Chalkmarks: Time for a top up: Bottles of Llopart the vineyard

POURING out a noisy glass of fizz, the hiss, crackle and bubbles are music to my ears. I’ve headed out after a very 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 northeast of Spain so you shouldn’t miss the chance to stick your head towards Tarragona where around each corner you’ll find steep terraces filled with vines.

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

I flick my flute of pink bubbles with my finger. It makes a perfect ting. Then it’s ten seconds of bliss. It has all the charge of Champagne and the sweetness of ripe fruit. Delicious.

Chalkmarks: Sparkling: Serenaded by two men singing old Catalan love songs while tasting Cava
Sparkling: Serenaded by two men singing old Catalan love songs while tasting Cava
Chalkmarks: Sparkler: The scenery is as intoxicating as the wine
Grape view: The scenery is as intoxicating as the wine

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

We stroll around the vineyard and visit the processing room where the grapes get squeezed then put into huge steel tanks. The gust of yeast knocks us off our feet.

When we reach the dark underground barrel room we sip on more sherbet Cava under the blazing lamps.

We move 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 is on offer. This time its 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 nudges 25C on the terrace, we squint at views of the pale orange jagged peaks of Montserrat. The scenery is as intoxicating as the wine.

Out of the blue two men appear 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 raise my glass. I need to savour this.

On my way out, I pick up some bottles to take home, brought direct from the producer – most cost around only 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 sleep like a log.

I’m staying 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 spend their evenings sitting in outdoor cafes sipping coffee, beer or wine.

Nothing happens very fast out there. But then, you can’t rush wine, and the pace of life is the same.

Visiting Albet i Noya was another experience altogether. This time we whiz up and down the vineyard on Segways during the afternoon before tasting their organic white and red wine.

It was here I also try the fabled Penedès – a zingy sparkling wine that comes only from this region.

And if you want to be even more active, you can hike between bodegas (vineyards) 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 join a guided group to saunter through the misty landscape passing olive trees, picking wild thyme and eating almonds straight from their shells as we go.

We don’t have to work too hard for the views with wineries and bodegas appearing hidden away in the scenery.

We stop on a dusty hill for a mid-morning snack of cheese and a slug of red wine as we stare into the emerald distance with the sun in our faces.

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 trap, but the opposite is true with dozens of secret wineries to discover.

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

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

As they serve up lunch – bean and pork stew followed by roasted vegetables – more corks pop open. We sample their juicy reds – and in a few hours, I am happily bloated on good food and fantastic wine.

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

Their 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 falls as quiet as a library during our task to blend three wines to create our own unique bottle which we can take home.

Over the three-day trip, I am ready to move here. I’d live in the fields, walk barefoot and pick the harvest. And at the end of each day, a bottle of wine is never far away.

Chalkmarks: Red wine? Which one to try at Abadal
Red wine? Which one to try at Abadal

Chalkmarks: Thirsty work: Natalie blends her own wine at Torres
Thirsty work: Natalie blends her own wine at Torres

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