Museo Joan Miró

The Priorat Wine Region

Priorat is one of Europe's best wine regions

Barcelona, Spain
Kasper Christiansen
Text & photos: Kasper Christiansen
November 26th, 2020 (revised version)

Today, Priorat wines are among the most sought-after in Spain and wine from the region have a strong presence at Michelin-starred restaurants around the world - but it was not always like that. Just a few decades ago Priorat was a forgotten wine region and no producer dared charging more than a few € for a bottle of Priorat wine.

In the 1980'ies a group of young, adventurous winemakers came to the region and changed the way the wine was made. Today, wines like Alvaro Palacios' l'Hermita, Clos Erasmus' Clos Erasmus, Ferrer Bobet's Vinyes Velles and Mas Doix' Mas Doix are excellent wines that score top ratings in international and Spanish wine magazines.

In Priorat some of the world’s best wines are produced. A revolution over the last decades have brought new methods and equipment to the wine region

We organize winery excursions to Priorat from Barcelona. Read more about our Private wine tour to Priorat.
Vines planted in rows, Priorat
Vines planted in rows - thousands of vines at the Torres Winery in El Lloar, Priorat

A fabulous terroir

The secret behind the excellent wines of the wine region is the excellent terroir of Priorat. However, without the modernization of the winemaking process, the philosophy and the equipment over the last decades, the wines would not be what they are.

Today, Priorat is the only Spanish wine district together with Rioja that has obtained the prestigious "qualified" denomination. Therefore it says D.O.Q (“Denominació de Origen Qualificada” in Catalan, since 2001) on the bottles from Priorat (and from La Rioja), while wines from other Spanish areas say D.O.

The Priorat district is famous for its strong red wines made of the Cariñena (Carignan) and Garnacha (Grenache) grapes. These grapes are often combined with small percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot.

Lavander & wine, Clos Figueres, Priorat
Lavander & wine - photo from the winery Clos Figueres, Priorat

Facts about Priorat

Hectares planted with vine in the region
1.900 hectares

Wine production
Penedès produces around 3,500 hecto liters of wine each year.

Number of Wineries in Priorat

Commercialization of the Priorat Wines
48% Spain, 52% exported abroad

Priorat consists of 10 small villages
The Priorat region is located in the south of Catalunya (Catalonia), in the province of Tarragona, includes the municipalities of La Morera de Montsant, Scala Dei, La Villeda, Gratallops Bellmunt, Porrera, Poboleda, Torroja, Lloa, Falset and Mola.
Priorat vine

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).

Slate soil
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

Winemakers in Priorat

Some of the top winemakers in Priorat

Alvaro Palacios

Alvaro Palacios 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

Clos Figueras
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.

Ferrer Bobet
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.
Vines in rows in Priorat
Clos Mogador
In the 1940’s the Leon i René Barbier brothers, according to the family tradition, bottled the first wines of Priorat. In 1978, the descendants of the family (René Barbier, his wife Isabelle and their children René, Celine, Christian and Anderson) acquired land in Priorat, thus founding Clos Mogador (founded in 1979).
The winery works with the following varieties of grapes: For red wines: Garnatxa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Syrah. For white wines: white Garnatxa, Macabeo and Pedro Ximenez.
Brands: Clos Mogador and Manyetes.

Scala DeiI
The winery, founded in 1973, is located in old buildings of the Carthusians, duly restored and equipped with modern processing systems. The cellar is from XVIIth century. Use grape varieties: black garnatxa, samsó (carinyena), cabernet sauvignon y syrah.
Brands: Scaladei Negre, Scala Dei Prior and Scaladei Cartoixa.

Outstanding presence of Priorat in Parker scores

Over the years many of the wineries in Priorat have scored very high in Robert Parkers magazine, The Wine Advocate. Among them are Clos Erasmus that succeeded to get the legendary 100 top points.

We organize private wine tours to Priorat from Barcelona. Read more about our Private wine tour to Priorat.

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