Wine for Normal People Podcast Ep 169: Priorat, Spain

A small production area of Spain, Priorat is one of only two DOCa (highest quality) regions of the country. These wines are expensive, but for good reason – they’re in short supply and are outstanding.priorat-map

We tell you how to get the best of the best of Priorat! Here are the show notes:

The driving question of the podcast is: Why does Priorat cost so much and what should you look for if you’re going for the best? Hint: It’s not just the red…

 

  • gallery15mThe Grapes
    • Old vines + LOW yields here, 1/5th the rest of Spain = intense flavor
    • Minimum alcohol is 13.5% by law to ensure ripe fruit comes off the vines
    • Reds: Red Garnacha is 40% of all plantings, old vine Cariñena is distinctive and coveted. Others: Cabernet Sauvignon (14%), Merlot (6%) both declining, Syrah (11% going up) and Garnacha Peluda
    • Whites (4% of production!): Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximenez, Chenin
  • The wines:  The best have a mineral note and are fresh with anise, tar, cherry, raspberry note. True expression of terroir.
    • One of only two DOQs in Spain: highest quality distinction Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) 

What makes Priorat special?

LOCATION: 

  • In DO of Cataluña (includes Barcelona, coastal area on Mediterranean)gallery13m
  • Montsant Mountains form northern boundary, to the west is Sierra de la Figuera, south around the Siurana River open valleys
    • Surrounded by the Montsant DO (the best are similar to Priorat)
    • Best vineyards at altitude and northeast facing to avoid sunburn
  • Climate: Microclimates are the key to different flavors, which depend on elevation, slope, and aspectllicorella
  • Soils: Are mostly cool, damp, and infertile but are well-draining. The best are made up of slate, mica, and
    quartz. The famed soil is llicorella, which means slate in Catalan

 

History

  • King Alfons el Cast sent two knights to find a place for Carthusians to settle in Catalonia. A shepherd priorat-towntold them about a stairway to heaven that popped out of the highest tree in the region…a Scala Dei…which was the name of the Carthusian order which settled here.
  • Priorat considered mystical wine for centuries
  • Not much happened until the early 1980s, when  Rene Barbier, who worked as winemaker in Rioja at winery owned by the Palacios family invested and convinced others to come along. The top vineyards were formed at the time: 
    • Clos Mogador (Barbier)
    • Clos Dofi (Palacios, now Finca Dofi and his property in 1993 – L’Ermita is old vines only)
    • Clos Erasmus
    • Clos Martinet
    • Clos d l’Obac

The best wines are costly — the area is small and there isn’t much supply but there are some terrific wines in the $25 range if you’re willing to splurge a tiny bit to see what the region is about! Go out and try this stuff, it’s money well spent! 

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts on Priorat! Thanks for listening.