Prior to phylloxera, which struck in the Penedes in 1876, more than 80 percent of the vineyards were planted with black grape varieties. When the vines were grafted onto American rootstock, white varieties were given priority due to the growing success of sparkling wines. This region is primarily associated with the sparkling wines of Codorniu and the more New World style and cold fermantation techniques of Miguel Torres. Today, this region covers approximately 45,000 hectares (111,120 acres), of which some 25,000 hectares (61,775 acres) are classified as Denominacion de Origen Penedes. It is easy to recognize the classic varieties in the vineyard because they are invariably trained along wires, whereas traditional Spanish vines grow in little bushes. Production averages 1.5 million hectolitres (16.7 million cases) of wine per year; 80 per cent is white.
The region of Penedes can be divided into three district areas, Bajo Penedes, Medio Penedes and Penedes Superior:
Bajo (or Baix) Penedes
Grape varieties: Monastrell Malvasia, Garnacha, Carinena and various other, mostly black, grapes.
This is the coastal strip and is the warmest of all three areas, being equivalent to the warmer regions of California. The land is low and flat, with vines growing on limestone, clay and sandy soil. This area increasingly produces full - bodied reds such as Torres' " Tres Torres Sangredetoro " , "Tres Torres Gran Sangredetoro" and "Gran Sangredetoro".
Grape varieties: Mostly Xarello and Macabeo; also the best area in Penedes for Tempranillo, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot and Monastrell.
The middle section of the Penedes is slightly hilly occasionally flat land at an altitude of some 200 metres (660 ft) in the foothills west of Barcelona, on a soil of mostly limestone and clay It has a cooler climate than the Bajo area, with most areas averaging Regions II and III. This is essentially Cava country but it also produces the best of the new-style reds, and Torres' "Coronas", "Gran Coronas" and "Gran Coronas Black Label" wines.
Grape varieties: Almost exclusively white and mostly Parellada plus Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Muscat. A little Pinot noir is also grown.
This area is furthest inland of the three and the grapes grow on chalky foothills at an altitude of between 500 to 800 metres (1,640 to 2,620 ft). Climatic conditions are the coolest in the Penedes equivalent to Regions I and II. It is so cool that Cabernet sauvignon will not ripen here and almost all the wines produced are white. However the area is well suited to Pinot noir, grown at San Marti by Torres for its "Vine Magdala" blend. Most pure Penedes Superior wines are of the fresh, cool-fermented type and can show remarkably fine aroma and acidity Other Torres wines are "Vine Esmeralda", "San Valentin", "Waltraud", "Vine Sol", "Gran Vina Sol" and "Gran Vina Sol Green Label".