Penedès, a delight for the senses

The Penedès may be small but it’s full of surprises. It’s a varied region although principally known for its wines and cavas. They say it’s in the “rovell de l’ou” (literally in the “egg yolk”, the centre of everything) thanks to its strategic location in the “golden triangle” that brings together three key elements: the sea, the countryside and proximity to a large city like Barcelona. The fame of the Penedès is worldwide: its wines and cavas enhance the meals of kings, of all the families on the Iberian Peninsula and all continents. The Christmas advertisements made by its large wineries form part of Spain’s collective consciousness.

Its cavas and wines are renowned but not much is known about the region itself, its culture or people. Winegrowing is fundamental for the Penedès region and the driving force behind its economy. But many other aspects shape its character just as much as its vines. History. Nature. Gastronomy. People. Anecdotes. Its variety of leisure and sports activities. Rural tourism and luxury tourism, which are growing slowly but surely. Festivals, human castles and markets.

The Penedès is currently reassessing what “them and us” really means. Because, compared with other winegrowing areas in Europe, it tended to suffer from focusing excessively on the local resulting from a warranted appreciation of the region and its potential. But times are changing. New generations and people from outside the region have rediscovered its calm, rural feel and are renovating rural buildings, giving them life and colour. Castles and other historical buildings are being restored for tourism, wineries are smartening themselves up to attract visitors. Fundamental initiatives such as Enoturismo Penedès are enjoying renewed energy. Over the last few years, resources have been mobilised to create museums such as the VINSEUM in Vilafranca del Penedès and the Cava Interpretation Centre in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, to broaden the region’s tourist attractions.

Cultural life in the Penedès is much more than just festivals and human castles, surprising visitors and sometimes even the locals. Back in the last century, intellectuals and artists settled here to enjoy the light and peace and quiet while still being close to a large city. Some have left their mark: the museum of the sculptor Apel·les Fenosa in El Vendrell and the Villa Museum of the universal cellist Pau Casals at the beach of Sant Salvador, for example. These have been joined by contemporary artists and actors or people from the world of film and television who have decided to live here, in peace and quiet but not too far from the madding crowd.

The scope of your journey remains more or less within the area of the Greater Penedès and its three counties: the Garraf, the upper or Alt Penedès and the lower or Baix Penedès, with quite clear natural boundaries. The Garraf, a range of hills overlooking the sea, and the legendary Montserrat to the north stop the sea breezes and cold north winds from penetrating the region, providing protection and a mild microclimate, perfect for growing grapes. Because, just as there’s more than one Penedès in administrative terms, there’s also a Penedès for every occasion. The Alt and Baix Penedès, within their official limits. The historical Penedès, whose confines go even further and correspond with those of the Marca Hispanica, whose brave colonists defended the Carolingian Empire against the Muslim invader. But the most attractive is the Penedès of the senses, which embraces everything. Without any clear boundaries, this Penedès refers to the “good life” that can be enjoyed in the region, to its nature and vineyards, to its winegrowing history and its state of the art innovation; to the gastronomy that accompanies the wines that have taken the name of the Penedès throughout the world.

(interested in reading more)
Barbara Schwarzwälder, “Penedés a delight for the senses”, Ed. Vinificadas 2013