Penedès is a wine-producing areas of Europe, besides imposing historical territory of the autonomous community of Catalonia, it is subdivided into the regions of Alto Penedès , Garraf and the Bajo Penedès.
After reading a review by Manuel Colmenero Larriba of Lluis Tolosa's new book España no es California, in which he discusses the issue of attracting tourists to Spanish wine regions, I thought of all the news I have been recieving recently about Napa- new restaurants with celebrity chefs, new state of the art wineries, luxe resort openings, and had mixed feelings on the topic. Spanish tourism is underdeveloped in most of its wine regions, even in Rioja this spring my parents had problems finding wineries with tours in English on the days they were there, and generally lacking information on where to go and what to do. Undoubtedly there are business opportunities being missed that would benefit the wineries, the regions, and the country's reputation as well as the tourists themselves. However, after reading the descriptions of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's new Napa restaurant, which is called, so there is no confusion, Morimoto Napa, and will eventually sit alongside two other celebrity restaurants, one by Tyler Florence, and Stephen Barber, I couldn't help but think- Vegas.
Not that there is anything wrong per se with Las Vegas, but it called to mind the boom there a few years back with all the over the top restaurants where the celebrity chefs only flew in periodically and the housing bubble that accompanied it, and the pattern worries me. More so because so much of Napa Valley's charm is in the land and the already existing icons. There is no shortage of amazing food to be found, from The French Laundry to Terra to more low key favorites like Gott's, and much of the charm is driving through the stunning scenery, albeit probably quite slowly due to the traffic, and knowing despite corporate buyouts of many wineries, a large amount are still held in family hands, and the Valley is still lovely because those families fight to keep it a place they want to live.
I love Napa, and I could be wrong to worry about the direction in which it's headed, after all it has still retained its allure despite being a serious tourist attraction since the 1980's. But as Spanish wine regions like Somontano decide which measures to take to build tourism, I think they should seriously consider their end goals, and make sure the road they choose is sustainable. It's good to offer tourists a range of good dining and accomodation options, and ways to learn about the region and the wines, but ideally the end result should preserve and enhance the original treasure- the vineyards and wineries. It's a tricky line to walk.
Unlike in the New World, where appellations are still being defined (for example segmentation crazy Napa Valley, who seems to be in constant turmoil, most recently over a new proposed Mayacama Mountain range AVA), the Old World wine producing countries usually look at their wine regulations as being set in stone. For the most part, you are allowed to only grow the same grapes that were approved for your great grandfather if you want your wine to bear the appellation label. This can make understanding what type of wine you will get from a particular region easier for the consumer, but it can also be a source of frustration for producers looking to experiment.
However, Spain, who is becoming one of the biggest exporters to the US and UK markets, is one of the more liberal in this regard, particularly in it's lesser known regions. I would be surprised to see any changes in the regulations that guide Rioja wine anytime soon, but now Penedes, the region where Cava is produced, has now been approved for icewine. What's more is producers are allowed to artificially freeze the grapes, which is not permitted anywhere else in Europe. Icewine is normally created when the grapes freeze on the vine, and this is the only method available in Germany, Austria, and Canada, the best known locations for this type of dessert wine.
Although the 3 countries mentioned above each have their own version of icewine's history, Spain will definitely add a new chapter. The new DO (Domination of Origin) is called Vino Dulce de Hielo or Vi Dolç del Fred, and will apply from 2009. A general rule is not to drink your icewine with a food that is sweeter than the wine, and goat cheese is one example of a classic pairing, for example Garrotxa if you wanted to stay local to the Spanish version. Salud!
Bottles of cava were popped all over Spain last night to celebrate the winners of the 2010 World Cup, echoing the fireworks, horns, and shouts that could be heard until late in the night. If you want to join in the spirit you can salute the Spanish team with a glass of Segura Viudas Brut Reserva.
However, if you are Dutch, you might well be contemplating what kind of wine goes well with octopus. A white with good acidity would be a strong partner, for example a Garganega from Italy or a German Riesling. A Spanish Albariño would also be a great choice; if you cannot forgive the football victory at least you can concede the Spanish make good wine!