The Penedes region in northeast Spain is most famous for cava, the sparkling wine which accounts for 95 per cent of the country's sparkling wine production. Penedes' dry red and white wines are relatively unknown outside the region. It's time for consumers to try these wines, which are improving in quality and offer value for money. According to Maxime Bazart, export manager for Pares Balta, the region is going through a transition. In the 19th century, phylloxera, the root destroying aphid, wiped out most of the vineyards. They were replanted with white grape varieties. The next century saw increasing experimentation with the planting of international varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, syrah and chardonnay. Now, the new generation of wine producers are rediscovering the past and Bazart says they are "recovering the identify of the place". Indigenous varieties such as xarello and garnacha are increasingly being planted. Pares Balta represents the new generation of producers, although the family-owned winery dates back to 1790. The vineyards are spread over five estates, and are located in valleys and mountains from 170 metres to 800 metres above sea level. This allows for a diverse range of wine styles due to the mixture of different soils and micro-climates. The winery's goal is to make wines which have "great character and concentration, but at the same time show elegance and balance".
Pares Balta Hisenda Miret 2010
Made from garnacha grapes from a high altitude vineyard at 400 metres. It was fermented at a lower temperature, which preserves fresh fruit aromatics, then matured for five months in new and second year French oak barrels.
Black fruit and chocolate with spicy and savoury notes. Full body, round tannins, complex tertiary aromas and a long finish. HK$458
Pares Balta Cava Brut Nature NV
The quality of Cava varies greatly. This example proves that good quality can still be found. Made from 21 per cent parellada, 23 per cent macabeu and 56 per cent xarello, it is labelled "Nature", meaning no sugar has been added and is made using the traditional method with the second fermentation in bottle, then aged in the bottle for 24 months.
Intense citrus and nutty aromas. On the palate, the wine is well balanced, with crisp acidity and a long finish. It's a good aperitif and will pair with seafood and white meats. HK$228
Pares Balta Blanc de Pacs 2011
The wine is made from a blend of varieties normally used to make cava, with this vintage composed of 34 per cent macabeu, 21 per cent xarello and 45 per cent parellada. As a still, dry wine, it is refreshing, crisp and delicious.
Vibrant citrus and pear aromatics. Medium body with crisp acidity. An easy drinking style that is perfect for hot summer days and sipping by the pool. HK$158
Wines are available from Cottage Vineyards. cottagevineyards.com