Posted on Sunday, September 27th, 2009 at 5:30 am

An easy forty minute train-ride from Barcelona, Sant Sadurni d’Anoia is the center of cava-making in Spain’s Penedes region.  Cava is Spain’s sparkling wine.  It is made by the champenoise method, but cannot be called champagne because it is not from that region of France.

My Lonely Planet guidebook lists tours of Freixenet and Codorniu and says “You can simply turn up for tours at either of these establishments.”  Not true.  The Freixenet cellars are conveniently located across the street from the train station.  When I arrived at noon, I had already missed the only English tour of the day.  There was only one tour left and it was in Spanish.  As I had trekked out there, I took the Spanish tour.  I didn’t learn much, but I saw the cellars and enjoyed the Disney-esque ride on the glorified golf cart.



The Caves of Freixenet

The gentleman at Freixenet was kind enough to call Cordoniu and ask about tours for me.  There was one English tour at 3:15pm.  He said it was a half-hour walk.  It was 2pm so I headed in that direction.  The streets were confusing and the map was not helpful; I soon got a little lost.  A couple of locals recommended that I should take a cab.  They said it would cost me 5 Euros to get there.  Since I had traveled to Sant Sadurni to learn about cava, I didn’t want to miss my only chance at taking a tour.  I found a taxi at a taxi stand.  The driver pressed a couple of buttons and the meter started at 5 Euros.  Stubbornly, I refused the ride and got out.  It was getting alarmingly close to 3pm and I was nowhere near Codorniu.  I stopped a woman in a car at an intersection and asked her for directions; I was really hoping that she might offer me a ride.  She did and I amazingly arrived at Codorniu at 3:10pm.  (The logistics of these tours are definitely not as easy as the guidebook makes them sound.)


My tour at Cordoniu, the first company in the region to use the champenoise techniques, was basic because it is aimed at a general audience that knows nothing about the wine.  I did learn some interesting tidbits, like how they just barely freeze the bottle so that the settled sediment can be popped out in one piece.  Cordoniu, like Freixenet, is a mass-scale production.  There were 40 million bottles stored in its caves!  Again, we were driven through the facilities like kids through “It’s a Small World.”  At the end of both tours, there were tastings of some of their average bottles, included in the price.

Last Day of the Cordoniu Harvest, 2009

Vineyards in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia

Grapes in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia

The best part of my trip to Sant Sadurni was my leisurely walk back to the train station.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day with perfectly blue skies and I liked that I was somewhere rural and green.  I was there on the last day of the season’s grape harvest and saw the final trucks, stacked with the fruit, driving back to the grounds.  I walked along the road in solitude with the plants on either side of me.  I took some grapes straight off their vine and popped them directly into my mouth.  It felt a little naughty, but also necessary.  The grapes were juicy, though that particular variety was quite tart!  As I crossed the street towards town, there were grapes on the road, fallen from the trucks.  I deliberately stomped every single one.  The bottoms of my shoes became sticky; I reveled in how they clung to the asphalt as I headed for the train.

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