Spain’s Mediterranean Coast wine region spans the eastern coast of Spain from its northern border with France to the border with Andalucía in the south. Within this vast expanse a wide variety of wines are produced, from crisp, fragrant sparkling Cava wines and dry whites to dense and earthy wines made from Garnacha, Cariñena, Monastrell, and more.
Here the warmth of the coast can be mitigated by high altitudes, whether in Cataluña or in Valencia. Throughout most of this region world-class wines are being produced in areas such as Priorate and Monsanto as well as in established areas such as Penedés.
In Cataluña, which occupies a triangle-shaped area south of the border with France in Spain’s northeast, elevation as well as proximity and exposure to the sea are crucial to the styles of wine produced. The vineyards of the area may be fairly moderate and coastal, as in Alella DO, or remote and mountainous, as in Priorat DOC/DOCa
South of Cataluña along a long stretch of Spain’s east coast, the land heats up, and as summer temperatures rise, the opportunity to make light wines is baked away. Instead, from northwest of the city of Valencia, south to the Cap de la Nau pointing past Ibiza towards Sicily and all the way to Murcia, the area’s vineyards are wholly dependent upon water. Where water is available for viticulture, many good wines are made, and hardy vines, especially old vines with deep roots that find enough moisture in the soil, survive where water is scarce.
The DO’s of the region are:
Alella DO: Alella’s proximity to Barcelona has added to its success, at least in Spain, but it also now puts the region at risk as the land under vine is worth far more to housing, hotel, and, resort developers than to wineries. Here the Pansá Blanca grape (also known as Xarel-lo and sometimes Pasá Blanca) performs well in the limestone, granite, and sandstone soils of the coastal and hillside vineyards.
Alicante DO: Alicante’s large, present–day 35,000 acres of vineyards pale in comparison to the 230,000+ acres that were bearing fruit before phylloxera destroyed them. Back before phylloxera struck the most proficient grape planted was Moscatel de Alejandría (Muscat of Alexandria, or as it was likely known before, Moscatel of Alicante). The grape and the region have since recovered but it is no longer the powerhouse producing region it was. One of the DO’s famed dessert wines, Fondillón, is now more likely to be made from Monastrell than from Moscatel.
Bullas DO: This is a large region just south of Jumilla where the vineyards in hills and valleys can run from 2,000 to 2,800 feet. Monastrell, Garnacha, and Tempranillo are produced here alongside the famous French grape varieties. The highest areas are considered to give the best quality.
Cataluña DO: The Cataluña DO was established in 1999 to allow the greatest flexibility to winemakers hopeful of blending commercial wines from throughout this corner of Spain. While most wineries seem to seek the more delineated names of Empordà, Montsant, and the others within the larger Cataluña area, names such as Clos d’Agon are helping to bring greater recognition to DO Cataluña (or Catalunya, in Catalan).
Conca de Barberà DO: The concave (conca) bowl of this limestone–rich valley has produced some outstanding wines which historically have been mostly white wines; the Chardonnay grape thrives here. But Torres, among others, with its Grans Muralles vineyard bottling, has offered proof that this can be an exciting place for reds made with both international and autochthonous varieties. The DO is protected from the sea by the mountains and fed by the Francolí and Anguera rivers.
Costers del Segre DO: This is a top-performing DO that can be found in the province of Lérida. The vineyards are traditionally devoted to Cava production, but Raimat has long been focused upon making top–flight red and white wines from both French and indigenous varieties with international success.
Empordà DO: The Empordà DO can be found lying at the foot of the narrowest section of the Pyrenees and is the closet Spanish wine region to France. Most of the production here is rosado style wines, but the red wines from here are very good too.
Jumilla DO: The high, hilly vineyards of Jumilla still have ungrafted vines planted. Almost all the wine produced in this DO is red and it is the Monastrell grape that seems to thrive here.
Montsant DO: The Montsant DO is potentially a very exciting region that is forging a growing reputation for the quality of wines produced here. It’s vineyards surround the edges of Priorat, and shares grapes (Garnacha & Cariñena) and styles also with its more illustrious neighbour. The only great differences between the two are that the vineyards are usually not as old and the elevations and terrains are not as wild in Montsant as they are in Priorat.
Penedés DO: While Cava can be made in many of the DOs throughout Spain, almost 90 percent is made in the Penedés DO. With good money available to vineyard owners who want to sell early–picked grapes to Cava producers, there is little reason to grow grapes for high–quality table wine. There are excellent red and white wines made in the region, but it is the sparkling Cava wines which rule here.
Pla de Bages DO: Bages is a derivative of Bacchus, the name of the Roman God of Wine, and although winemaking is an old tradition in Bages this is still just an up-and-coming wine region with many newly planted vineyards and a number of small modern bodegas. International varieties, as well as Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Macabeo, are performing well here, and many people enthuse over the white Picapoll grape, which is perfectly pleasant and crisp.
Tarragona DO: Before 2004, the Tarragona DO contained Montsant, but the best vineyards, especially those around Falset, were divided off and combined with elevated areas north of Priorat to make the Montsant DO. The greater part of the vineyards of the Tarragona DO are given to Cava production, although there are some very good white and red wines to be hunted out.
Terra Alta DO: This region lies in the highlands well away from the coast and produces some very good everyday drinking red and white wines. The traditional grapes of Garnacha, Cariñena. Temparnillo, Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, and Parellada dominate the vineyard plantings.
Utiel-Requena DO: This is a large and important DO producing region of Spain that focuses on red wine production in the extreme west of the province of Valencia. Bobal is the grape variety that appears to be leading the way.
Valencia DO: Valencia is historically famed for its wines, Spain’s third largest city sold wines from everywhere, not only from its native vines. There are some very good red wines produced from the Monastrell grape, but it is the Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes which are really catching the eye here.
Yecla DO: Yecla is situated bewteen Alicante and Jumilla and share’s many similar traits aspect wise to those in Jumilla. Monastrell is the red grape which performs well here as too the dessert style wines.
Priorat DOC/DOCa: Priorat is Spain’s second DOCa along with Rioja and is one of the country’s oldest appellations. It is regarded as one of Spain’s wine producing super-stars with some of the country’s most expensive wines being made in the region. The area has a dry climate and poor soil in which the vines roots spread everywhere in search of water. The new style of red wines made here are stunningly rich and powerful.