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DO Penedès: new rules and aiming for Spanish wine’s top-tier

Ambitious growth plans include a requirement for vineyards to go fully organic and a push to gain DOQ status at the top of Spain's classification hierarchy, the DO Penedès wine body has said.

On 16 November 2021, the Denomination of Origin Penedès in Catalunya (DO Penedès) announced an extensive roadmap up to 2030, taking into account sustainability and establishing the region as a high-quality wine producer in Spain.

Most immediately, all grapes for DO Penedès wines must be from fully-certified organic vineyards by 2025.

While it’s an aggressive timeline, DO Penedès president Joan Huguet told Decanter, ‘Currently around 60% of the vineyards are already certified and our wineries are very supportive of the initiative.’

This move also aligns with DO Cava, which has recently stated that by 2025 all the grapes for upper tier wines, Cava de Guarda Superior, must come from organically-certified vineyards.

It’s clear that there’s a reorientation in the region to more sustainable practices. Several wineries, such as Torres based in the heart of Penedès, have been at the forefront of initiatives for some time.

DO Penedès is looking towards distinguishing itself and its still wines from the other two DOs overlapping in the same region, Cava and Catalunya.

To this end, a ‘100% Xarel·lo’ label is being created for producers who release wines solely based upon this white grape variety, which has proven to be one of the stars in the region and is planted to 700 hectares.

There is also a plan to increase the focus on two native red varieties: Sumoll and Moneu.

While there has been promotion of Sumoll for some time, Moneu is exceedingly new and is part of the group of nearly-lost grapes that Torres worked to recover. They’re both viewed as high quality varieties, as well as more resistant to climate change issues.

DO Penedès is also working to create a qualification system for their wines.

While similar to what’s been created in Spain’s DOQ Priorat, DO Bierzo, DOC Rioja, and to some extent, DO Rueda and DO Cava, the foundation here is considerably different.

Instead of focusing on the ‘village’ levels as the others have, everything will be based upon the 10 subzones that were established a decade ago and take into account homogenous soils and climate – instead of political boundaries.

The next level uses as a reference the historic concept of the Catalan farmhouse called a ‘mas’, which traditionally had a bit of agricultural land around it. This level establishes estates from which grapes are sourced and then the resulting wines take the name of the house.

To qualify, any Mas must have been in existence since phylloxera arrived to the region in the late 19th century. In addition to a ‘Vi de Mas’ level from the single estate, there will also be a top ‘Gran Vi de Mas’ established – but only one such wine will be allowed per qualified Mas.

Lastly, in what is undeniably the largest aspect of the plan, DO Penedès is applying to the top of level of the Spanish classification hierarchy to eventually become DOQ Penedès, a distinction only reached by DOC Rioja in 1991 and DOQ Priorat in 2009.

This collection of items marks a very large shift in a very short time for the region in terms of production and looking towards a more sustainable future, but Huguet said, ‘It’s absolutely obligatory at this point for the future of the region and ourselves.’

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