Lovely bubbly down Spain’s sparkling Cava trail
Chalkmarks Catalonia

POURING out a noisy glass of fizz. The hiss and crackle was making my tongue loll out.

I’d zoomed off after an early breakfast to the capital of Cava in Catalonia.

I never knew this glamorous drink came from vineyards just an hour from Barcelona.

Around 90 per cent of all Cava is produced in the north east of Spain so you shouldn’t miss the chance to stick your head towards Tarragona where around each corner you’ll find steep staircased terraces filled with vines.

As our group pulled into the Llopart estate for a tour and tasting, an ice bucket with chilled sparkling rose was waiting on the lawn.

A bottle of Cava is never far away!

I flicked my flute of pink bubbles with my finger. It made a perfect ting. Then it was ten seconds of bliss. It had all the charge of champagne and the sweetness of ripe fruit.

After being handed sun hats we were led around the family-owned winery that was one of the first to begin producing the famous bubbles in 1887.

We strolled around the vineyard and visited the processing room where the grapes get squeezed then put into huge steel tanks. The gusts of yeast knocked us off our feet.

When we reached the dark underground barrel room we sipped on more sherbet Cava under the blazing lamps.

We moved on to the bottle room, which was stacked from floor to ceiling with thousands of their Gran Reserva maturing.

Back outside again and another round of drinks was on offer. This time classic crisp whites and soft roses were popped open each with a flavour of their own.

We were also served cheese, salami, chocolate and even the grapes on huge silver platters.

As the temperature nudged 25C on the terrace we squinted at views of the pale orange jagged peaks of Montserrat. The scenery was as intoxicating as the wine.

Then out of the blue two men appeared singing old Catalan love songs – one on an acoustic guitar.

If I’d have found a magic lamp and was granted one wish, this would be have been it. I stuck out my glass. I needed to savour this.

On my way out I picked up some bottles to take home and brought direct from the producer many were around 11euros (£8).

With Spain boasting the largest area of vineyards on the planet you could spend weeks chasing the Mediterranean sun and a good bottle.

Needless to say that when it was time for some shut-eye, I slept like a log.

I stayed at the traditional Hostal Sport de Falset in the heart of the region. From the doorknobs to the curtains the hotel was relaxed and homely with old school cello brown furniture and a bunch of rosemary twigs left on the bed.

Falset village is low key for a tourist centre. There are a handful of small shops, bakeries and supermarkets. Outside on the main avenue locals spent their evenings sitting in outdoor cafes sipping coffee, beer or wine.

Nothing happens very fast out there. You can’t rush wine and the pace of life is the same.

Visiting Albet i Noya was another experience altogether though as we whizzed on Segways up and down the vineyard during the afternoon before tasting their organic white and red wine. There I also tried Penedès – a new zingy sparkling wine that only comes from this region.

And if you want to be even more active, you can hike between bodegas getting involved in grape picking or you can just make it up as you go along driving along the narrow winding roads that thread through the vines.

What also sparkled about this wine land were the wild coastal mountains.

The second morning I joined a guided group to saunter through the misty landscape passing olive trees, picking wild thyme and eating almonds straight from their shells as we went.

We didn’t have to work too hard for the views with wineries and bodegas appearing hidden away in the scenery. We stopped on a dusty hill for a mid-morning snack of cheese and a slug of red wine as we starred into the emerald distance with the sun in our faces.

But not only is this region the cradle of Cava, it’s the home of one of the lesser known but most expensive wines in the world Priorat.

You’d think with both these drinks, the region would be tourist trapped but the opposite is true. There are dozens of secret wineries left to discover.

For a first class sample of this scarcely heard of wine we headed to Burgos Porta found down a dusty track in a small stone house.

Life was as quiet as a lullaby as winemasters Salvador and his wife Conxita told us how they work from dawn to dusk with just one day off each month.

As they served up lunch of bean and pork stew followed by roasted vegetables for lunch more corks popped open. We sampled their juicy reds. A few hours later I was bloated on good food and fantastic wine.

The last port of call on the second on the Priorat trail was Torres, which makes the well-known brands Sangre de Toro and Viña Sol found in all the supermarkets at home.

The ritzy glass building sits nestled in the hills with extensive cellars built deep into the ground.

Inside the decor was smart black and white with wooden cabinets displaying their vintages and sleek tables topped with lined up wine glasses.

The room soon fell as quiet as a library during our task to blend three wines to create our own unique bottle which we could take home.

Over three days, I was ready to become a slave to this place. I’d live in the fields, walk barefoot and pick the harvest. But then I did have wine dancing through my veins.

At the end of each day a bottle of wine is never far away.

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Lovely Bubbly!

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Flights from Gatwick to Barcelona with Vueling
Walking Tour with Guia-meritxell
Hostal Sport de Falset

Wine Tastings
Llopart
Torres
Albet i Noya

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