Gastronomy plays a central role in Spanish culture, second perhaps only to football. For most visitors to Catalonia, sampling some of their world-renowned cuisine and wine is a top priority. The ideal way to experience the very best the region has to offer is to explore the vineyards, villages and local restaurant themselves, accompanied by a knowledgeable native to guide you. This rare opportunity is exactly what Explore Catalunya’s Traditional Food & Wine Tour offers – a whole-day expedition eating and drinking local fare, and visiting regional treasures such as Montserrat mountain along the way.
Meet your small group near the Palau de Musica in the city centre, and begin your journey from the comfort of a minivan. Your guide will introduce you to Barcelona, pointing out landmarks and telling anecdotes as you leave the metropolis and head into the hinterland. It’s strongly advised you skip breakfast before the tour (and possibly dinner the previous night too!) in order to make space for all the delectable goodies you will be treated to throughout the day.
First stop on your adventure, a quintessential Catalan village for an authentic multi-course breakfast. You will learn how to make your very own pa amb tomàquet using fresh tomatoes and crusty farmhouse bread. To accompany, platters of artisan cheese, of the type sold at the famous market outside Montserrat monastery, and expertly sliced jamón are provided in abundance. The Spanish are great believers in tapas – being provided with multiple dishes at once – and, as such, various other nibbles are offered, such as olives and miel y mató.
Agreeably fuelled up for the next leg of your day, a short car’s ride will take you up to Montserrat or to an alternative destination if you prefer. Ultimately, Explore Catalunya’s guides are flexible and laidback and draw upon their expert knowledge of the region to plan a tailored tour for you and incorporating any of your preferences. As such, you may find yourself appreciating the magnificent views afforded from Montserrat’s summit, or admiring the ‘serrated mountain’ from a little-known vantage point in the verdant surrounding countryside.
Nevertheless, although Explore Catalunya tours are relaxed, there is a schedule to adhere to to some extent. A lunch table is reserved at a busy restaurant frequented by Catalan families from miles around. If you take the tour on a Sunday, you will be treated to seasonal local dishes such as calçots and romesco sauce, but any time you visit this thriving eatery you are sure to be treated to high quality, wholesome cuisine. Once more, the backdrop to your meal is the iconic Montserrat peak, though the eatery itself is situated amongst olive groves in the mountain’s southern foothills.
By this stage of the tour you will have already sampled at least a couple of beverages, however the real wine tasting does not begin until you arrive in the Penedés region. This area is famous for its production of cava (the Spanish champagne), and you will be given the chance to see how a modern biodynamic winery operates and functions. A representative from the company will take you on a guided tour of the underground cellars and barrelling room before treating you to a tasting of the best vintages with a cheese and fuet pairing.
Finally, having seen a significant portion of the beautiful Catalan countryside and sampled many of their most popular gastronomy, it’s time to return to Barcelona. Satiated by exquisite food and peerless wine, you can sit back and admire the sublime landscape pass you by. Overall, the experience is extremely rewarding, filled with excellent cuisine and ideal for those looking to see a great deal outside the city in a short space of time.