Located in Catalonia just south of Barcelona, Priorat produces one of the two highest quality DOCa classifications in Spain.
Priorat, however, is miniscule in terms of production. The entire region accounts for roughly 1,600 hectares (3,954 acres), while the other red wine dominant DOCa, Rioja, has more than 60,000 hectares (148,260 acres). Priorat’s small size, however, is not a disadvantage.
Within Spain, there are only two regions that hold the top quality designation for wine (DOCa), and Priorat is one of them (Rioja is the other and fifteen times larger in size). Over the past several years, Priorat generally has produced very good wines, with the 2005 and 2010 vintages earning outstanding accolades with near perfect grape growing conditions.
2014 was a tough year in Priorat. Extremely wet and less windy, the uneven weather, including a hailstorm, made it difficult for the Grenache to ripen and reach the desired sugar level content at harvest. Even worse, many of the grapes could not be used because mold developed in the grapes, so yields became very low.
What You Need to Know about Priorat Wine Region – Infographic
Priorat Grapes Varieties & Soils
These soils are a mix of black slate and quartz that force the vines to go deep to reach water.
In this hot and dry Mediterranean climate, the wine has a unique quality formed by stony schist soils that have a high mineral content and disintegrated slate, called llicorella. This is mostly red wine country, about an hour east of Barcelona, with blends of Grenache and Carignan grapes common. A small amount of white wine is also produced from the white variety of the Grenache grape.
About Priorat Wines
The resulting wines are dramatically aromatic, with notes of licorice and cherries. A key challenge is to maintain the lower alcohol levels, as the hot weather can produce a lot of sugar that converts to alcohol.
In 2009, Priorat created a new classification within the DOCa region (Vino de Pueblo) for estate-grown wines from twelve villages within Priorat.
These include La Morera de Montsant, Poboleda, Porrera, Torroja, Gratallops, Vilella Alta, Vilella Baixa, El Lloar, and Bellmunt, in addition to and three specific areas: Escaladei and the Solanes games (Molar) and Masos (Falset). These wineries must be located in the municipality indicated on the label.
Related Article about Priorat History
This Guest Post was written by Michael Biddick, author and traveling sommelier, exclusively for Social Vignerons.
Priorat is one of 43 wine regions I wrote about in my upcoming book 43 Wine Regions: A Practical Guide to the Top Regions and Vintages Around the World. Researching this book involved a lot of data analysis to understand each region, along with traveling to each wine-producing region to meet every producer I could. Make sure to visit a Priorat winery if you ever find yourself in Spain.