Tarragona > Priorat (wine region)

Priorat (Catalan, Spanish also Priorato) is a wine-growing region in the Catalan comarca of the same name. It is located in the steep hills of the Serra de Montsant with suitable Licorella slate soil, about 30 km from the provincial capital of Tarragona and Cambrils.

Priorat is Catalonia’s oldest wine-producing region. In the Middle Ages, the region was one of the most important wine-growing areas in Spain (→ see also the article Viticulture in Spain). After that, it was quiet for a long time, until a significant rise began from 1989, mainly due to the wines L’Ermita, Clos Erasmus and Finca Dofi, which became famous on the international market. In 2001, Priorat was elevated to the highest Spanish quality level D.O.C. (Denominación de Origen Calificada). Currently, the Priorat and Rioja growing regions are the only two allowed to carry this highest designation of origin.

The driving forces behind this success are winemakers like Álvaro Palacios and René Barbier. Palacios comes from the Palacios Remondo winemaking dynasty, which is active in Rioja. He learned the secrets of great Bordeaux wines from Christian Moueix in Bordeaux, the “father” of the Pomerol wines of Château Pétrus and Château Trotanoy, and brought his knowledge to the Priorat region, which was new to him.

Priorat PDO corresponds to an area of 176 km² with 2429 hectares of vineyards (as of July 2013). The region, located in the middle of the province of Tarragona, was named after the Priorat de la Cartoixa d’Escaladei (in German: “the priory of the Carthusian Monastery of the Ladder of God”), founded in 1163. Ruins of the Cartoixa d’Escaladei Monastery still remain, but they have been restored for several years. The wine region is almost entirely surrounded by the D.O. Montsant.

The deep cherry red and concentrated red wines are high in alcohol (13.50 to 15%). They often require several years of bottle aging and can be aged up to 25 years. Red wines are 90% cultivated and are among the most famous and best in Spain due to the particular terroir and the extremely low yield per hectare (only 5 to 6 hl/ha). Notes of ripe fruit and the slate soil are recognizable.

Authorized red grape varieties: Cariñena, Garnacha Tinta (recommended variety), Garnacha Peluda, Mazuelo (recommended variety), Merlot, Picapoll negre, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Ull de Llebre. Ull de Llebre is another name for the Tempranillo grape variety, which is dominant and favored by the state in Spain. The Cariñena and Mazuelo grape varieties are identical. Mazuelo is simply the common name for the Cariñena grape variety in the Rioja region (there is also a wine region of the same name with a town that gives it its name).

White grape varieties: Chenin Blanc, Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Muscat d’Alexandrie, Muscat blanc à petits grains, Pansal, Pedro Ximénez, Picapoll blanca, Viognier.

The few white wines stand out for their brilliant straw yellow color. The aromas are fruity and reminiscent of mountain herbs. On the palate, they appear warm and pleasant.

The vineyards of the 90 or so winemakers are mostly terraced at an altitude of 150-1000 meters above sea level on the slopes of the Montsant mountains. Below the mountains flows the Siurana, a tributary of the Ebro.

The following municipalities are located in the D.O.C. Priorat:

Bellmunt del Priorat, El Lloar, El Molar(partial), Falset(partial), Gratallops, La Morera de Montsant, La Vilella Alta, La Vilella Baixa, Poboleda, Porrera, Torroja del Priorat.

The regulatory authority responsible for Priorat is the “Consejo Regulador D.O.C. Priorat” in Torroja del Priorat / Tarragona.