Catalonia's being awarded European Region of Gastronomy 2016 is a great indicator of the richness, quality and variety of its products and the exquisite touches made when preparing them before they reach the table. Wine tourism and gourmet hotels are becoming more and more popular, and thousands of people travel here every year to sample Mediterranean cusine. Many of the activities' raison d'être offered across the region is thanks to food or drink. Here's a small selection.
Wine tourism on two wheels in Bages
This itinerary consists of cycling for 50 kilometres over two days to discover the wineries that produce D.O. Pla de Bages, as well as the beautiful landscapes related to wine culture. History is also an important theme of the tour as one of the first stops is an ancient vat, a typical construction from the 16th century, followed by a visit to the 10th-century Sant Benet Monastery. The visits to Solergibert and Abadal wineries, and the home-made croquettes served at Xicra restaurant are just some of the sublime moments you'll experience during this getaway.
Pilgrimage to the wine cathedrals
On this tour you're invited to discover modernista wineries in the Conca de Barberà region. Due to their spectacular design, the playwright Àngel Guimera dubbed them 'wine cathedrals'. More specifically, it was the one in Espluga de Francolí that he gave this name to, but others – many of which were designed by Cèsar Martinell, a protégé of Gaudí – have now also been referred to as such. And when you go inside you'll understand why. Even today they still serve the same purpose, so visiting the 'cathedrals' in l'Espluga, Montblanc, Pira or Sarral is not only a way to see some outstanding masterpieces but also to understand the wine-making (and in some cases olive oil) process and its longstanding tradition in the area.
Grandfather Agustí, a taste of the Delta de l'Ebre
Here's an authentic experience you'll never forget. Grandfather Agustí Bertomeu has plenty of anecdotes to share about the life of a fisherman in the Delta. He farms mussels and oysters in the Bay of Alfacs, and he's opened a floating bar – the only one on the Catalan coastline. Visitors can see the mussel farms up-close by taking a boat taxi, whilst Mr Agustí explains how to grow them. Putting the final touches on this incredible experience is a lunch that's a full-blown seafood fest, with a paella made with rice grown in the Delta and a plate of langoustines thrown in.
Gastronomy and tradition in Rupit
In Osona, an interior region of Catalonia, you'll find the picture-postcard village of Rupit, with its streets and houses made of stone. If you'd like to visit it and try some of the delicious products of the region, you can reserve a place on the 'Gastronomy and tradition in Rupit' tour, which also includes a trip to the Sallent waterfall, an impressive feature in the Collsacabra national park. Food, landscapes and nature await, so find two free days on your calendar and get packing!
Costa Brava, sea and vineyards
Winemaking in Empordà is a very old tradition, since the Greeks took their vineyards to this part of northeast Catalonia. More recently, wines with D.O. Empordà are gaining territory in the market and on the table. It's no surprise, really; just try any wine with this denomination and you'll find out for yourself. As well as incredible wines, this region is perfect for a short trip to get to know it well. That's why we recommend a week's holiday in the region, exploring the whole area and discovering places such as Cap de Creus, Peratallada, Pals, L'Escala and Palamós. If you've never visited this part of the world, take the opportunity to be amazed.
Two days is all you need to visit Segrià, and its capital Lleida, with a particular focus on gourmet products from its fertile fields. The tour includes visits to a quail farm, a pig farm, the Raimat winery and a charcuterie, as well as traditional meals in local restaurants. You'll even have time to visit Lleida and do some shopping.
Priorat, beyond wine
The Priorat region is well-known for its wines, which are some of the most prestigious and expensive made in Catalonia. But the region is also a gastronomic haven, home to unique recipes and products including high-quality olive oil and hazelnuts. So if you like good food paired with excellent wine, take note of this experience, which combines gastronomy, tradition, culture and landscapes.
Olive Oil Experience
Oli de Ventalló, in L'Alt Empordà, offers an Olive Oil Experience, a guided tour of the different phases in the production of the oil.
It starts in the courtyard of the olive mill and moves on to the olive grove, where olive growing is briefly explained. A video is shown in the mill on how olives are harvested, after which the visit moves into the building, while the olive oil production process is explained. There is a tasting of two extra virgin oils and, finally, visitors can choose either a tasting menu of kilometre-zero products or dinner in the La Bassa restaurant.
If you'd like the guided tour in a language other than those normally offered, please contact the company. The price varies with the chosen option, as the activity can last one or four hours.
Cava, Sitges, Gaudí and much more
A thoroughly complete trip that lasts ten days for those of you who'd like to discover the region just south of Barcelona, but still close to the Catalan capital. Towns include Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú, Sant Sadurní d'Anoia – the capital of cava – as well as the emblematic Montserrat mountain. You'll have enough time to experience it all: eating great meals featuring local dishes, making your own cava, and even going on a hot air ballon ride. On the last day, you'll visit Colonia Güell, in Santa Coloma de Cervelló, where there's a magnificent church built by Antoni Gaudí.
Wine and cheese pairing
This experience includes a tour of the Torres wineries in the town of Pacs del Penedès, where you'll discover the history and current production of Torres wines. You'll also enjoy a pairing of Catalan wines with four cheeses: brie, semi-cured, cured and blue. Without a doubt, the perfect activity for lovers of essential Mediterranean gourmet products – it's available every day of the year and in four languages: Catalan, Spanish, English and French.