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In an effort to shed some light on how I study for WSET Diploma Course’s D3 exam, Le Club des Vins is running a series of posts covering wine regions. Today’s topic: Priorat
Priorat is one of the two DOCa of Spain and is located in north-eastern Spain, just inland from the city of Tarragona.⠀⠀⠀
In a nutshell
- One of the two DOCa
- Warm continental climate
- Garnacha & cariñena
Warm continental climate. It’s hot and dry, nothing else can be grown here except vines and olives trees. Luckily, there’s a high diurnal range, so the grapes get some rest at night. Yields are incredibly low, average less than 5 hl/ha (compared to 45 hl/ha in Bordeaux or even 80 hl/ha in Germany). Many vineyards are located on slopes, known as ‘costers’. These costers are varied in gradient (from 5% to 60%). According to Jancis Robinson, the best vineyards are located on infertile hillsides facing north and east to avoid sunburn and catches sea breezes at middle attitude around 500m.⠀⠀⠀
Besides the hot and dry weather, the soils are also contributing to the low yields. Priorat has super poor soils. The most important soil type, the one the region is famous for, is called llicorella and is the Catalan word for slate. It’s thin, rocky and very poor in nutrients. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
🍇 Grapes & styles
It’s one of the few topnotch wine styles based on Garnacha (can you name another one?). There’s also a significant amount of Cariñena (called samsó here) planted. Both are well-suited to the hot conditions, Cariñena even more than Garnacha. Old vines of these varieties show the best expression of the Priorat terroir. Unfortunately, they don’t produce a lot and can be as low as one bottle per vine.
There’s also Cab-Sauv, Merlot, Syrah planted. Whites are made from Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximénez and Chenin Blanc.
Old vine Priorat is unlike any other wine. I have to quote @jancisrobinson here: “I have long thought that a good Priorat is one of the most obviously terroir-driven wines in the world. Drinking young [old vine] Priorat can be remarkably like sucking a stone, in the nicest possible way of course.”⠀
💡 Something you didn’t know (did you?)
One of the founding fathers of the region is René Barbier, who formed a small group of winemakers to collectively produce wines inspired by French winemaking techniques such as ageing in French barriques. Their wines, including Clos Moador and Clos Martinet, achieved worldwide recognition and still belongs to the top 1% of all wines in the world.
Another interesting fact is that Priorat is one of the few (if not the only one?) that has certified the use of the term ‘old vines’. The grapes must come from vines that are at least 75 years old or planted before 1945.⠀
Your turn now
I always put a new region on instagram first. If you have any additions or comments on a region, please do share. You can drop a comment on instagram or on the website – see below. Your help is much appreciated!