and is open to the public. It was in the museum bar that we got to sample yet another range of fine Catalan cavas. Visit the museum before you tour the region and start your tastings.
A version of this post was re-published on the blog of Wine Pleasures, which hosted our Penedes trip to visit wineries and meet winemakers.