September marks beginning of Catalonia’s grape harvest season
Penedès, home to cava sparkling wine, is largest Catalan winegrowing region
With some 853 wine companies, Catalonia's wine sector is a big business generating €1.6 billion in turnover. September is one of the most important moments of the year for the sector because it is harvest time, when the grapes are brought in from the fields to make the wine that will appear in shops all over the world.
The harvest is in full swing in the Penedès area, half an hour south of Barcelona. At over 27,000 hectares, Penedès is Catalonia's largest winegrowing region and it is also the home of sparkling wine known as cava.
Around 95% of cava comes from Catalonia, and most of it is made in Penedès. Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, the cava’s capital, was the first place to make the drink in Catalonia when the technique was introduced by Josep Raventós of the Codorníu winery in the 19th century.
Codorníu and Freixenet are some of the largest and most well-known cava producers, but the area also has dozens of smaller cava firms. Cava is the lifeblood of Penedès, and over half of all cava produced here goes abroad, with Germany, the UK and the US being the biggest customers, accounting for around 100 million bottles.
This year, the industry is expecting a high quality harvest as a result of the hot, dry summer, but it has run into problems as wine producers and grape growers have clashed over prices. Farmers recently held a strike, claiming that what companies are paying for grapes this year is equivalent to prices seen 21 years ago.
While the grape growers will continue their protests, both sides have agreed that the price crisis is due to an imbalance between supply and demand, and they have agreed to tackle the issue together once the harvest is over.
In the meantime, the grape harvest - or ‘verema’ as it is called locally - will go on for the next few weeks in the vineyards of Penedès, and the rest of Catalonia, just as it has done for decades.