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The Penedès Varietal Trifecta: Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada, the Perfect Mouthful!


Freshly picked Xarel·lo grapes


When I first moved from California to Penedès I was struck by how much it looks like Napa Valley. It’s to the point where, in the back of my mind, I expect an earthquake to happen at any time! My Catalan friends are trying to convince me to relax, no earthquakes here, but I’m not so sure….

But what they do have here, that’s unique in the world of wine, is what I call the holy trinity of white grape varietals, Xerello, Macabeo and Parellada,  that is to Cava what Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier is to champagne. The three latter varietals are, of course, the only kind of grapes allowed when making the sparkling wine from the Champagne region, located only about an hour away from Paris, thus one of the northernmost wine regions in the world. Penedès is located much more further south, just half an hour southwest of Barcelona.

Although other grapes are allowed in the production of Cava, such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, these three, Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada, are the ones that represent the Penedès terroir better than any other and make some fantastic sparkling wines.

Macabeo – sometimes known as Viura in other parts of Spain – gives Cava it’s freshness and body,  Xarel·lo – acidity and structure- and Parellada – softness and elegance- are, as far as varietals go, distinctly different but particularly good together.

(When I first moved here I remember taking a tour at one of the major Cava producers, and the ‘professional’ tour guide, whose English left a lot to be desired, kept talking about ‘cherellomacabeopareyada’ as if it was one grape, one that I, for sure, had never heard of. Kept thinking it might be Jerry Seinfeld’s fav, yada yada!)

Some of the best Cavas, which are made in the traditional method  the same way as champagne, are very different than their northern sister sparklers but equally superb and incredibly price worthy!

Among the favorites are;

Recaredo; consistently great

Augusti Torello ; especially Kripta, one of the best Cavas I’ve had, it comes in a bottle shaped like an amphora, which means you can’t put it down, and you don’t want to, believe me!

Gramona; a local favorite

If you can’t find these fabulous Cavas where you live, come here to Penedès and try them, and  many, many more!





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