The availability, variety, and relatively cheap cost of Spanish wines made it one of my favorite reasons for moving to lovely Barcelona. Leisurely lunches that come with a copa of tinto or blanco. Walls of wine options starting at 2 euros at practically every store in the city. And, of course, the ubiquitous bodegas, granels, and wine tasting rooms. Lucky for us, the options are endless. Yet, as anyone who’s lived in Barcelona for long enough can attest to, after enough glasses of the house white or red at a menú del día, it’s time to seek out more options, and maybe even a chance to learn about the pour in your glass.
But introductions before anything else. I came to Barcelona as a wine novice. Living in close proximity to so many wine producing regions was a new experience and I, fortunately, stumbled upon a wine tasting group that began my exploration into Spanish wine. Kind friends studying wine and the owner of one of my favorite bodegas guided me. My inevitable plunge into formal wine courses was a foregone conclusion and it’s fair to say that I truly came to understand wine in Barcelona. I consider trying out new wine bars and restaurants to be one of the greatest pleasures in my life. Here are some of my neighborhood favorites.
The Barceloneta Bodega
For the ambiance of a traditional bodega, Barceloneta’s Bodega Fermin stands out. Though the list of Spanish wines is small, with only a handful of red, white, and rose, solid options from the Priorat and Penedes regions that aren’t typically found in every hole in the wall also grace the list. I never leave without having a glass of Marco Abella’s Loidana, my absolute favorite here. A traditional vermouth, along with some of the best house olives you can find and plenty of other delicious small plates, make this bodega an ideal stop for lunch on the way to the beach. As a bonus, while the shop is still a traditional bodega complete with old barrels and bulk wine that you can purchase for take away by the litre, it also has an impressive craft beer list for those looking to try local and international brews.
The El Gòtico Oasis
The tiny Zim bar feels like a hidden secret in the chaos of el Gòtico. The straightforward list of Spanish wines can be purchased by the bottle or by the glass. It’s a taste of old school Barcelona, but clearly this list was chosen with more thought than most. The menu offers locally produced artisan cheeses and embutidos. Most products are of limited production, so return trips to the bar may be required. The sobrasada, in particular, is worth return trips. The friendly atmosphere gives it the feel of a house party where groups of patrons seem to know each other. While the conversation and menu are mostly in Catalan, the owner happily includes others in the conversation and explains things in English if needed. If you plan to check this place out, and you should, take cash because cards are not accepted.
The Born Naturals
Sometimes though, I want something a little more contemporary. For those days, I head to Eldiset, a neighborhood place near my home in El Born. They focus on Catalan wines and have an excellent selection of local producers you won’t come across often. The well selected wine list has both crowd-pleasing styles and some more unusual offerings. Top on the list are orange wine, whose distinct color is achieved by letting it sit for five months with its skins in clay amphorae, and the 100% sumoll, a classic Catalan grape that is only now being revived by Catalan winemakers. For my money though, the gran reserva cava, aged for 54 months before its release, can’t be beat. In an effort to give the guest a more in-depth wine experience, Eldiset showcases a guest winery and pours a range of their wines by the glass. Their current menu offers seven wines from Bodegas Puiggròs, which presents an excellent opportunity to get to know one winery better. Pair your glass with a snack or two from the upstart menu that focuses on torradas, toasted bread topped with exciting and unique combinations of ingredients.
The joy of repeatedly visiting one bar or bodega is the opportunity it presents to delve deeply into the local culture and products. The world of Spanish wines is vast, though, and it would be a shame not to fully explore it. La Vinya del Senyor, a warm hug of a wine bar that sits in the shadow of the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, lets you do both. The bar boasts over 50 wines by the glass, of which 24 are sherries. The seemingly unending list includes bottles from most wine producing countries the world over. Here you can spend hours discussing the local wines with the knowledgeable sommelier team, and also enjoy a bottle of something from further afield if the mood should strike. With so many choices, it’s next to impossible to try everything. Thankfully, in a nod to maintaining a modicum of sobriety while tasting as many wines as possible, La Vinya del Senyor offers half glasses to let you explore a bit more. Combine that with their delicious tapas and a classic Barcelona plaza view and La Vinya becomes a place worth several return trips.
The Barcelona wine scene is increasingly varied. Modern restaurants with complex machine systems pour dozens of different wines, while a tiny bar next door offers a small, heavily curated list. Places with a traditional feel; the island in the midst of a sea of tourist traps; worldly places with large international selections; and, of course, the lists of ecological and low intervention wine. Catalunya covers all bases. Spend a leisurely afternoon or evening at any one of these neighborhood places to explore beyond your usual copa and understand why Spanish wines hold their own against their French and Italian counterparts. Until next month’s wine diaries post, salut!