Priorat, just south of Barcelona, has been named Wine Region of the Year 2016 by the Swedish wine tasting association Munskänkarna (with more than 20,000 members), according to confirmed unofficial sources. Wine Region of the Year is an award that Munskänkarna gives to a wine region that they think deserves more attention, that makes outstanding wines and that is a particularly interesting destination for wine tours. I cannot but agree, Priorat is a wine region that deserves more attention.
For those who have been into wine for a long time maybe the name Priorato is also familiar. This is the Spanish (Castilian) name of the region that today in Catalan is called Priorat.
Priorat is within a two hour drive southwest of Barcelona. First you follow the coast for a bit. Then you drive into the country, up in the mountains. The mountains are steep and high and the scenery is spectacularly beautiful.
Priorat is quite a small wine region with only around 2,000 hectares of vineyards, less than half of eg Chablis or Saint Emilion. There are around a hundred winemakers. They mainly make red wine here, even if there are both white and sweet wines too. The red wines are usually powerful, spicy, intense wines with a typical southern, sunny character. They mainly use Garnacha Tinta (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan) and also Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. But even Merlot and Monastrell (Mataró, Mourvèdre) is used. The soil is mainly slate (schist), of a type called llicorella.
The evolution of Priorat as a wine growing region has been a bit like a roller coaster. 30-40 years ago it was an almost unknown district. If at all referred to it, it was mentioned as an unknown wine from the mountain areas of Catalonia that was dark, almost black, and mainly used as communion wine.
Then something happened. Some talented winemakers moved there around the 80s and started making ambitious wine. Very ambitious. They received high scores in US wine media. The wines became more and more concentrated. And oaked. Priorat became the “cult wines” of the times, this rather ridiculous epithet that often predicts a fall from the skies. Prices rose sharply. Very sharply.
Then something happened again. Maybe it was greed that had taken the upper hand, and prices that rose too much. Maybe it was the trendy wine consumers who got tired of too impressive wines. Priorat almost disappeared from the list of the world’s wine celebrities.
But since about a decade Priorat is on its way back. Very much so. The quality of the wines is there. The quality has actually always been there at the best producers. Maybe Priorat has calmed down slightly on the concentration. Perhaps today they put more attention to the fruit in the wine which gives a better balance in the wines. Today you will find splendid, outstanding wines from Priorat, so it is very well deserved to be named Wine Region of the Year.
Today Priorat is a district worth discovering, both for its excellent wines and for its truly spectacular scenery.
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This post is also available in: Swedish