We have just gotten back from four intense but enjoyable days of visiting the wineries in the Priorat and Montsant wine regions of Spain. This excursion was a “Press Trip” sponsored by the 2013 Digital Wine Communication Conference (DWCC). I will be writing more about our individual winery experiences, but for now we offer some general information about these two dynamic wine regions in the Catalan region of Spain.
The Priorat is a county and within that county reside two official wine regions, the Montsant (D.0.) and the Priorat (D.O.Q). Geographically the Montsant wine region surrounds the Priorat wine region, and what separates the two regions is the soil. The Priorat soil consists of layers upon layers of slate, with a thin clay soil separating each layer. They call this soil “llicorella.” In the Montsant D.O. the soil types vary. There are limestone, red clay, stone, and some of the same slate that’s in the Priorat, but only in a few areas of the region. It is easy to determine, when you are driving these roads, whether you are in the Montsant or Priorat regions just by observing the soil. If it is all slate, you are in the Priorat wine region.
The scenery in these wine regions is very dramatic! We traveled in two four-wheel-drive vehicles with a group of 14 wine bloggers and our wonderful tour guide, Rachel Ritchie, hired by the DWCC. The roads are very windy and to get to some of the vineyards and wineries, it is necessary to have an off-road vehicle. Rachel leads us to the most important wineries in the two regions and to the meetings with some of the most respected winemakers in Spain. Many Spaniards come to visit these two regions, some staying for the day or for a brief vacation. For those out of the area, my suggestion would be to hire a guide and arrange all the visits, and then leave the driving to the locals.
The main grapes in this area are Grenache, Carignane, Grenache Blanc and a few other varietals. Priorat wines have jumped into the limelight with prestigious scores and accolades from wine publications and famous wine critics. In 2006 the Priorat was awarded the designation D.O.Q. This is the highest wine region designation in Spain and only one other region, the Rioja, has this distinction. The Montsant region had taken a back seat to the Priorat, but recently has come into is own as a great wine region. After all, the climate and geography are very much the same; it is the soil that is the difference. The Montsant does have older vines, and that might be its claim to fame over the Priorat.
Overall I found the wines of the Priorat to be big, bold, strong in character and very balanced. If you like big wines, you will like the wines of the Priorat. In general I found the Montsant wines to be a tad lighter in style, but overall excellent in quality.
Many of the wineries, especially in the Montsant, practice various levels of organic farming. Many are fully certified biodynamic wineries. This is not a PR strategy but a way of life among the farmers and winemakers of the region. They are very proud and deeply rooted in their land and grapes.
Here is a quick glance of the wineries we visited in both regions.
- Ferrer Bobet – New, modern, and high on a hill with spectacular vistas
- Clos Figueres – Beautiful wines and a wonderful restaurant to enjoy
- Bodegues Mas Alta – Belgian owned, modern, with high-tech winemaking equipment
- Burgos Porta – Small family-run winery tucked away in the Priorat
- Terroir al Límit – We met outspoken winemaker Dominik A. Huber
- Clos Mogador – The owner is the legendary Rene Barbier one of the most important figures in the Priorat
- Trossos Winery – A new winery dug into the side of a mountain, with a few new guest rooms. Great views!
- Mas Doix – Yet another pioneering winery of the Priorat
- Portal del Periot – Architect Alfredo Arribas makes wine in both the Priorat and Montsant
- Vinyes Domenech – Rita Granache Blanc was delicious with our tapas lunch, excellent vineyard walk
- Falset-Marçà – A very small family winery, with lodging nearby
- Vermunver – A full lineup of fresh and exciting wines
- Celler de Capçanes – A cooperative winery producing amazing Kosher wines and the Mas Donis Barrica which I buy at home
- Capafons-Ossó – Frances Capafons runs two wineries, one in each wine region
- Baronia de Montsant – We tasted at our lunch some of the most delicious Montsant wines of trip