May 222013
 

It was the best of times and then… well, you know. Originally a Roman wine region, Spain’s Priorat then became a lost land of outlaws and wolves.  The Carthusians came in the 12th century, replanted the vineyards, and built a massive monastery in the middle of the wilderness.  But in the early 1800’s, that was destroyed in the revolts against the church.  And once again, the region became a rural backwater—but this time without the wolves.

It wouldn’t be until the 1980’s that anyone outside of Catalunya even heard of Priorat. A group of young winemakers took a look around at the steep hills and realized, we can make great wines of the world here. And so they did.

These determined winemakers brought in modern equipment, French oak barrels and a vision of a new kind of wine from Priorat:  focused, intense and very high quality.  They appreciated the area’s special soils, called, llicorella, whose mica particles add a touch of glitter to the landscape. The soil retains heat and reflects it back off the precariously steep slopes on to the vines. This added warmth, along with wild herbs and flowers that cover this hillsides, give the region some very powerful and aromatic wines.

Today, wine enthusiasts are clamoring for the wines, willing to pay top dollar. These are some of the best expressions of garnacha and carinena in the world.

I just visited the region and give you a view of Priorat Through the Bunghole:

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May 212013
 

PrioratI just got back from Priorat last week. What I was not prepared for was the beauty of the region.  I knew it made great wines, but I didn’t know about the stunningly steep vineyards (some terraced, some not) and the explosion of wildflowers that covered the hills.

Poppies in PrioratOf course, this has been the wettest spring in recent memory, and as one of my hosts put it: “anything that grows is going to blossom this year.” But, the result is glorious:  poppies, lavender, thistles, sage, rosemary — the full Mediterranean spice rack.

You could almost hear Julie Andrews singing…