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Homage to Catalunya

What makes Catalunya such a special place to visit? Simon explains why.

Homage to Catalunya

Recently Simon spent a few months in Catalunya and talks about some of the places and people that make the region such a wonderful visit.

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It’s always a real pleasure to come back to Catalunya. It feels like a home away from home, so spending a few months there in the fall was something really special. It’s a region that has a vast range of landscape, food, wine and culture, from the mighty Pyrenees in the north down to the stunning Ebro Delta in the south. In between cities like Girona and Barcelona buzz with style and elegance.

Food is a big part of Catalan life and the region is home to some of the best cuisine in the world. The mighty 3* Michelin restaurant Can Roca in Girona has won the best restaurant in the world a couple of times and we were lucky enough to dine there. What an occasion with over 20 courses and wines to match over a marathon 6 hour lunch.

Emporda, the wine region in the north of Catalunya runs from the French border to east of Girona and has the ability to produce some high quality wines, especially from old vine Garnacha and Carignan (Samso) varietals but also including international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot etc. It’s also the region where Greeks first brought wine to Spain and there is still the remains of a large settlement nearby.  Vinyes d’Olivardots is a family run winery with mother and daughter Carme and Carlota taking on the winemaking duties. It was fun to walk through the vines with Carlota and the old vine Carignan was superb.

Alt Emporda is also home to one of the region’s most charismatic winemakers, Jaume Serra, who along with his wife Silvia run a lovely small winery (Massia Serra) that also holds an important place in the cultural life of the area, often holding music and charity events. The wines and food are high quality and there is always a sense of fun.

One of the most interesting historical visits in Emporda is at the monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes. Sitting majestically overlooking the Gulf of Roses it was the most important church for pilgrims in Spain and has a fascinating history.

The charming seaside village of Cadaques is Dali country and the house he lived in has been turned into a museum. Others such as Picasso, Einstein and Lorca also drew inspiration from the town. It is also home to Compartir a restaurant turning out really high quality food under chef Mateu Casañas (who also runs 2* Michelin Disfrutar in Barcelona), who I was lucky enough to meet (below)

Heading south we reach Penedes. I was staying in Sitges, a thriving town on the coast and it was only a 40 minute drive up to the spiritual centre of the region at Torres. One of Spain’s best known brands, it still manages to keep the family feeling going and the new restaurant serves high quality food matched with great wines

Another very interesting visit is at Jean Leon. The man himself was friend to Hollywood stars and his story is a fascinating one. The wines and views are lovely and well worth a visit.

Priorat and Montsant are regions we have visited many times and hold wonderful memories. Home to some of our favourite wineries at Clos de l’Obac, Coco i Fito etc and the seaside town of Cambrils is where the top restaurant El Rincon de Diego is situated. 

Little wonder we keep coming back to this wonderful region!