Climate and Landscape
The DOCa. Priorat’s relative isolation in terms of the influence of the sea and at the same time, the Montsant Mountain Range’s protection from northerly winds, have resulted in peculiar weather conditions. It is particularly worth noting the sharp contrasts between daytime and night-time temperatures. During the summer months, temperatures can drop to 12ºC (53.6 Fahrenheit), whilst they can also climb to highs of 40ºC (104 Fahrenheit), whilst the rocky soils can easily surpass these temperatures. Average annual temperatures are around 14ºC (57.2 Fahrenheit) in the lower areas of the DOCa. Priorat, although they can drop to around 12ºC (53.6 Fahrenheit) around the foothills of the Montsant Mountain Range. Average annual rainfall is between 400 and 600 litres per square metre, increasing slightly towards the northern areas of the wine appellation. Working vineyards can be found at altitudes of 100 metres above sea leavel in the lower areas of Bellmunt del Priorat and El Molar and up to 750 metres in the highest points of La Morera de Montant and Porrera. Vineyards tend to be characterised by steep slopes of gradients above 15º in most cases and some vineyards can have gradients of 60º. The tortuous geography of this area means that many vineyards are worked as traditional “costers” (Catalan word meaning steeply sloped vineyard which is made up of small dry stone walls which allow for narrow ledges where the vines are planted), because these vineyard plots make it impossible to work with farm machinery. The resulting landscape, which these vineyards provide us with are one of the defining characteristics of the Priorat, giving it a distinctive personality. As for the soil, it is relatively acidic with very little organic material. The soil is mainly made up of slate, known locally as “llicorella” (singular) or “llicorelles” (plural). These flat, friable, deeply copper coloured stones are where the vine roots delve in search of water and nutrients. It is these soils which are recognised as giving Priorat wines their greatest virtues. Due to the unusual soil and the region’s specific climate, vines planted here tend to suffer and as a result harvest yields are very low – at less than 1 kg per plant on average. This however means that the wines produced in this area have a very unique personality .It is precisely this trait, which has earned DOCa. Priorat wines their place amongst the most appreciated wines in the world: their fidelity to a harsh land, the way the different grape varieties have adapted to this soil, coupled with a production method which has turned it into what could be called “heroic viticulture”, have all meant that experts from around the world are able to quickly recognise a Priorat wine, as soon as they open the bottle. The French concept of terroir, or what is the same, the fidelity of a taste or flavour of a wine to its soil, has made this into a wine’s most valued characteristic, according to experts
4.2- Grape Varieties
(White, red, recommended varieties and authorised varieties)
White Grape Varieties: White Grenache, Macabeo, Pedro Ximenez, Chenin Blanc, Muscat of Alexandria, Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, Pansal, Piqupoule Blanc.
Recommended Red varieties: Red Grenache, Carignan or Samsó
Authorised Red Grape Varieties: Downy Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Ull de Llebre / Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah and Red Piquepoule `
“Priorat vines have sweet skins. They are the precursors of a history of ardent earth and sacrifice which is immoblised by time, catching all memories in a bottle. The wines are deeply red, dense and shining.
They evoke the light of the Mediterranean, the length and depth of the minerals found in Priorat. In the mouth, the soil is obvious - roots run deep in this harsh landscape. This atavistic austerity has now been tempered by fine tannins, which are ripe and lingering and display mouth-watering flavours, wrapped in velvet. The wines’ vital energy sparkles and yet they are calmly serene. A play of sharp and flat notes as if in music, of firmness, weight and consistency envelop a unique personality."
PITU ROCA - SOMMELIER AT CELLER DE CAN ROCA RESTAURANT.
The DOQ Priorat is the only Qualified Designation of Origin in the whole of Catalonia and only one of two in the whole of Spain. The qualified aspect of the D.O. guarantees compliance with certain production systems and processes which are used in this wine region.
The Montsant mountain range (a protected nature reserve since 2002) is a distinctive geological landmark, which borders the Priorat wine appellation to the north; the Figuera and Lloar peaks to the west and the Molló mountains in the east. The region extends to the Siurana River in the south, whose waters flow down towards the larger river Ebro. The river Siurana traverses this wine region from north-east to south-east, carving out a sinuous and tortuous path surrounded on all sides by hills. The DOCa. Priorat wine appellation is located within the boundaries of the Priorat administrative county.
The Priorat Qualified Designation of Origin consists of a total surface area of 17,629 hectares (43,562 acres), of which currently some 1,887 (4,696 acres) are under vine and worked by more than 600 grape growers. The appellation is made up of 9 villages out of the total 23 villages in Priorat county. These villages are: Bellmunt del Priorat, Gratallops, El Lloar, La Morera de Montsant (including the neighbouring district of Scala Dei), Poboleda, Porrera, Torroja del Priorat, La Vilella Alta and La Vilella Baixa. As well as these nine villages, the DOCa. Priorat also covers the northern sector of the land which belongs to the village of Falset and part of the eastern sector of the land belonging to the village of El Molar. The first six villages are the villages which made up the Priory of Scala Dei. The other villages were included in the boundaries established in 1932 and which make up the current area of the DOCa. Priorat. As a result of the planting of new vineyards and an improvement in the wines made, promoted, initiated and controlled by the Carthusian monks, the region quickly took on more importance on an international level. Priorat is the name given to the administrative county or region as well as to the DOCa. Priorat wine appellation located in its centre.
Since 2007 vintage, there has been a new category known as Vins de Vila (Village wines but not in the sense of the French appellation system). The 12 zones are:
-SUBZONA Vila de BELLMUNT
-SUBZONA Vila d’ESCALADEI
-SUBZONA Vila de GRATALLOPS
-SUBZONA Vila d’EL LLOAR
-SUBZONA Vila de LA MORERA
-SUBZONA Vila de POBOLEDA
-SUBZONA Vila de PORRERA
-SUBZONA Vila de TORROJA
-SUBZONA Vila de LA VILELLA ALTA
-SUBZONA Vila de LA VILELLA BAIXA
-SUBZONA MASOS DE FALSET
-SUBZONA SOLANES D’EL MOLAR
DOCa. Priorat. Torroja del Priorat. 30th May, 2013. - The Centre for Viticultural Research in Mountainous Terrain (CERVIM) has granted the Regulatory Council of the Priorat Qualified Designation of Origin full membership. This prestigious international body gathers together key world winegrowing regions which are located in mountainous areas. These areas class their local winegrowing activities as “heroic”, that’s to say they boast unique climate conditions and terrain, making grape growing and winemaking a challenge to all those involved