History of Priorat
The wine district has two thousand years of history. Tarragona, located east of Priorat, was the Roman capital of Tarraconense and allready the Romans began making wine in the Priorat area. So wine has been produced in the area called Priorat today for a period of at least 2000 years.
Priorat was occupied by the Saracens in the beginning of the 8th century and controlled by the Moors until the XIIth century. Priorat preserves vestiges such as the oldest mosque in Catalonia and in the beautiful city of Siurana there is a famous church built in romanesque style in the 12th century.
The name Priorat
The district gets its name from the Cartheusian order who founded a monastery in the region in the end of the 12th century. Today remains from the monastery, Cartuja de Santa María de Escaladei, can still be visited close to the winery Scala Dei, taking name from the Cartheusian monastery.
The revolution in the 1980's and 1990's
But over the past 30 years, Priorat has undergone a major change, probably bigger than the changes happening over the last two thousand years. In the 1980's and especially through the 1990's the wine makers of Priorat changed their methods and equipments and began a more prefessionel approach to wine.
The head of the pioneers was René Barbier, who trained Alvaro Palacios among others. Today the wines are renowned for using the old Garnacha and Cariñena grapes (usually mixed with a little cabernet sauvingon and Syrah) and for the mineral taste coming from the soil.
Weather, climate & grapes
The wine region has some 3000 hours of sunshine and less than 380 mm rainfall per year. The soil is rich in slate and the vines are in general old (more than 30 years old, in L’Ermita you will see Garnacha vines that were planted 70 years ago).
The soil, which is rare in the Iberian Peninsula, is rich in slate. This type of soil is quite hard and consists of small and thin layers of slate, known as llicorella
in the local Catalan idiom. However, the roots of the vines are able to break this material and go through the soil to the underground where there is water. Many vineyards in Priorat are planted on terraces and steep slopes, called costers
(another Catalan term). This is one of the most important secrets behind the unique wines coming from Priorat.
The garnacha grape
Garnacha (Spanish) or Grenache (the French term) is the predominant grape variety in the Priorat region, and a very popular grape because it is ideally suited to the dry climate of the area. This grape gives a very strong and fresh wine. It is also a grape with a thin skin, and has some unique characteristics. Alvaro Palacios (see below) word is Garnacha "the only grape transforming warm and dry climate into a very beautiful and refreshing drink".
General characteristics of wines from Priorat
The white wines are made of grape varieties like Macabeo and Garnacha Blanca. They are pale yellow in color with fruity aromas and makes you think of herbs from the mountains. In the mouth it has a Mediterranean character: warm and soft.
The Rosé wines are the least typical of the Priorat region. The warm climate gives the wines a taste of ripe fruit and a warm and tasty palate.
This is the product with the highest of the region. The red wines have a characteristic intense cherry color, with complex aromas of ripe fruit and a terroir character (coming from the slate soil) that give them a mineral taste. On the palate they are characterized by great character, strong, fleshy, warm and tannic and the taste is persistent. The reds are made from Grenache and Carignan combined with lower rates of foreign varieties.
Rancid and sweet wines
These are traditional wines of the area. They have a nutty flavor with mountain herbs. The palate is warm, tasty and has good oxidative evolution. A range of sweet wines with aromas of black fruits and roasted oak. The palate is sweet, pasty, fruity and balanced by good acidity.
Winemakers in Priorat
Some of the top winemakers in Priorat
- Carles Pastrana (Clos de l'Obac, Miserere, Dolç de l'Obac)
- Alvaro Palacios (L'Ermita, Finca Dofí, Les Terrasses)
- Dafné Glorian (Clos Erasmus - in the years 2004 and 2005 the wine obtained 100 Parker points)
- José-Luis Pérez (Clos Martinet, Cims de Porrera)
- René Barbier (Clos Mogador).
is one of Spain's most succesfull wine producers of the moment and he has revolutionized Spanish wine over the past decades. Alvaro Palacios makes some of the best wines in Spain, Priorat district. In 1993, he bought 1.7 acres in La Ermita (bonita la Ermita, as Palacios calls it), located in Gratallops. this is probably the best vineyards in all of Priorat. La Ermita is located on a steep, north facing slope and consists entirely of Garnacha-(Grenache-) vines from the 1940s.
Alvaro Palacios' L'Ermita Wine
L'Ermita Alvaro Palacios top wine. The wine blends Garnacha with a bit of cabernet sauvignon. A strong and elegant wine. The wine has obtained 97 points from Robert Parker several times.
Alvaro Palacios' Les Terresses
Another of Alvaro Palacios exciting Priorat wines. The bottle is available at an affordable price around 25 euros in Spain. The wine is made of Garnacha, Cariñena and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Important wineries in Priorat
- Costers del Siurana
- Scala Dei
- Mas Igneus
- And several small estates in the Falset, Gratallops and Porrera area
The winery Clos Figueras is located in Gratallops, within the DOQ Priorat. The property was acquired in 1997 by Charlotte and Christopher Cannan on the recommendation of René Barbier. Clos Figueras winery retains an original old vine of Granache and Carignan. It also uses other varieties such as Syrah, Cabernet, Morvedre y Viogner.
Brands: Clos Figueres, Font de la Figuera negre, Font de la Figuera blanc y Serras del Priorat.
Another top winery in the Priorat Wine Region. This beautiful winery (see pictures above) is located close to the village of Porrera. The winery has three different wines on the market: Ferrer Bobet
, Ferrer Bobet Vinyes velles
and Ferrer Bobet selecció especial
One of the most characteristic features of this winery is the predominant use of the cariñena grape
. In Priorat, this grape is usually used as the second or third grape variety together with Garnache and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and/or Syrah, but at Ferrer Bobet Cariñena is the dominant grape, and the selecció especial
is a very interesting wine made out of 100 % cariñena.