After receiving messages on social media, through our website, and via email, we thought it was time to put our pointers on Catalan enotourism into a blog post for all you wine lovers who are planning to come visit this year! If you love discovering great new places that aren’t the typical tours everyone ends up going on when you come to visit Barcelona or Catalunya, this post is for you! Here’s a few things that can help you ensure a great and unique experience when you come to our favourite wine region.
Not every winery offers tours of their facility. While there are many here which have amazing enotourism programmes, simply put, most require you to make an appointment prior to arriving, or some just don’t offer tours at all. If you’re a big fan of Alvaro Palacios, you won’t be able to show up and tour his Priorat winery, and visiting Clos Mogador requires an appointment (and you should contact them as early as possible in order to do this). In fact, most wineries that do have enotourism programmes still require you to make an appointment ahead of time for the visit. The only ones who will allow you to show up will show set tour times on their website.
Four examples of this are our friends at Pares Balta (DO Penedes), Albet i Noya (DO Penedes), Alta Alella (DO Alella), and Cellers Scala Dei (DOQ Priorat). Pares Balta conducts tours at any time during 9:30 to 6:30 and can do it in Catalan, Spanish, English, French or German with no notice, but they do prefer you booking in advance. Albet i Noya offers a wide variety of tours, but requires you to book them in advance and offers tours in Catalan, English, and Spanish. Alta Alella has the same requirements and similar tour packages as Albet i Noya. Scala Dei has tours two times per day, but what they don’t say is that if you want the tour in English, you need to let them know in advance. Best thing to do is check the winery’s website and see what tours are offered. If they don’t have a visitor/visits/enotourism tab, or their website doesn’t have an English option, you may not be able to enjoy a visit, unless you speak Spanish or Catalan. Even though Catalunya is the number one region for tourism in Spain, don’t expect every winery to speak English. If you want a quick way to see if they do, check out the wineries we’ve visited, as they all communicate in English!
Transportation to wineries
If you’re renting a car, then you’ve got no problems in arriving to wineries. But what if you don’t want to rent a car? What options are there for you? Can you take the train to wineries? Sure, but your options are limited in this respect. Normally, you still have to find a mode of transportation once you arrive to a destination close to wineries, like renting bicycles. However, some regions aren’t conducive for this option, like Montsant or Priorat, especially if you’re not in great shape. You can catch the train once a day from Barcelona to Falset, the big city hub for DO Montsant and DOQ Priorat, but attempting to bike from Falset to Clos Mogador can be a big challenge, as the hills are more like mountains to ride over. You can consult the train schedules to see if there are trains close to where you want to go, and they do have the website in English, plus it’s easy to navigate.
The best places to visit via train (besides the big typical wineries, which you probably don’t want to do if you’re a regular reader of catalunyawine.com), is the cava capital of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, where you can actually walk from the train station to several of the cava houses in town. While the train is conveniently located next to a certain cava house that begins with an “F”, we recommend walking 750 metres into town to visit highly rated and award winning Juve y Camps or Recaredo. You can easily get to Sant Sadurni from Barcelona Sants, with multiple trains daily. However, if you want to visit a great winery producing cava and some excellent still wines, you can stay on the train until El Vendrell, the home of composer Pau Casals, and visit Jane Ventura, which is a 4 minute walk from the train station in town. At Jane Ventura, you have to book in advance for a tour in English.
Let’s say you don’t want to rent a car, and you want to go somewhere else that isn’t reachable by car, then you have an alternative option.
Let’s be blunt here. You have three options for tour guides: Cheap tours which don’t offer the best wineries to visit; More expensive day long tours which offer you interesting options; fully customisable and even more expensive tours. What’s the best option?
If you’re a wine lover, avoid the cheap tour. Really. It’s the same as doing the double decker open air bus tour from Placa Catalunya. If that’s your thing, then hey, fill your boots, but the cheap wine tours will basically give you a fairly standard, fairly boring, and really not the best selection of wine to taste. We won’t name any names, but if you’re looking at a tour that is under 100€ going to a big name internationally known winery, just don’t do it.
The biggest reason why people do end up doing those cheap tours is due to one complaint – the majority of wine tour guides here rarely return phone calls or emails promptly, if at all.
So, we’ve decided to help you with this! We’ve put together two tour options – one for Priorat (Saturday) and one for Penedes (Sunday). We also can do customised tours to any region in Catalunya during the week, with prior notification. If we’re tied up on tours, we’ve got friends who do the same, whom we can refer you to if needed!
Okay, so we’ve given you the “411” on visits, transportation, and tour guides. So what are the best winery tours you can take? Well, instead of having to spend time reading through a bunch of guidebooks or spending hours on our website, here’s a list by region of our top picks for enotours. By the way, we do highly recommend the Catalan Wine Guide if you do want an exhaustive bible of Catalan wines rated and summarised. It’s available in multiple languages in book form, BUT you can also download it in App form, for those of you who are more technologically savvy. Books are sooo last century.
Top Winery Tours (not in any particular order. we swear)
Terra Remota – Cool scenery, award winning winery. Tours in multiple languages (including German & Russian), and a great pica pica lunch option in the vineyard. Book ahead, but you can stop in as most of the staff is fluent in English.
Coop Garriguella – Traditional cooperativa which also has a restaurant, a grocery store, and great wines! Book ahead is best. Spanish, Catalan, and English.
Mas Llunes – State of the art facility, great award winning wines, and across the street from Coop Garriguella. You can stop in, as the entire staff is versed in English. Spanish, Catalan, and English.
Masetplana – Cool facility, great olive oils as well as wines. Book ahead for tours in English (unless Mariona or Julia happen to be at the winery), and it’s 3 minutes from Garriguella and Mas Llunes.
*La vinyeta – Great facility, amazing wines, and great atmosphere. You can also book rooms to stay overnight. *La vinyeta is open during regular hours, so you can stop by, or book ahead for a proper tour.
Alta Alella – We can never say enough great things about Alta Alella. Amazing Mediterranean views, and great options for tours. All the enotourism staff speak English.
Bouquet d’Alella – small family winery with spectacular views, and some cool eating options at the masia or in the vineyard!
Clos Figueras – A winery, a restaurant, and overnight rooms. Top rated wines, and one of our hangouts in Priorat. English is no problem for drop-ins, but booking ahead is always better.
Scala Dei – My spiritual home. You can drop in to the shop anytime, and the staff speaks English. Best to book tours ahead, as the two tours daily are in Catalan.
Celler Joan Ametller – You can drop in as Sergi speaks English, but it’s best to book ahead. Lunch option is available if you book ahead.
Sangenis i Vaque – Open daily, with a break for siesta. Best to book ahead, but you can drop in as two of the staff speak English.
Marco Abella – You have to book ahead in order to visit Marco Abella, but it is definitely worth the visit. They’re working on expanding their enotourism programme for 2016.
Celler Pasanau – Cool winery and both owners speak English, but you’ll need to book ahead, or alternatively book the Priorat tour with Spanish Trails.
Albet i Noya – You can arrive anytime during business hours, and Anna’s English is dynamite, and so are the others who work with Anna. Best to book tours ahead of time, however.
Pares Balta – As described above, you can drop in, but it’s best to book ahead.
Torre del Veguer – They offer a Saturday and Sunday tour in Spanish/Catalan/English, and you can book during the week by appointment.
Jane Ventura – You can stop by, but you’ll need to book a tour ahead of time for English.
Avgvstvs Forvm – Marko speaks multiple languages. You can stop in during business hours, but it’s best to book ahead of time!
Artcava – Eric and Ramon are brilliant, and one of the top-rated wine tours in Catalunya, according to trip advisor. Booking ahead is recommended, as showing up might mean you may be disappointed as they are always full!
DO Pla de Bages
Abadal – a jewel of a wine tour near Manresa. Since it’s in a smaller DO, and not one of the more famous areas, it’s easy to miss. It’s an incredible experience as we found out! Best to book ahead, but you can stop by during business hours for a visit and converse in English.
Taking Wine Home
Taking wine home used to be a difficult thing, but thanks to Lazenne, you can safely transport wine you purchase back home. No matter where you live, you have an option of taking wine back home with you duty free, or with a small duty for larger quantities. Check out Lazenne’s website for duty details (this link takes you to the summary on traveling with wine).
Tim Brown (aka Timmer on social media) has been involved in marketing for over 20 years and a wine enthusiast since his first exposure to Duck Pond Winery in Newberg, Oregon, back in 1995. After coming to Europe in 2012, he made his home in Catalunya in 2013 and became enchanted with the wines and winemakers of the region. Now he shares his experiences so international visitors can enjoy the region’s wines, while continuing his work in the marketing world. Sommeliering and wine snobbery isn´t his thing, and he continues to learn more about wine from a Catalan perspective on a daily basis.