History and geography of Priorat
Until 1979, Priorat was a forgotten wine region. Less than 600 hectares were planted with vines, and this poor, rural region was suffering from an exodus of the younger generation. Priorat's successful recent history is closely linked to the name of René Barbier. It was he who recognized the region's huge potential for outstanding wine, launching the Clos Mogador project together with friends in 1979. These adventurous pioneers caused a worldwide sensation with their wines, and the final breakthrough came in 1993 – when Alvaro Palacios successfully brought his Ermitá from Priorat to the market at a higher price than Vega Sicilia, Spain's most expensive wine at the time. Together with Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Priorat today stands at the pinnacle of Spanish viticulture.
Priorat is characterized by narrow valleys and steep hills. Vines grow from 200 to 1,000 metres above sea level. The steep terraces make mechanization impossible here: viticulture is still manual labour. Priorat's greatest treasure is its unique slate soils, called Llicorella. The centre of Priorat is the small village of Gratallops with about 250 inhabitants, which lies 40 kilometres west of Tarragona in the province of Catalonia.
The climate is dry and warm, with barely 400 millimetres of rainfall per year. Most vineyards with so little rainfall have to resort to irrigation, but the special slate soils in Priorat act as excellent reservoirs: the cool, moist soils make irrigation largely unnecessary.
A typical Priorat wine is concentrated, dense and full-bodied, with warm, luscious fruit and typical mineral slate notes. The alcohol content is mostly between 14 and 16% by volume, but it does not feel excessive. Almost all the wine produced is red.