Barcelona Skyline

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

A day in "cava" Country

A great place for a day trip down the coast from Barcelona is our beloved cava country. One of the world’s greatest sparkling wines, more cava is exported from Catalunya than champagne from France.

The word cava is the Catalan for cave, or an underground wine celler. Around here cava flows like water.

It’s not just for super-special occasions although nothing is really special without it. So any time of the day or night just chill it up any time of the day or night and pop that cork.

A relaxing 40-minute train ride from Plaza Catalunya takes you right to the belly of the sparkling wine beast: Sant Sadurni D’Anoia. This town oozes sparkling wine through its pours; even the metal auto barriers are in the shape of champagne corks.

From the train station you are within walking distance of the Cordoniu and Freixenet, the two cava giants and two of the four biggest sparkling-wine producers in the world. Both have excellent English tours and tastings, but to be safe, reserve ahead.

Let’s start with my personal favourite: the great "bodega" (winery) Codorniu (winery): Designed Puig y Cadalfach, this beautiful art nouveau building has been declared a Monument of National Historical Artistic Merit, no less. A little long-winded perhaps, but it is an obligatory pilgrimage for students of architecture as well as lovers of wine.

Everything at Cordoniu is done with artistic flair: their turn-of-the-century advertising posters are classics of the belle epoch. Cordoniu was one of the pioneers of “wine tourism” and their tour is an absolute must.

Freixenet is the other of San Sadurni’s giants. As you arrive by train there is, right next to the railway station. This is the center of a great bubbly empire.

In fact Freixenet is the largest sparkling wine maker. You get a feel for its breath-taking size and modern organization in a half-hour trolley tour. And then the tasting is really excellent. You can then contrast the size and power of the giants with any of the many smaller bodegas found throughout the town and be back in Barcelona for a chilled glass of cava before dinner.Throughout harvest time, from September 26 to October 14, there are almost daily special events.

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