Spain’s Priorat Wine Region: Small but Mighty

You can hardly find Priorat, or Priorato in Spanish, on a map, it’s so small. This tiny Catalonian wine region covers just 4,151 acres – Rioja, in comparison, is over 150,000 acres in size – but Priorat’s impact on the world of wine is large.

view counter

Named for the local monastery, or priory, that began producing wine in the 12th century, Priorat lies inland from Tarragona in northeastern Spain. Monks of the Scala Dei (“Ladder of God”) monastery planted the hillsides around the priory with wine grapes. The vineyards flourished, thanks to the area’s fertile volcanic soil and dry summer climate, until phylloxera’s arrival in the late 1800s. Priorat’s wine industry was ruined.

Winemaking returned to Priorat in the early 1950’s, and the region became a DO in 1954.

Winemakers rediscovered the area’s unique soil, called “llicorella” in Catalan. Llicorella consists of tiny bits of slate, both red and black. Like the soils around Italy’s volcanoes, Priorat’s topsoil is perfect for grapes.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Priorat’s unusual climate also leaves its mark on the region’s wine grapes. Summers are typically hot and dry, but winters can be cold and windy.

Priorat is quite hilly, so each vineyard seems to have its own microclimate. In some areas, the hills shelter the vines, while in others, winds from warmer areas can blow onto the grapes. Priorat’s wines reflect these distinctive pairings of soil and microclimate.