Priorat is a small little wine region to the southwest of Barcelona in the Catelonia region of Spain. It is a unique little area that is surrounded by the larger region of Monsant and has recently received some international notoriety for the wines being produced there. Although there have been vines planted there for nearly a 1000 years, it has kind of been forgotten for large chunks of its history. The modern story of Priorat began in the late 1970’s when a few winemakers took an interest in the region. After being wiped out by Phylloxera around the turn of the century, Priorat was replanted and received a DO classification in 1950’s but was used primarily for pumping out bulk wine. A man by the name of Alvaro Palacios, from an old Rioja winemaking family, bought some property there in 1979 and replanted some vines. The wine was made in a cooperative style and those vines did not produce their first vintage until 1989. These vines or plots produced 5 different wines; Clos Mogador, Clos Dofi, Clos Erasmus, Clos Martinet and Clos de l’Obac. These would later become iconic names/wineries in Priorat. The wines were received well by the international wine community and the rest is history.
Priorat today is dominated by the Garnacha Tinta varietal. The others red varietals planted are Peluda, Carinena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and a few other indigenous varietals. The region is currently made up of 48000 acres of vineyards, up from 1500 acres in 1980. The soils and climate are what really make this appellation unique. Vineyards are planted between 100 and 700 meters above sea level and the soil is a unique blend of Black Slate primarily. This soil actually allows the vines to survive the extreme hot and cold weather by deflecting and retaining heat. The vines themselves are actually required to anchor so deep in this soil that it allows them to deal with the strong winds also associated with the region.
The result of the weather, soil and varietals creates really unique wines. The wines have a combination of really pure and concentrated dark fruits with a certain sort of rustic feeling. The can have a level of spice and herbaceous qualities as well. Although this is not always the case, it seems that the majority of the wines see substantially less new oak in the ageing process than other famous red wine regions in Spain like Rioja or the Ribera del Duero. This helps to set them apart from the other red wines in Spain.
Because of the recent popularity and relatively small size, the demand and price of these wines has continued to increase although I still believe there is a lot of value to be had.
Here at West Vail Liquor Mart we are currently carrying 4 different red wines from Priorat ranging from $17.99 to $199.99 a bottle. These are great options as the weather starts to cool off a little. Please come in and let one of our staff members help you pick out a bottle of Priorat to try!