At Jean Leon, we want to learn about our local region and give it the value and importance it deserves. In our case, this region is the Penedès. It’s the land where we live, where we grow, and that we respect every day; where the words wine and vine are intrinsic to it and where there are many other deep-rooted customs and traditions we want to highlight. So, with this article we’re kicking off a new category in the blog, which we’ll call “Getting to Know the Penedès,” where you’ll be able to find content about the typical products from the area and the sub-areas within the DO Penedès, as well as other stories related to the region.
Today, we’re visiting one of the most important Iberian sites in Catalonia: Font de la Canya, located in Avinyonet del Penedès. It’s home to an exhibition that’s the result of 18 years of excavating, focused on the origin and arrival of wine in our region.
In the words of Daniel López, the archaeologist and project manager for the past 20 years, the arrival of wine in the Penedès “is a complex process, linked to contact between Mediterranean peoples and the native communities on the Catalan coast. The findings at Font de La Canya explain this process and mark the beginning of wine-growing activity that has ended up shaping the identity of a region, what we call the ‘DO Vinífera.’”
Font de la Canya is the site that provides the most information about these beginnings. It shows us that wine came from the Phoenicians (a culture of great traders) and was soon accepted by all the indigenous communities in the area. Alcoholic beverages like beer were already known at that time, but wine had more qualities. For instance? Its intoxicating power and the fact that it was a product that kept better than beer.
Over two hectares and 600 years of history
The archaeological excavations have made it possible to delimit the area of the site within a total of 2.5 hectares. From all the findings that have been extracted, we can tell that Font de la Canya was a hub dedicated to the storage and redistribution of basic products and prestigious goods that were coming from Europe and the Mediterranean. As López explains, “It was a kind of ancient market complex, and that gave it a clear commercial, strategic, and transformative character, because from there it was possible to control society and supply it with all the basic essentials.”
The Iberian site of Font de la Canya dates from the 7th century BC (650 BC) to the 1st century BC. “We have 600 years of history here, a very long period, which has allowed us to learn about the influence of the arrival of wine in a region like the Penedès and how it changed.” This arrival had very significant social consequences, both in the area of agriculture as well as on a social level. Crops based on cereals and pulses (immediate yield) stopped being planted in the fields, while crops with a delayed yield (four or five years) began to spread. “This shows us that the people who could grow these types of crops had very high purchasing power, because they didn’t need them to live and they could speculate.” This coincides with the arrival of robust architecture. “There’s control of the territory, the farms are permanent, and social inequalities begin to appear. The vines root the population to a territory.” Ultimately, the vines and the stone architecture lay the foundations for what is Penedès today.
To better understand what the Font de la Canya site represents in the historical context, we can summarize it in four large phases:
- The first Iron Age (7th-6th centuries BC) 650-550 BC
The area begins to be occupied and the population settles in the southern part of the hill in solid constructions made from stone and earth.
- Ancient Iberian (6th-5th centuries BC) 550-450 BC
A new area of inhabitation is created to the north of the hill, the extent of which is unknown. The use of silos (holes dug into the ground used to store grains) increases.
- High Iberian (5th-3rd centuries BC) 450-200 BC
A more complex and diversified residential area is established and the silos grow in size and volume.
- Late Iberian (2nd-1st centuries BC) 200-50 BC
The region is adapted with the Roman presence in the territory. A new Roman settlement is created at the southern end of the site, which will need to be explored in future excavations.
The first Penedès wine
In addition to these phases, it is also important to point out that the oldest seeds and vine shoots in Catalonia have been found at the site, dating back 2,700 years. These grape remains form part of the collection of mineralized (527 units) and carbonized (5 units) seeds that were found inside a silo in the year 2011. The context of the finding leads us to believe that it is the pomace or leftovers from pressing the grapes. It’s a collection dating from the first Iron Age and that, for now, represents proof of the beginnings of winemaking in the Penedès.
As you can see, there’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s already been nearly 18 years, and there’s still lots to discover.
We encourage you to visit the Interpretation Center located in Avinyonet del Penedès and the Font de la Canya Archaeological Site. We’re sure you’ll be amazed! More information is available on the website http://www.fontdelacanya.cat/