A large part of why we spent six weeks in Costa Brava was to focus on the burgeoning wine scene in this stretch of land between Barcelona, Spain, and France. In particular, we were directed to taste as many Emporda wines as we could. That meant a lot of research and a lot of visits to wineries. Because the region is not as established as Napa or Sonoma when it comes to wine tourism, I thought I would share what we learned about Catalan wine tourism while touring Emporda.
Exploring the Catalan Wine Region
Wine can play a large part of what to do in the Costa Brava. The concept of Catalan wine tourism is relatively new to Emporda. Although the region has thousands of years of wine-making history, it’s only been in the last few decades that wineries are starting to reemerge and flourish. Therefore, it is not as easy to tour the Catalan wine region of Emporda, as it would be to tour California wineries, where you can just drive or bike from one winery to the next, stopping at tasting rooms along the way.
Because many of the Emporda wineries are small, family run operations, they are busy making the wine, rather than manning a tasting table for tourists. That said, many of the wineries are more than welcome to open their doors, to talk with you about the production, and the unique history of the region. Many times, we met with the actual winemaker, rather than just an employee. Even at the wineries where met an employee, we still ended up being greeted with enthusiasm and a passion for the products they make and the Catalan wine.
We generally either emailed or called each of the wineries we wanted to visit a day or so in advance. We set a time for the tasting and tour. Similar to US wineries, a fee is charged for visits, anywhere from 4-10 Euros depending on the length of the tour, and mostly dependent on the number and quality of wines tasted.
Although we were greeted as guests at each of these wineries, and therefore did not pay tasting fees, we purchased wine and other products at each of them, mostly because the Catalan wine was so darn good, and at such amazing prices.
Our Favorite Emporda Wineries
Although we probably tasted wines from over twenty Emporda wineries, we only had the time, and the energy, to visit less than ten. Still a good number of wineries. We were lucky enough to attend an Emporda wine festival as well, which helped us taste even more Catalan wines.
Each of the wineries we visited told a unique story, and demonstrated a passion for Catalan wine traditions. In time, I hope to tell the story of each of them. For now, a summary will have to do. These were the wineries we visited.
Terra Remota in Sant Climent Sescebes
Terra Remota is just that, it’s located on fairly remote lands, at the base of the Pyrenees, with very little in the surrounding area. Started recently by a French couple of Catalan heritage, Marc and Emma, they’ve grown an amazing operation from their architecturally modern winery. We were lucky enough to be there when they were bottling their rose wine. We’d never visited a winery during bottling, and it was a pretty unique assembly line process. Kind of reminded me of the opening credits to Laverne & Shirley.
A wine tasting and tour of Terra Remota costs €10. It’s also possible to arrange a picnic in the vineyard, which I hope to do during our next visit. Call ahead to schedule a picnic, which costs €42 for two people.
La Vinyeta in Mollet de Peralada
Another architecturally stunning winery, La Vinyeta is at the forefront of Catalan wine tourism. One of the newest wineries in Emporda, they received a plot of old vines from a bachelor in a nearby town, who had no heirs to pass the land onto.
Josep and Marta focus on unique branding for their wines, with each wine bottle telling a story, as well as incorporating grapes from vines that are more than 50 years old. In addition to the winery, they offer a few rooms for rent. It’s also possible to book a lunch at the vineyard for €16.50 a person. And, they are experimenting with other super-unique wine and food tourism offerings, including how to properly carve a jamon. Wine tastings are €8.50 per person.
Masia Serra in Cantallops
We visited Jaume and Silvia at Masia Serra during our final winery tour in Alt Emporda. We drove past Terra Remota, which we renamed “Terra Not So Remota,” after driving the last 10 kilometers to Cantallops, a small medieval village with a wine tradition dating back centuries. We wound our way up the dirt road, past an old farm house, with a sign that read Masia Serra. We expected a super traditional, old school farmhouse setting considering the remote location. Instead, we were greeted by a modern wine tasting room, with Pink Floyd on the radio.
The Masia Serra wine tastings are personalized, depending on the interests of the guests, and can include a typical Catalan breakfast or lunch. They are also in the process of finishing guest rooms set out in the vineyards, each with a private pool.
Finca Bell-Lloc in Palamos
We first visited Bell-Lloc during our extreme eating tour of Costa Brava and immediately fell in love with the modern architecture of the subterranean wine cellar. The cellar was in stark contrast to the historical villa up the hill, where Bell-Lloc offers tastings and lunches.
We returned a few weeks after our blogger tour to have a simple lunch on the patio overlooking the vineyards, and the Mediterranean sea in the distance. Each of the dishes was extremely local, with meats and cheeses made organically on their premises. Tastings start at €15 depending on food selections. They’ve also done an amazing job of restoring the villa and offer stunning rooms for winery stays.
Cellers d’en Guilla in Delfia
We tentatively opened the door to Cellers d’en Guilla, not really knowing if we were in the right place. The owner, Marti, warmly greeted us at the door. An older gentlemen, heading more towards retirement than opening a new winery, his passion for wine was clearly evident. Marti has a background as a chemist, and he is constantly experimenting with his own grapes and new wine making techniques, including aging dessert wines in glass vases open to the elements.
Cellers d’en Guilla has a tasting room, as well as an apartment to rent with views of the vineyards and a large swimming pool for the Costa Brava summer heat. Tasting visits start at €7.
Celler Espelt in Vilajuïga
Celler Espelt is one of the largest, and probably one of the more commercial of the Emporda wineries. It sometimes gets a bad rap from locals as being focused too much on marketing. But, when we met Anna Espelt, she clearly said she stinks at marketing. Her words, not mine. She focuses on making wine that her grandfather would be proud of. In fact, Espelt makes one of the wines that we found most frequently on restaurant menus in Costa Brava, the Mareny, which became our go to daily Emporda wine of choice when dining in Catalunya.
The Catalan Wine Cooperativas
In addition to the individual wineries we visited, we also toured two cooperativas, something I was previously unfamiliar with prior to touring the Catalan wine region. To aid in the recovery from the phylloxera devastation decades ago, farmers who tried to revive their vineyards worked mostly in cooperativas. Families and farmers joined together in their production and their winemaking, in a cooperative fashion, that still exists today. By working together, they were able to modernize the production of wine, making the survival of small growers a lot easier.
We visited Cooperativa Garriguella, which was founded in 1963, and Cooperativa Empordalia, in 1961. This is probably the easiest way to taste the Emporda wines, and explore the wine and food of the region. Cooperativa Gariguella has a full restaurant, with amazing local food, which can be enjoyed along with their wines. Cooperativa Empordalia also offers lunches. Both cooperativas have shops that sell all of their wines as well as local cheese, meat, olive oil, and other gourmet products. They are also a great place to learn about the history of the region and what Catalan wine tourism events are happening.
For More Information on Catalan Wine Tourism
The Costa Brava Tourism Board publishes an Emporda Wine Route book, which provides information on about 45 of the Emporda wineries located throughout the region. Much of this information is also on their website. The list includes the names of the winemakers, their website, address, and phone number making it easy to track down the information to aid in touring.
There are also a small handful of companies that offer Emporda wine tours, sometimes as day trips from Barcelona. I anticipate that the number of companies offering wine tasting and tours in Costa Brava will only increase. Catalunya Wine is also a great resource for what’s happening in the Catalan wine region.
We were supported by Costa Brava Tourism during our time exploring Catalunya, but my views, my yummy sounds, and my belly rubs are, as always, my own.
For more tips on wine tourism see our Wine Tourism and Travel Guide.