Comments about wines, winemakers and wine areas in Catalonia.
DO Costers del Segre: continental wines
Costers del Segre is a rather geographically disperse DO with different zones that have three main things in common: its location on the basin of the Segre river (Costers del Segre may be translated as Banks of the Segre river): the soils, largely calcareous and with a healthy dose of sand; and the comparatively greater distance from the sea, offering better conditions for cold climate varieties. This is the more “Continental” of the Catalan DOs.
There are seven sub zones (see map) that show some difference in terms of height and climate. Raimat and Segriá are the ones with more continental climate, with extreme differences of temperature between day and night and foggy winters. Les Garrigues, Valls del Riu Corb and Urgell are drier and sunnier, more adequate for strong red wine but with a winery with excellent whites: L'Olivera. Artesa de Segre and Pallars Jussà are starting to climb the slopes of the Pyrenean foothills, with colder and longer winters; excellent conditions for some Central European grape varieties.
The short-term history of Costers del Segre is chiefly determined by Raimat, a very large winery owned by the Raventos family of Codorniu fame that invested heavily in the lands and winery a century ago. Still now, Raimat is the largest operation by far, focused on high volume production, with mechanized processes like grape harvest. Another historic player is Castell del Remei, a winery built at the end of the 19th century in the style of a French Chateau and one of the pioneers in the introduction of foreign grape varieties. The rest of the DO’s wineries are generally smaller.
Costers del Segre is one of the Catalan DOs with a lower proportion of local grape varieties in its wines. Allowed whites are Macabeu, Xarel.lo, Parellada, Chardonnay, Riesling, Garnatxa blanca, Gewürztraminer, Malvasia, Moscatell d’Alexandria, small berry Moscatell, and Albariño. Allowed reds are Garnatxa negra, Carinyena or Samsó, Ull de Llebre, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell, Syrah, Trepat, and Pinot Noir.
With this range there is production of white and red wine mainly. A few rosé and sweet wines and a quality sparkling with second fermentation in the bottle with features and quality comparable to Cava. Raimat produces mainly monovarietals, while the other wineries tend to favour coupages, especially in the reds.
My personal choice of wineries:
Castell del Remei
Vall de Baldomar
Vinya l’Hereu de Seró
Some excellent wines are to be found in Costers del Segre, especially among the smaller wineries (Raimat aims more to the middle segment). The main issue for me has to do with personality. There is potential to produce great wines, but they lack personality: with their international grape assortments it is difficult to taste one of them and identify it as a Catalan wine, let alone a Costers del Segre, and that is for me the true test for the great wine zones.