Regional profile: DO Catalunya
Although the DO Catalunya is one of the newest Catalan Denominations of Origin, it is the one that bottles the most wine. A full 5,459 winegrowers where producing DO Catalunya wine in 2017. The official purpose of this large DO is to provide commercial support to the over 200 Catalan wineries that where not included in other more specific DO’s. Any cellar in 10 of the 11 Catalan DO’s can produce a DO Catalunya wine if they have a vineyard that fall outside the allowed varieties. The wine growing tradition in Catalonia is even older than the history of Catalonia itself. It’s generally believed that it was the Phoenicians and the Romans that introduced vine cultivation to the region.
Not surprisingly Garnacha, locally called Lledoner, is the number one red grape. Other red grapes of importance are Merlot, Tempranillo (Ull de Llebre), Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The acreage of red grape varieties is in decline, with the single notable exception of Petit Verdot that saw an increase of 244% in 2017. There is about twice as much red grapes planted when measured in acreage. The two most planted white varieties are Garnacha Blanca (Lledoner blanco) and Moscatell de Alexandria (Moscatel Romano). Other white grapes of notable presence are Parellada (Montonegra/Montonec), Macabeo and Chardonnay.
There are 42 wineries that sell bulk wine with the seal of DO Catalunya, these wineries are not registered as bottlers and are not in possession of a bottling line. The bulk wines from DO Catalunya can be sold to other wineries within the region depending on their blending needs. Bulk exports are allowed and can be sold as DO Catalunya wine even if it’s packaged in the county of consumption.
The vineyard of DO Catalunya span over 42,985 hectares (2017) distributed between 426 municipalities. Catalonia as a territory expands throughout the north east of the Iberian Peninsula, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees. The region encompasses a full 11 Denominations of Origin (plus Cava), which includes the Denomination of Origin Catalunya.
There are nearly 250 wineries in Catalonia that make use of the DO Catalunya, either for one or more of their wines. Some wineries are producing wines exclusively as DO Catalunya. The total output is around 500,000 hectolitres, a level that has been constant for the last decade. In terms of bottles there has been an increase from around 22 million bottles in the year 2000 to about 62 million bottles last year. Half of the production is now white wine, forty percent red wine, and rosé stands for the rest. The most notable and well known winery is Bodegas Torres, followed by Raimat, René Barbier and Jaume Serra (J. Garcia Carrion).
DO Catalunya wine has been available in export markets from the very first year of production. Statistics from the Consejo show that in the 18 years of history, exports has always been greater than national sales. In 2017, 58 percent of the production was exported to 111 countries in total. The sales are largely within Europe, exports to the United States are still below half a million bottles. The number one export country is the UK, but the increase of competition in that market saw the sales decline with 10,4 percent in 2017. The latest statistics show that 5,2 million bottles of DO Catalunya wine was sold in the UK in 2017. Figures that can be compared to other big importers such as Germany (3,1m bottles), The Netherlands (2,4m bottles) and Sweden with 1,5m bottles.
2018 Vintage – A 12 percent increase on 2017
The DO Catalunya collected 49,7 million kilos of grapes in 2018, a level that is inline with the average crop of 50 million kilos. 2018 stated on a positive note with abundant rainfall during spring, facilitating a beneficial vegetative development from the beginning. It’s been a bumper crop for Macabeo (up 60,93%) and Xarel·lo (up 32,30%), while the Chardonnay crop decreased with 26,26%. Silvia Olmo from the communications department of the DO mentioned that an interesting aspect when comparing the 2018 wines with the 2017, is that the latter while uniformly regarded as a lesser vintage has 1 percent more alcohol in average. A report from DO Catalunya mentioned that the sugar ripeness and phenolic maturity of the 2018 grapes where optimal at the time of the harvest.
Organic wine and sustainability
According to the Catalan Council of Organic Production (CCPAE), organic grapes stood for 39 percent of the Catalan organic agricultural output in 2017. In 2017 the council estimated the total revenue of the organic wine sector to be €74,61 million, up 20,41 percent on 2016. As the average amount of organic vineyards in Spanish DO’s is 11,1 percent, Catalonia should be considered one of the champions of sustainable viticulture. The amount of certified organic vineyards increased with 7,42% in 2017 and in now amounting to a total acreage of 14.880 hectares. To be compared with the national leader Castilla La Mancha at 59,337.4 hectares. The DO Catalunya does not officially keep track of its organic wine production, but according to Sole Insua at the communications department, the level of certified organic wine within the DO is around 20 to 25 percent. No region in Spain has a higher percentage of organic wineries.
Some industry commentators, notably Miquel Hudin, argue that DO Catalunya in practice is a Vi de la Terra (the level of a Vin de Pays in France) and not a true DO. This is due to the fact that it’s not a protected area with a discernible typicity. Hudin further argues that a lesser known reason for the creation of this DO was to allow cross-blending from different regions. Large producers that are found in DO Penedès wanted a way to market wines created from bought cheaper grapes in lesser knows areas of Catalonia.
The vineyards of DO Catalunya spans 42,985 hectares wide (2017) distributed between 426 municipalities
The DO collected 49,7 million kilos of grapes in 2018, a level that is inline with the average crop of 50 million kilos
The total output is around 350,000 hectolitres
There are 42 wineries that sell bulk wine with the seal of DO Catalunya
Petit Verdot that saw an increase of 244% in 2017
The amount of certified organic vineyards increased with 7,42% in 2017 and in now amounting to a total acreage of 14.880 hectares
The Consejo Regulador Denominación de Origen Catalunya was created in 1999 and the current president is Xavier Pié i Dols.
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