This relatively small region close to Barcelona in Spain’s Catalonia has become the darling of red wine drinkers everywhere.
Priorato is covered with pine trees, helm oaks, olive trees, and precariously clinging vineyards on slopes, some of which are terraced to prevent soil erosion.
The region, situated between the Mediterranean Sea and mountains of eastern Spain’s Tarragona province, has been producing wine for centuries but they were never marketed, nor were they outstanding, because of lack of equipment and know how.
The terroir of licorella consists of various types of rocks. The hot climate and vegetation (rock rose, thyme, rosemary, and other aromatic plants) contribute to the dark, powerful, fruity and super-smooth red wines for which many enthusiasts pay top prices.
Most popular varieties planted are garnacha (aka grenache), carinena (aka carignan), cabernet sauvignon, and syrah, all of which winemakers use to create outstanding wines that can be enjoyed in their youth, but which can also be cellared for years pednign on vintage quality.
Now, hot climate white grape varieties are being planted to complete the portfolio of Priorato. The preferred varieties are viognier and garnacha blanca (aka grenache blanc).
The dreaded phylloxera vastatrix arrived in 1893 and devastated many of the vineyards, which eventually were revived by replanting with phylloxera resistant crossbred root systems.
Carthusian monks arrived from Provence, France in 1194 and started Priorato de Scala Dei, now called simply Priorato, and introduced vitiviniculture to the region to cover their daily consumption.
The DO Priorato control system was established in 1950. Three decades later, Rene Barbier, Carlos Pastrana, Josep Lluis Perez, Alvaro Palacios and Daphne Glorian, all well-established Spanish vintners in Catalonia, decided to produce outstanding wines respecting the natural environment.
Today, Priorato boasts 94 wineries, cultivating approximately 2000 hectares, of which only 80 are planted to white grapes.
The total production rarely exceeds six million bottles, and Priorato wines tend to be expensive ( yields are low and the terrain difficult for workers to work fast), especially from the following estates – Clos de L’Obac, L’Ermita, Clos Erasmus, Clos Mogador, Mas Sineu, Mas de Gil, and Val Llach.
Prorato wines are dark, smell of ripe stone fruits, are always well-extracted, high in alcohol (14 – 15 per cent ABV), smooth, with layers of flavours, and always with a long finish. They are meant to be enjoyed with deeply flavoured foods.
Now significant quantities are being exported to the U S A, the U K, Germany, and Canada.