Tarragona is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) (Denominació d’Origen in Catalan) for wines located in the province of Tarragona (Catalonia, Spain) and covers three distinct areas: the Camp de Tarragona, a part of the Priorat comarca (district) and a part of the Ribera d'Ebre comarca (district). Over 70% of the production is white grapes most of which are used to make Cava.
Tarragona has been renowned for its sweet red wines since the times of the ancient Romans, when it was exported to Rome. The area under vines expanded constantly over the centuries to the point that in 1900 over 50% of the province was covered by vineyards. It was badly affected by the outbreak of the phylloxera plague at that time. In 1932 the wines from the area were given a form of legal protection, and in 1976 it acquired DO status.
The vineyards are located along the coast and extend inland towards the border with the province of Lleida. There are two official sub-zones: Camp de Tarragona is the largest one containing 70% of the vines and extending around the north and east of Tarragona in a radius of 30 km, at an altitude of abround 200 m above sea level. The second sub-zone, Ribera d’Ebre, is located to the south and west of Tarragona. The vines here are on small plateaus on the banks of the River Ebro at an altitude of between 100 m to 400 m above sea level.
In Camp de Taragona, the soils are dark with a considerable content of lime, while the sub soil is alluvial. In Ribera d’Ebre the soils are fertile and alluvial in nature, especially if close to the river.
The climate is Mediterranean with continental influences in the higher part of the Ebro river valley. Annual rainfall varies between 475 mm in Camp de Tarragona and 650 mm in the Ribera d’Ebre. The average annual temperature is 16°C (max 35°C in summer, min 3°C in winter). The risk of frost is very slight.
The three authorised white varieties are: Macabeo, Garnacha blanca and Pedro Ximénez, while the authorized red varieties are Garnacha tinta, Cariñena, Tempranillo (known locally in Catalan language as Ull de Llebre), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The older vines are planted as low bushes (en vaso) while the newer ones are on trellises (en espaldera). In both cases they are planted at intervals of 1.4 m between vines and 2.8 m between rows (marco real).
Most wineries in Tarragona DO now produce and bottle modern reds whites and rosés. Only a few still produce the traditional wines:
- Rancios (rancid) wines are left out in the sun in glass demijohns and are then aged for at least four years in oak barrels
- Tarragona Clásico (Classic Tarragona) is made with 100% very ripe Tempranillo grapes, and is fermented until it attains a maximum of 17% alcohol. It is then aged for twelve years in oak containers of up to a maximum capacity of 2,000 litres. Sometimes the solera system is used.
- Sweet dessert wine is aged for five to ten years in vats, oak casks or in the bottle.
- http://www.gencat.net/diari/4410/05161136.htm DO Regulations, published in DOGC no.4410 dated 21-6-2005. In Catalan