Best Cava wineries near Barcelona are peppered around the Penedès wine region, just 50 kilometres southwest of the capital of Catalunya, Spain. We get a taste of what makes Cava so special, and why the Spanish sparkling wine matches so well with food, on a road trip through the Cava producing region.
The best cava wineries near Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya, Spain, are in the Penedès Wine Region and can be visited by car, train, or on a guided tour. We explored the Penedès on a road trip with a small group of wine writers.
While they were there for the wine, we had a quest of our own. Not only did we want to get a taste of what makes Cava so special, we also wanted to find out if what the Catalan Cava makers we’d met on our previous trip had told us: that Cava matches so well with food, it goes with absolutely anything.
Best Cava Wineries Near Barcelona – A Penedès Wine Region Road Trip
I am a woman on a mission. On our last trip to Barcelona we met a man and I fell in love – with Cava. The dashing gentleman in the dark suit and striped tie was Josep Elías Terns, owner-winemaker of Parato winery in the Penedès wine region, 50 kilometres southwest of Barcelona. As he poured us glasses of the crisp, light, elegant Catalan sparkling wine that is to the Spanish what Champagne is to the French, he told us something I would never forget.
“Ferran Adrià said that Cava is the only wine that can match 25 dishes,” Josep pronounced with pride. “It’s like with music. Sometimes you want classical, sometimes you want rock, but then there is music that goes with everything.”
Josep’s revelation about the master of modern Catalan cuisine’s theory on Cava was music to my ears. I’d thought the Spanish sparkling wine was for quaffing at barbecues. Champagne was for toasting serious celebrations like weddings and anniversaries.
I would sip Cava in the sunshine on a summer’s afternoon but at a restaurant I would order Champagne. While Cava might serve as a cheeky aperitif and could easily cut through a rich dessert, I couldn’t envisage glasses of bubbles enduring a degustation menu. Or so I thought at the time.
Best Cava Wineries Near Barcelona – A Penedès Wine Region Road Trip
Four years later, and Terence and I were on a plane to Spain and then a train trundling through the Catalan capital’s lacklustre suburbs toward Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, the gateway to the Penedès wine region to visit the best Cava wineries near Barcelona.
We were on our way to meet some wine writer friends to test the theory out over five days of tasting the best Spanish Cavas on a Penedès wine region road trip – tastings that we were assured would be accompanied by the breadth of dishes from the Catalan region’s renowned gastronomy.
Soon after the red brick apartment buildings with green canvas awnings gave way to red-roofed farmhouses and gently undulating hills planted with ancient vines, my train was pulling into the station opposite the Cava house, Freixenet, which famously introduced Cava to the world in the 1980s. While the familiar black bottle was credited with making Cava the number one imported sparkling in the world, over the course of our trip we’d hear time and again that “it’s not really Cava”.
Our new friend Oriol Ripoll, director of Decántalo, an online Cava retailer and distributor, sells some 200 Cavas although he claims the Consejo Regulador del Cava, the Cava Regulatory Board has 246 registered. Some 56 Cavas on a 50 Great Cava list compiled by Penedès-based wine marketing company Wine Pleasures have received gold and silver awards, but Freixenet does not have a sparkling on the list. I ask Oriol what distinguishes a great Cava?
“A good expression of terroir above all,” Oriol believes. “The wine should have fled all preconceived ideas of Cava, as it should have decades of personality from the winery and should be rich in variety… there are differences in latitude, geography, weather, and grape varieties used, so there are great differences between the wines.”
Adernats Wine Cooperative
At our first stop, the Adernats wine co-operative at the Vinícola de Nulles, a short drive from the village of Nulles, we soon learn about the terroir. Standing on a gravelly, sloped track, surveying the vineyards, a salty sea breeze wafts over the vines and caresses my cheek.
The setting isn’t picturesque in the way that the pretty northeast of France is where Champagne’s grapes grow in neat rows, surrounded by manicured lawns and lines of perfectly pruned hedges.
Here the craggy vines twist down hills and into rocky gullies. Scrubby bushes and wild herbs encroach, as do groves of walnut and olive trees. I scramble over a stony clay track, kicking sizeable pieces of slate and limestone pebbles from my path.
I spot the jagged blue ridges of the mountain range of Montserrat, which I will see all week, watching over us wherever we go. The Penedès has that wild rugged beauty of the Mediterranean – along with its flavours and fragrances. The air is perfumed with the scents of pine, thyme and rosemary. I will see, smell, taste, and feel all of this in each Cava I sip.
My first chance to test out the El Bulli chef’s theory follows soon after at dinner, held high in the vaulted ceiling of the Modernist winery, built in 1920, and cathedral-like in design. Andernats holds these candle-lit dinners for the public monthly.
Of the Cavas, and wines made from Xarel·lo, Macabeu and Parellada, the three native grapes traditionally used to make Cava, the best pairing for me is the starter: the Catalan summer soup of tomato and watermelon gazpacho with marinated fresh anchovies that we sip with Andernat’s aromatic Essencia Cava.
The next morning, in the village of Puigdàlber, we amble to a misty hilltop vineyard before settling around an antique table in the cavernous dining room of the sandstone farmhouse at Mas Codina to sample their Cavas.
Here we breakfast on a range of bubblies with Catalan cold cuts and cheeses, but it’s the heady Gran Reserva Brut Nature, aged 42 months in the cellar, that best holds up to the rich creamy goats cheese from the Pyrenees foothills, the sweet, oily melt-in-your-mouth Jamon Ibérico, and a spicy chorizo sausage that is too pungent for a Champagne.
Lunch is at the family-owned Llopart winery, established in Subirats in 1887, where the lovely Jeci Llopart greets us outside the sleek contemporary tasting rooms with glasses of their crimson Rosé Brut Reserva. A fifth-generation winemaker Jeci runs Llopart with her three siblings. I first met Jeci on that Barcelona trip four years ago when I fell hard for Cava.
After trying the gamut of Cava grape varietals, which we carefully pluck straight from the vine, we hike up the hill to the original old family farmhouse, where we savour sweeping vistas of the Penedès valley and majestic Montserrat.
We climb down into the dank cellars that lie deep beneath the vineyards and make our way back through the bottling area to the tasting room. Here, an expansive spread of traditional, regional dishes and contemporary tapas has been laid out to accompany our Cava tasting.
Jesi guides us through pairings, starting with three rustic classics: pan com tomate y Jamon (toast rubbed with fresh tomato and a slice of Jamon Ibérico); coca de seats y butifarra, the Catalan take on pizza, with forest mushrooms and the beloved Catalan sausage that dates to Roman times; and plates of escalibada, smoky grilled vegetables drowned in virgin olive oil. Everything is local and it works wonderfully with the Cava.
As Jesi pours the last drops of a well-structured, creamy Imperial Gran Reserva Brut into my glass I recall what she told us in Barcelona four years earlier: “It’s the fruitiness and freshness that really makes Cava special… and its flexibility.”
“I love Cava because you can have it at anytime, winter or summer, with or without food,” she says, opening a bottle of Leopardi Gran Reserva Brut Nature, which she suggests having with the sausage. “The spicy notes match well with richer, heavier dishes.”
Cuscó Berga and Bohigas Wineries
Over the course of five days, we wash down an array of Catalan specialties with countless glasses of Cava. At Cuscó Berga winery there’s a humble peasant dish called fideus, fine fried noodles with seafood that our hosts call Catalan paella, which they pile onto our plates.
Under the chandeliers in the sumptuous dining room of centuries-old Bohigas Winery, our grand feast begins with what the Catalans call a ‘pica-pica’ – sharing plates.
We savour sublime tuna tartare, plump scallops on creamy mashed potato, piping hot croquettes that melt in the mouth, and fried quails eggs with tasty trumpet mushrooms, followed by creamy risotto with the freshest of seasonal ceps, and fillets of freshly-caught turbot with potato confit.
Juvé y Camps
After a marathon-like tour of Juvé y Camps multi-storied cellars beneath Sant Sadurni d’Anoia – so large they could probably house the entire population – we indulge in another epic multi-course Michelin-star quality meal.
There are mountains of Jamon and cheese, salad, an escalibada with herring, duck cannelloni with foie bechamel and mushrooms, seafood stew with octopus, cod with spinach, chicken with pine nuts, and, finally, a decadent chocolate mouse with almonds.
Adrià would have approved. The Cava was well matched to every dish, from the fun Brut Rose through to the big Cava Gran Juvé that impressively paired with both the main and dessert.
Canals & Munné
But it’s our final meal at the old-fashioned restaurant at Canals & Munné’s cellars in the centre of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia that best demonstrates the versatility of Cava that Jeci Llopart described.
Our hosts, the winemaker Oscar Canals and his charming export manager Natalia demonstrate the most quintessential of Catalan rituals, the calçotada – the act of barbecuing, peeling and eating the first of the season’s calçots – and teach us how to eat calçots like the locals.
After dipping these enormous spring onions in Romesco sauce, we bend our heads back, open our mouths, and let the sweet, soft morsels slide along the tongue, before washing them down with a mouthful of Cava.
I could never imagine doing the same with Champagne.
As I wipe the sauce from my mouth with a very pedestrian paper napkin I recall what Josep Elías Terns told me excitedly four years ago: “When you go to Penedès and you drink the Cava, expect that you will really feel the place!”
Getting to Barcelona
From Australia and Southeast Asia, Singapore Airlines flies daily to Barcelona, direct and via Milan, while from Hong Kong, Swiss Air offers the most direct connections to the Catalan capital.
Getting to the Penedes Wine Region from Barcelona
You could rent a car from Barcelona airport or in Barcelona city and drive to the Penedès region, which is about 40 minutes from Barcelona by car. The region is also easily accessed by train from the Renfe Station on Plaça Catalunya, corner of Ronda Universitat/Rambla de Catalunya. The trains are ‘Renfe Cercanies’ and your destination will be Vilafranca del Penedès, the region’s liveliest town, on the Sant Viçens de Calderes line. The journey takes an hour and the train passes through Sant Sadurni d’Anoia.
Where to Stay to Visit the Best Cava Wineries
If you only have a day to visit Penedès base yourselves in Barcelona. We love Hotel Omm (265 Carrer Rosselló) near the Gràcia neighbourhood. Home to the Michelin-starred Roca Moo restaurant, it has a rooftop pool terrace overlooking Gaudí’s Casa Milà.
If you’re going to stay in the Penedès, try the Hotel Mastinell (34-93/115-6132), which has its own winery, a restaurant overlooking a Cava vineyard, and a spa offering wine treatments. It’s just outside Vilafranca del Penedès, the region’s main town.
How to Experience the Best Cava Wineries Near Barcelona
There are a few options for exploring the best Cava wineries near Barcelona: self-driving, taking the train and then doing tours, or doing a tour departing from Barcelona. If you are renting a car in Barcelona and self-driving, note that for some wineries it’s essential to email or call ahead to make appointments for vineyard tours and wine tastings.
If you prefer not to drive (you’re going to be Cava tasting after all) and to go with a guide, try this Catalunya Wine, Tapas and Cava Tour from Barcelona or this 8-Hour Wine and Cava Tasting in Catalonia. Craving more Cava? Back in Barcelona you can sample more on this Tasting of Catalan and Spanish Wines.
The Best Cava Wineries Near Barcelona
Vinícola de Nulles Nulles
Mas Codina El Gorner, Puigdàlber
Cuscó Berga Les Gunyoles, Avinyonet
Bohigas Finca Can Macià, Òdena
Juvé y Camps Carrer Sant Venat 1, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia
Canals & Munné Plaça Pau Casals 6, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia
Book Penedes Cava Tours and Cellar Door Wine Tastings
Have you explored the Penedes wine region? What do you think are the best Cava wineries near Barcelona? We’d love your suggestions. Feel free to leave tips in the Comments below.