By Susan King CS, FWS
I am so blessed to have a circle of wine loving friends, and we have been wine tasting and learning together over Zoom for the past several months. I know we are all anxious to be in the same room together soon. Last night, our subject was Garnacha/Grenache, and each person gridded a wine from benchmark regions of the world – Australia, the Rhone and Priorat.
Priorat – pronounced “pree-or-rat”, is definitely a wine region to know, for all levels of wine enthusiasts.
Priorat is located in the Northeast of Spain, in mountains just west of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea.
This is a mountainous, rural area, making a trip through the backroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains seem like a leisurely drive. The last time I was in Priorat, I hired a driver, and was glad I did!
While winemaking in all of Spain, including the Priorat region, goes back hundreds and thousands of years, the Priorat wines of today are actually a result of recent activity. This is a rediscovered region, with an incredible terroir.
In the mid 1980’s, the “Gratallops” Project was initiated by a group of like-minded winemakers. They planted vineyards and shared winemaking facilities. They introduced newer wine production methods, such as the use of French oak, as well as planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot to the indigenous varietals of Garnacha and Carinena (Grenache and Carignan in French).
These wineries introduced wines to critical acclaim in the 1990’s – Clos Mogador, Clos Dofí (now Finca Dofí), Clos de L’Obac, Clos Martinet, and Clos Erasmus.
A second wave of producers in the 1990’s has added even more excellent wineries and terroir to the region.
This is a small wine region with about 4,000 total acres planted (for comparison, Sonoma has 62,000 acres planted); about 600 growers, and 100 wineries.
Plowing vineyards in Priorat
The summers are long and hot, with very little rainfall. As with every mountain wine growing region, the microclimates are quite diverse, with strong shifts between day and night temperatures, and elevation and direction affecting vine growth. The vineyards are planted on steep, rock strewn hills, using bush vine (Gobelet) plantings.
Bush Vine in “Llicorella” schist soils
The soil, if you can call it that, is basically decomposed slate and schist, what the locals call Llicorella. It is relatively acidic with little organic material; however, it offers incredible drainage and is porous enough to allow the roots of the grapevines to reach deeper than just about anyplace else on earth. It is these soils which are recognized as giving Priorat wines their distinct and fabulous characteristics.
The wines of the region are quite diverse, with all styles of wine produced:
- Blanco (White)
- Rosado (Rose)
- Tinto (Red)
- Vino Rancio – oxidized wine
- Mistela (Negre and Blanc) – fortified wine bottled separately or used as a basis for Spanish Vermouth
- Vino Dulce Natural – sweet, fortified wine produced like Pedro Jimenez Sherry wines
The region is most famous for the red wines produced, and I love introducing my California wine loving friends to this region. The wines of Priorat are diverse – with allowances made for 100% varietal wines, and all types of blends of the allowed red grapes.
Please allow for some Priorat wines in your future consumption. Some producers to try:
- Costers del Priorat
- Clos Erasmus
- Mas Doix (all photos courtesy of Mas Doix)
- Alvaro Palacios
- Clos Mogador
- Amongst many others
Susan King, Certified Sommelier, French Wine Scholar, Master of Rhone with the French Wine Society and WSET Advanced Sommelier is on staff at Cold Craft, Inc. to assist our wine cellar refrigeration customers with organizing their wine cellar, pairing foods for special dinners and educational events, etc.
Should you have a wine cellar concern, wish to schedule your HVAC and Wine cellar maintenance or simply have a question or concern, please do contact us at 408.374.7292, or [email protected]. If you want to have a Sommelier available to you simply schedule your wine cellar refrigeration maintenance with Cold Craft, Inc. We can assist you with your wine cellar storage needs. #winecellarsolutions #winecabinets