Romans, Moors, monks, phylloxera, Spanish Civil War, and a wine resurgence in the 1990s are just some of the highlights of Catalunya’s only DOC and one of two in the country of Spain, known as Priorat.
Priorat’s name derives from the monks who arrived in 1194 (Think Priory) on a mission sanctioned by the French king to re-establish Christianity after the Moors were vanquished back to Jerez. The story goes the local farmers say they found a “Ladder to God” at the base of the Montsant mountains, which make the northern border of the wine region.
And so, the monastery of Scala Dei was born, whose remnants and partial reconstruction still exist today for visits. The monks built up the region, collecting taxes and acting as the “feudal lord” for the area up until 1835 when the Spanish monarchy confiscated the lands for the people, in an attempt to thwart a revolution that had occurred 60 years earlier in neighboring France.
The region has had many highs and lows, with phylloxera doing the most damage in the late 1800s, destroying the 12.000 acres of vineyards that had existed for centuries prior, dating back to 1194. Many people main the decision to leave, and most of the vineyards remained empty and dormant until the 1950, when an effort to replant began.
Priorat is known for powerful reds – mainly of Grenache and Carignan – thriving in an environment of suffering due to less moisture, tones of heat and sun, and a special soil called, “llicorella” in Catalan. Llicorella is primarily reddish black slate with small bits of mica, which reflects the sun and keeps in heat. The top soil is formed from decomposed slate and mica, as the llicorella is very easy to break, allowing vines to develop very deep root systems to find water.
It was rediscovered in the 1990s when several top winemakers from outside of Priorat founded wineries after they discovered the potential of the region for making incredible wines. This was confirmed by critical acclaim from the wine journalists, sommeliers, and wine experts.
Today there are over 100 wineries making wines, most in the traditional manner of organic and/or biodynamic punctuated by harvesting by hand plus minimal intervention. Many of these wines have gained critical acclaim from Clos Mogador, Clos Erasmus, Cellers de Scala Dei, Clos Figueras, L’Ermita, Mas Martinet, Bodega Gratavinum, Grand Clos, and many others.
Learn More with our History of Priorat Wine Region & Clos Figueres
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