Terra Alta is the southernmost, and as the name suggests, highest altitude D.O. area in Cataluña. It is located on the Tarragona plateau at the border of Zaragoza and Teruel.
These vineyards are located at an average altitude of 400 metres. There is a series of rolling hills at this altitude and the vines are planted on the plateau and in the valley plains of the Sierra de Pandols (962 metres) at the border with Aragón. Deep, brown-coloured top layers give way to limestone and a small amount of loam. Like most hilly land, this is well ventilated and drained.
The climate is continental with Mediterranean influences. Summers are very hot and winters are icy cold. The annual average temperature is 16.4°C. Rainfall averages about 400 mm a year and the sun shines for 2,700 hours.
The authorised white grapes are Garnacha Blanca and Macabeo. Permitted black grapes are Cena/Mazuelo, Garnacha Tinta and Peluda. But in 1992 the Consejo Regulador also authorised the following grapes: Parellada and Moscatel for white wines and Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo for red wines. There are also a few plots with experimental grapes including Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Colombard. Here too, stainless steel has made inroads and is used alongside traditional concrete cuves. Modern vinification methods of Terra Alta are thoroughly aligned with modern Catalan wine production. Older bodegas are slowly changing their concrete fermentation cuves (still coated with epoxy at the more old-fashioned cooperatives). New ‘elite’ bodegas install the newest technology immediately. There are still some rural bodegas that do not bottle, and there is a clear contrast between this rural infrastructure and the 'new thinking', including the cultivation of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon: in some less progressive places the thinking is that vineyard expertise exceeds investment in fermentation facilities. This is one of the reasons why people throughout Spain (and Cataluña in particular) are deciding to privatise some of the cooperatives. Apart from these 'new style' wines, which are increasingly highly valued, Rancio and sweet white wines are also made in the traditional way.