Region Guide: Catalonia, Spain
This region always poses somewhat of a problem for me. Fiercely independent, I never know whether I should refer to it as Catalunya (The Catalan spelling) or Catalonia. It's a political statement fright from the beginning.
Regardless, it is a region of incredible natural beauty that possesses a wealth of vinous history and heritage. For such a small region it boasts an incredibly diverse selection of small appellations, each one dynamic forward thinking, but together contribute to a vibrant and healthy wine industry that seems to improve and impress year on year.
It's most notable asset is Priorat, a small, rocky growing area known worldliness for it's fine red wines. Priorat is the only other Spanish wine alongside Rioja to carry the DOC classification, the country's highest.
Priorat is surrounded by Montsant, an area known for soft, fruity red wines but there are a growing number of examples here that are left to mature for years in the cellars of small, quality focussed boutique wineries. They are wines that capture a fine balance between rich fruit and expensive oak ageing and while they will never rival the best of their posher neighbour, they can often be far better value than some of the more commercial attempts from Priorat's growing list of opportunists.
Closer to the coast, Empordà-Costa Brava DO is a source of light, fruity whites wines that have no trouble finding admirers as they wash back local sea food. Usually they are a blend of varieties such as Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo and Moscatel of d'Alexandria.
The smaller areas of the region such as Conca de Barberà DO and Costers del Segre DO have yet to really find their place among the wine community and with just a handful of producers making wines here, they are considered fairly basic, local wines.