Priorat Wines


General information on Priorat and Montsant wines

Priorat and Montsant are wine regions situated in the province of Tarragona, in the southwest of Catalonia, Spain. In recent years, both regions have developed spectacularly, and their reds now figure amongst the most expensive and sought-after wines in Spain.

Priorat wines qualify as DOCa – the...


General information on Priorat and Montsant wines

Priorat and Montsant are wine regions situated in the province of Tarragona, in the southwest of Catalonia, Spain. In recent years, both regions have developed spectacularly, and their reds now figure amongst the most expensive and sought-after wines in Spain.

Priorat wines qualify as DOCa – the highest qualification level for a wine region in Spain. Rioja DOCa is the only other region in Spain to achieve this qualification. Priorat is renowned for producing high quality wines, full of minerality, fresh and fruity – wines for the body and mind!

Montsant wines qualify as DO. This was approved at a regional level in 2002 and the area has experienced rapid growth since then with over 55 official cellars. Montsant is renowned for producing fresher and fruitier red wines than Priorat.

History of wine production in Priorat and Montsant

The Cartoixa (Carthusian Monastery) of Scala Dei is where wine and winemaking was introduced in this region. The Carthusian monks came to the region from Provence in France in the 12th century and brought with them their knowledge and techniques to develop a winegrowing culture. The monks tended the vineyards until 1835 when they were expropriated by the state and their lands distributed to smallholders.

At the end of the 19th century there was the phylloxera epidemic, which devastated the vineyards and was an economic disaster for the region. In addition to the epidemic, the explosion of the textile industry in Catalonia ensured that the entire workforce moved to the cities and new vines were not planted again until the 1950s.

Much of the redevelopment of the region has been credited to a group of enthusiastic winemakers including René Barbier, Alvaro Palacios, Josep Lluis Perez, Daphne Glorian and Carles Pastrana. Winemaker René Barbier was convinced of the region’s potential and bought his first land to plant vineyards in 1979. He convinced the others to follow suit and plant new vineyards in suitable locations. In 1989 and for three vintages the group of five wineries pooled their grapes and made one wine under five labels : Clos Mogador, Clos Dofi, Clos Erasmus, Clos Martinet and Clos de l’Obac. From 1992, these wines were made completely separately. This group of winemakers have been recognised for producing high quality wines and placing this small region on the world wine map.

Geography

Priorat is a wine region situated in the province of Tarragona, in the southwest of Catalonia, Spain. It covers a small area, less than 20’000 hectares, of which just 2’000 are planted with vines. 12 towns make up the DOQ Priorat: Bellmunt del Priorat, Gratallops, el Lloar, la Morera de Montsant, Porrera, Poboleda, Scala Dei, Torroja del Priorat, la Vilella Alta and la Vilella Baixa, and the grape growing zones of Masos de Falset and Solanes del Molar.

Montsant wine region forms a horseshoe around Priorat and almost completely encompasses it in a full circle. The denomination covers part of Priorat as well as part of Ribera d’Ebre – in total 17 villages are included. It covers an area of 1,900 hectares.

Viticulture

Priorat
The region is mountainous and is made up of steep slopes and spectacular countryside. The terrain is very abrupt, and it is wondered how vines can grow there - the vineyards are planted on the steep slopes on terraces built specifically, at altitudes of between 100m and 700m above sea level. This makes wine growing hard, demanding and costly. The soil is rich in slate with layers of powdered clay in between. There are several different microclimates present as the area is surrounded by the Montsant mountain range.

This all results in low yields compared to other wine growing regions, which rarely exceed 2,000 kilos per hectare.

Montsant
The vineyards are found on the steep slopes of the Montsant mountains, around 200m and 700m above sea level. There are three main soil types: chalky clay, granitic sand and slate. Although located close to the Mediterranean Sea, the surrounding mountains isolate it somewhat from the sea giving it more of a continental climate.

TAll the above characteristics allow the regions to yield exceptional grapes which, in the hands of their dedicated winemakers, are transformed into wines renowned all over the world for their strong character and extraordinary complexity.

In a very short period of time, the wines of Priorat and Montsant have managed to earn the respect and admiration of leading experts all over the world for their quality and strong personality.


Discover the different red grape varieties and appellations

Priorat
The most well known native red grape varieties are Grenache and Carnigan. Also permitted are the following red varieties: Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah.

The traditional reds are a varietal bottling of Grenache or Carignan, or blending of these two grapes in a Bordeaux style with other French varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Syrah, among others.

Montsant
The permitted red grape varieties are Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Grenache is the most planted grape, producing rich, full-bodied, high alcohol wine.


White grape varieties and appellations

Priorat
The permitted white grape varieties are white Grenache, Macabeu, Pedro Ximénez, Chenin Blanc, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Xarello and Piquepoul.

Montsant
The permitted white grape varieties are white Grenache, Macabeu, Chardonnay, Muscat of Alexandria and Cartoixa.


The main producers in Priorat and Montsant


Alfavin.ch is proud to work with some of the best producers of Priorat:

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Subcategories

  • Clos Mogador


    René Barbier III….. his name alone conjures up images such as visionary, pioneer, crusader, legend. Why? Let’s delve a little deeper to find out what this man is all about and how he came to produce one of the most renowned wines in the world…the distinguished Clos Mogador.

    The story of Clos Mogador


    René Barbier III was born in 1950 in Tarragona, Spain to a long line of French wine makers… so you could say winemaking was in his blood from birth. His great aunt, Elisabeth Barbier, is the author of the famous French novel ‘Les gens de Mogador’, after which he named his acclaimed first wine.

    As a teenager René went to train as an oenologist in prestigious schools in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Limoux in France. During his training he worked in well known wineries such as Moueix, the producers of Petrus, under the guidance of Jean-Claude Berrout. He then returned to Spain and started his career working as an export manager for the Palacios family from the region Rioja. This event put him in touch with the young Alvaro Palacios (producer of L’Ermita) who would go on to become a lifelong friend and supporter in his future project.

    So why is René described by many as a visionary? He has indeed described himself as a typical 70s hippy with his long hair, beard, motorhome and a head full of ideologies and a strong belief. Each weekend he set off on hikes with his wife and young family in tow to explore the local area. He was fascinated with the unknown and abandoned province of Priorat and became convinced of its potential as a promising wine region. In the 70s Priorat was neglected and was only known for selling wholesale wine. The terrain was mountainous and abrupt with soil rich in slate. Growing vines there was hard, demanding and costly.

    Clos Mogador as a pioneer in winemaking


    But René was a pioneer and he was not put off by the obvious challenges of wine growing in Priorat so he purchased his first plot of land there in 1979 and worked with the existing vines on the land in addition to new vines that he planted. Despite the harsh environment for growing wine, René had one sole objective - to make a wine as good or better than burgundies!!

    So why has he also been described as a crusader? Because he explained his project to those closest to him and managed to convince Carlos Pastrana, Alvaro Palacios, José Luis Perez and Daphne Glorian to follow suit and purchase small plots of land to plant vineyards in close by locations. They were called the “Gratallops Group” as they joined forces on building a communal wine cellar just outside the village of Grattalops.

    For 10 years René worked days, nights, weekends and holidays. On his plot of land, he built terraces, he tended the existing vines, planted new vines and rebuilt the family home from the ruins. Even in the 80s he was convinced on the benefits of biodiversity and sustainability and was passionate about the idea of becoming self sufficient using all the resources around him. He installed solar panels in his family home and he cared for the vines which were interspersed by olive and almond trees, wild peaches, cherries and plums. His approach to the land is a very natural one, finding a balance between the wild and cultivated terrain and using biodynamic methods. Meticulous care is taken over every aspect of the vinification and ageing process. He applied winemaking techniques from his Bordeaux teachings. He opted for native grape varieties (Grenache and Carignan) but also planted more international varieties such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

    And despite all the grand words used to define him, he remains humble and claims this period was a long path of observation and learning for him. But he remained convinced that great winemaking starts first in the vineyard and that the best wine is one with a story to tell.

    The success story of Clos Mogador


    In 1989 they were ready for the first harvest, but they had all sunk everything they had into this venture and had now run out of money. No banks were willing to help them either, as they saw no future in winemaking in Priorat. However, the Gratallops Group rallied together once again: Daphne Glorian sold her car and Alvaro Palacios even sold his precious motorbike in order to collect enough funds to continue ….. 1989 was their first vintage, 5 labels, 5 domains but one unique wine with the denomination “Clos”. The legendary Clos Mogador was born.

    Nonetheless, the sale of this first vintage was more difficult than expected. Given the time, energy, hard work and high cost of making of this wine each bottle had to be sold at a certain price in order for it to be profitable. The asking price at the time was bold and ambitious as they were trying to sell one of the most expensive wines in Spain by unknown producers from an unknown spanish region.

    In 1991 René met Angelo Giorgio Loparco a wine merchant from Switzerland and convinced him to buy 80% of his production at that time. This enabled him to proceed with the bottling of the second vintage.
    Then in 1993 one of the first journalists to visit the Priorat came from Switzerland. Since then, the relationship between Priorat and Switzerland has continuously grown. René with his Clos Mogador went on to garner impressive scores from wine critics and Robert Parker was one of the first international critics to praise the wine – Clos Mogador has since then been awarded 98 points on several occasions and Espectacle has obtained 99 points. René has also been awarded the Order of Agricultural Merit by the Spanish government.

    Currently, Clos Mogador is one of the most exciting and prestigious wines in Spain and René Barbier has managed to build one of the most well-known brands in all of Priorat even though he never set out to make a reputation for himself. He had a vision, but he also took a gamble and with hard work, dedication and passion it paid off and he has been defined by many as a living legend and the spiritual father of Priorat.
    Today, his sons are continuing his legacy and taking it even further. René Junior is a great winemaker in his own right and Christian oversees all the vineyards for the family and is leading the path of biodynamic agriculture.

    The family now produce 5 wines: Clos Mogador, Manyetes, Nelin, Espectacle and ComTu.

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