Regions and Appellations Spain Catalonia [Catalunya] Priorat

Priorat Wine

Priorat is a small, dynamic wine region in Catalonia, north-eastern Spain, whose intense, full-bodied red wines have shot to fame in the past few decades. The classic Priorat wine is made from old-vine Garnacha and Cari?ena, and has concentrated aromas of licorice, tar and brandied cherries.

Red Priorat wine (the region also produces tiny quantities of white and rosé) is exceptional in three key regards. First, it is one of very few world-class wine styles to be based on Grenache – a category in which it is joined only by red Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the top-end wines from California's Sine Qua Non. Second, it is one of only two styles to hold Spain's top-tier DOCa classification (the other being Rioja). And third, it has risen from being almost unheard-of on the international wine market to being one of the world's most expensive wines.

Schist soils and bush vines, Priorat
© Jesus Vi?uales

Spain's hot, dry vineyards are known for their low yields, but Priorat's vines are low-yielding even by Spanish standards. Yields here average less than five hectoliters per hectare (hl/ha). To provide some context, the Spanish average is 25hl/ha, while vineyards in cool, wet Germany yield closer to 80 hl/ha.

Yield is closely linked to quality: lower yields generally mean higher quality. There are three key reasons for Priorat's super-low yields: climate, nutrient-poor soils and vine age.

The official Priorat viticultural area (which is surrounded entirely by that of the Montsant DO) covers 11 parishes located just inland from the city of Tarragona. The climate here is remarkably continental, given its relative proximity to the Mediterranean (Torreja del Priorat lies just 25km/15 miles from the coast).

Summers are long, hot and dry, and annual rainfall averages 500mm – comparable to that of dry, dusty Montilla-Moriles down in Andalucia. The particular combination of geographical factors makes this one of the warmest, driest areas anywhere in Spain.

Soil is of paramount importance to winemakers in Priorat as this is reputed to impart much of the minerality associated with the region's wines. Priorat's flagship soil type is "llicorella" - a free-draining, nutrient-poor soil made up of partially-decomposed slate and quartz ('llicorella' is the Catalan name for slate).

The region's relatively recent rise to fame and glory belies its long history of winemaking. Winemaking dates back at least as far as the 12th Century, when monks of the Carthusian Order established a the Priorato dei Scala Dei monastery and planted vineyards there. The monastery's ruins can still be visited today, and vines still hug the hillsides below it.

Most Priorat is aged in oak for at least 12 months, and the official Priorat DO production laws recognize three levels of wine quality based on maturation periods:

  • Crianza spends one year in oak, followed by a year in bottle before release;
  • Reserva spends one year in oak then two years in bottle;
  • Gran Reserva spends two years in oak and three years in bottle. In practice, few wineries use these traditional aging classifications.

Alongside the traditional Garnacha and Cari?ena, a number of Priorat winemakers are using international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah for their red wines.

The region's white wines are made from the four authorized white varieties, Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximénez and Chenin Blanc.

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Most Popular Priorat Wine

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Grape
Popularity
Score
Avg Price
Alvaro Palacios L'Ermita Velles Vinyes, Priorat DOCa, Spain Grenache (Garnacha) 722nd 96 $988
Clos Mogador Vi de Finca, Priorat DOCa, Spain Rare Red Blend 731st 94 $89
Clos i Terrasses Clos Erasmus, Priorat DOCa, Spain Grenache (Garnacha) 1,059th 95 $257
Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi, Priorat DOCa, Spain Cabernet - Grenache - Merlot - Syrah 1,222nd 93 $86
Vega Escal, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carignan - Grenache - Syrah 2,641st 89 $25
Terroir Al Limit Soc. Lda. Les Manyes, Priorat DOCa, Spain Grenache (Garnacha) 2,652nd 95 $214
Alvaro Palacios 'Les Terrasses' Velles Vinyes, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carignan - Grenache - Syrah 2,816th 91 $38
Clos i Terrasses Clos Erasmus 'Laurel', Priorat DOCa, Spain Cabernet - Grenache - Syrah 3,314th 92 $47
Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carignan - Grenache - Syrah 3,753rd 90 $23
Mas Martinet 'Clos Martinet' Tinto, Priorat DOCa, Spain Rare Red Blend 3,817th 93 $74
Costers del Siurana Clos de l'Obac, Priorat DOCa, Spain Cabernet - Grenache - Merlot - Syrah 3,968th 90 $140
Ferrer Bobet Seleccio Especial Vinyes Velles, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carignan (Carinena) 3,989th 93 $86
Ferrer Bobet Vinyes Velles, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carinena - Garnacha 4,019th 92 $49
Celler Mas Doix 'Doix' Costers de Vinyes Velles, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carinena - Garnacha 4,279th 92 $107
Alvaro Palacios Vi de Vila Gratallops, Priorat DOCa, Spain Rare Red Blend 4,500th 92 $55
Torres Salmos, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carignan - Grenache - Syrah 4,896th 90 $33
Ferrer Bobet, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carignan - Grenache - Syrah 5,398th 91 $36
Terroir Al Limit Soc. Lda. Vi de Villa de Torroja, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carinena - Garnacha 5,440th 91 $38
Cims de Porrera Classic, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carinena - Garnacha 6,300th 91 $63
Clos Mogador 'Manyetes' Vi de Vila Gratallops, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carignan (Carinena) 7,046th 92 $67
Familia Nin-Ortiz 'Nit de Nin' Mas d'en Cacador, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carinena - Garnacha 7,599th 93 $90
Terroir Al Limit Soc. Lda. Les Tosses, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carignan (Carinena) 8,058th 94 $201
Bodegas Merum Priorati Viticultura Extrema 'Desti', Priorat DOCa, Spain Cabernet - Carignan - Grenache 8,728th 90 $31
Bodegas Mas Alta La Basseta Priorat, Priorat DOCa, Spain Grenache - Syrah 8,808th 92 $59
Cellar Vall Llach Embruix, Priorat DOCa, Spain Carinena - Garnacha 9,193rd 90 $27
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