26 September 2023

Grand Tour Of Catalonia

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By Christine Salins.


If you’ve ever been to Barcelona, you’ll agree with me when I say that Catalonia has some of the best food and wine in Spain. For a start, it is home to Cava, Spain’s superb sparkling wine. Secondly, it has 59 Michelin-star restaurants.

And something I didn’t know until the Catalan Tourist Board’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director, David Miró, told me this week, it has the world’s oldest recipe book, published in 1324.

Singapore-based Miró was in Australia to launch the Grand Tour of Catalonia and showcase a partnership that the Catalan Tourist Board has with FC Barcelona. The football club played (and won) its first match ever in Australia last Wednesday.

The Grand Tour is a tourism initiative to enable tourists to discover the essence of Catalonia. It connects cultural heritage, natural landscapes, and food and wine experiences. The 2,000-kilometre route is designed to be undertaken by car over 13 days or in 5 sections of around 5 to 7 stages each. Sustainable and responsible tourism is one of the main pillars of the project.

Miró announced details of the Grand Tour at a lunch at Parlar, a new Catalan restaurant in Sydney’s Potts Point. The food and wine at Parlar were really quite sensational and the space was beautiful, rich in marble, timber and Alexander Calder tapestries.

It was a very long lunch (something the Spaniards do very well!) and hard to pick a favourite dish from the extensive tasting, but the anchovy churros and manchego vol-au-vents were hard to beat, the crema Catalana was a fitting end to a grand meal, and what can I say about the lobster with smoked samfaina (similar to ratatouille) … it was simply divine.

The dishes were matched with two whites and two reds, featured below along with the Cava offered on arrival. There was also a great Catalonia cocktail – made with gin, green apple, cucumber, and a sprinkling of pimiento – that looked and tasted stunning. Parlar’s wine list is skewed towards the Mediterranean, and there’s a good selection by the glass.

Catalonia has one of Europe’s oldest viticultural regions in Penedès, renowned for Cava and producing predominantly whites but also some highly regarded reds. In the southwest of Catalonia, Priorat, in Tarragona province, has a special terroir of black slate that produces powerful red wines. Its wines have DOCa classification, the highest level in Spain (the only other Spanish region with this is Rioja).

Parés Balta ‘n Brut Nature Cava: A keenly priced, non-vintage sparkling wine that is both organic and biodynamic. Medium-bodied and aromatic with good acidity, it is young, fresh and lively with green apple notes, hints of yeast and a long finish. Made from the three traditional varieties of Penedès – Parellada, Macaeu and Xarel-lo.

Parés Balta 2018 ‘Cosmic’ Penedes: This Sauvignon Blanc-Xarel.lo blend has juicy peach, pear and apricot notes with a citrus backbone. A lighter wine in the Sancerre style, it is fresh and aromatic with medium acidity. The name ‘Cosmic’ is a tribute to its biodynamic viticulture.

Cal Tiques 2019 ‘Joanots’ Penedes: The Cal Tiques vineyard is 17km from the Mediterranean and meticulously maintained by Joan Rubio, a former technical director at the Cava house Recaredo. Returning in 2015 to the farm he grew up on, he began making his own biodynamic wine. Made from the Macabeo variety, this one is fermented in clay amphorae for 2 months then left in vats for 6 months. Rich and expressive, it’s a golden/amber colour with mineral notes and flavours of orange, almond and cinnamon.

Partida Creus 2020 ‘VN’ Penedes: This is an incredibly light red which is not surprising when you learn that it is made from grape pomace and has an alcohol content of just 10.5%. Best served lightly chilled, it is perfect for knocking back on a summer afternoon (although it went beautifully with the Wagyu carpaccio at Parlar). Aromatic, with fine tannins and good acidity, it is a little funky and savoury with pops of strawberry and cherry.

Terroir Sense Fronteres 2019 ‘Negre’ Montsant: This blend of 75% Grenache and 25% Carinena comes from organic bush vines from the mountainous Montsant region surrounding Priorat. It is fuller bodied than the previous red but with no oak, 12.5% alcohol and fine tannins, it drinks very easily. With licorice aromas and a little spicy/herbaceous, it has bright red fruit (raspberries, cherries and cranberries) and is a joy to drink.

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