Priorat is a Catalan Denominació d'Origen Qualificada (DOQ) in Catalan for wines produced in the Priorat county to the south-west of Catalonia
The DOQ covers 11 municipalities. It primarily produces powerful red wines, which came to international attention in the 1990s. The area is characterized by its unique terroir of black slate and quartz soil known as llicorella.
It is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify as DOCa, the highest qualification level for a wine region according to Spanish wine regulations, alongside Rioja DOCa.
Priorat is the Catalan spelling, which is the one usually appearing on wine labels, while the Spanish spelling is Priorato.
The first recorded evidence of grape growing and wine production dates from the 12th century, when the monks from the Carthusian Monastery of Scala Dei, founded in 1194, introduced the art of viticulture in the area. The prior of Scala Dei ruled as a feudal lord over seven villages in the area, which gave rise to the name Priorat. The monks tended the vineyards for centuries until 1835 when they were expropriated by the state, and distributed to smallholders.
At the end of the 19th century, the phylloxera pest devastated the vineyards causing economic ruin and large scale emigration of the population. Before the phylloxera struck, Priorat is supposed to have had around 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) of vineyards. It was not until the 1950s that replanting was undertaken. The DO Priorat was formally created in 1954. The seat of the DO's regulatory body was initially Reus, some 30 km to the east of the wine-region, rather than in Priorat itself.
In the decade from 1985, the production of bulk wine was phased out and bottling of quality wine phased in.
Early on, winemaking cooperatives dominated. Much of the development of Priorat wines to top class is credited to René Barbier and Álvaro Palacios Winemaker Barbier, then active at a winery in Rioja owned by the Palacios family, bought his first land for Priorat vineyards in 1979, convinced of the region's potential. At this stage, there were 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of Priorat vineyards. In the 1980s, he convinced others, including Palacios, to follow suit and plant new vineyards in suitable locations, all named Clos. For the first three vintages, 1989–1991, the group of five wineries pooled their grapes, shared a winery in Gratallops, and made one wine sold under five labels: Clos Mogador (Barbier), Clos Dofi (Palacios, later renamed to Finca Dofi), Clos Erasmus, Clos Martinet and Clos de l'Obac. From 1992, these wines were made separately. In 1993, Palacios produced a wine called L'Ermita sourced from very old Priorat vines, which led to an increased interest in using the region's existing vineyards to produce wines in a new style.
The Catalan authorities approved of Priorat's elevation from DO to DOQ status in 2000, but national level confirmation from the Spanish Government in Madrid only came on July 6, 2009. In the period from 2000 to 2009, when it was approved as DOQ but not yet as DOCa, despite the fact that these designations were exactly the same but in Catalan and Spanish, respectively, the situation was somewhat confused. A new set of DOQ rules were approved by the Catalan government in 2006. The regulatory body moved from Reus to Torroja del Priorat in 1999.
The vineyard surface of Priorat has been continuously expanding since the Clos-led quality revolution in the 1990s. At the turn of the millennium there was 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of vineyards, with an equal amount of planting rights secured. As of 2009, there are close to 1,800 hectares (4,400 acres).
The DOQ comprises the valleys of the rivers Siurana and Montsant. The vineyards are planted on the slopes on terraces at altitudes of between 100 m and 700 m above sea level. Priorat is almost entirely surrounded by the DO Montsant, which makes wine in a similar style.
The demarcated zone has a total size of 19,783 hectares (48,880 acres).
In 2013, the enotourism guidebook series, Vinologue published the first comprehensive guide to all the regions of Priorat as well as profiles for all the full production cellars.
The area is of volcanic origin which confers interesting characteristics to the soil. The basis (called llicorella in Catalán) comprises reddish and black slate with small particles of mica, which reflects the sunlight and conserves heat. The 50 cm thick topsoil is formed of decomposed slate and mica. These characteristics force the roots of the vines to reach the base for water, nutrition and minerals. These soil characteristics confer special quality to the wine and keep the vines firmly anchored to the earth during the strong winds and storms which are common to the area.
Even though Priorat DOQ covers a small area, there are several different micro-climates present. Generally, the climate is more extreme than most continental climate areas, though there is a marked contrast between the valleys and the higher areas. There are both freezing winds from the north (mitigated somewhat by the Montsant mountain) and also the warm Mistral wind from the east.
Summers are long, hot and dry (max temperature 35°) while winters are cold (min temperature -4 °C). There is the occasional risk of frost, hailstones and drought. The average annual temperature is 15 °C, and average annual rainfall is 400–600 mm.
The traditional grape variety grown in El Priorat is the red Garnacha tinta, which is found in all the older vineyards. Also authorized are the following red varieties: Garnacha Peluda, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Four white varieties are also authorized: Garnacha blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximénez and Chenin.
The trend among the red varieties is that Garnacha stays constant, Cariñena decreases and the international grape varieties increase. While Cabernet Sauvignon has always been in the lead among these, in recent years, Syrah has increased faster.
Yields are very low, usually much lower than the authorized maximum yield of 6,000 kg/ha, due to the rocky nature of the soil that does not allow the accumulation of water. The vines are usually planted as low bushes (en vaso) though the newer vineyards tend to be planted on trellises (en espaldera).
As of 2008, Priorat had 1,767 hectares (4,370 acres) of vineyards, of which 1,689 hectares (4,170 acres) or 96% was planted with red varieties, and 78 hectares (190 acres) or 4% with white varieties.The average planting density was 2,850 vines per hectare, compared to the mandated 2,500 to 9,000 vines per hectare.
In 2008, 4,796 tones (5,287 tons) of grapes were harvested, of which 4,580 tones (5,050 tons) (96%) was red grapes and 198.5 tones (218.8 tons) (4%) white grapes. This resulted in 27,698 hectoliters (609,300 imp gal; 731,700 US gal) of wine. During the recent expansion of Priorat vineyards, production of red grapes has expanded, while the production of white grapes has even declined somewhat. Thus, the proportion of white grapes has dropped from 10% in 2001 to 4% in 2008, while the total production increased by 92% over the same period.
The yield in 2008 corresponds to 2,700 kg of grapes per hectare compared to the official maximum of 6,000 kg per hectare, and corresponds to 16 hectoliter per hectare. The official maximum corresponds to a yield of 39 hectoliter per hectare, as a 65% conversion (0.65 litre of wine per kilogram of grapes) is foreseen. Some producers have yields of only around 5 hectoliter per hectare.[
The traditional reds from El Priorat are a single grape bottling of Grenache and Carignan or then a blend of these two grapes blended in a "Bordeaux" style with other French varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon (which is falling out of favor), Merlot, or Syrah among others.
- Criança wines must remain in oak barrels for 6 months and then 18 months in the bottle.
- Reserva wines must remain in oak barrels for 12 months and then 24 months in the bottle.
- Gran Reserva wines remain in oak barrels for 24 months and then 36 months in the bottle.
Few wineries (cellers) follow these guidelines strictly and the usual practice is to produce what is known as vi de guarda (aged wine) that has been in oak barrels for 18 months followed by 6 months in the bottle, the optimal moment for consumption being 2 years later.
Cava (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈkaβə], plural caves) is a sparkling wine of Denominación de Origen (DO) status, most of which is produced in Catalonia. It may be white (blanco) or rosé (rosado). The macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo are the most popular and traditional grape varieties for producing cava. Only wines produced in the champenoise traditional method may be labelled cavas, those produced by other processes may only be called "sparkling wines" (vinos espumosos). About 95% of all cava is produced in the Penedès area in Catalonia, with the village of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia being home to many of Spain's largest production houses
In the past, cava was referred to as "Spanish champagne", which is no longer permitted under European Union law, since Champagne has Protected Geographical Status (PGS) and Spain entered the EU in 1986. Colloquially it is still calledchampán or champaña in Spanish or xampany in Catalan. Today it is defined by law as a "quality sparkling wine produced in a designated region" (vino Espumoso de Calidad Producido en una Región Determinada, VECPRD).
Cava is an important part of Catalan and Spanish family tradition and is often consumed at celebrations like baptisms, marriages, banquets, dinners and parties.
The Catalan word cava (masculine, plural caves) means "cave" or "cellar". Caves were used in the early days of cava production for the preservation or aging of wine. Catalan winemakers officially adopted the term in 1970 to distinguish their product from French champagne.
Spanish sparkling wine was first made as early as 1851, although the roots of the cava industry can be traced back to Josep Raventós's travels through Europe in the 1860s, where he was promoting the still wines of the Codorníu Winery. His visits to Champagne sparked an interest in the potential of a Spanish wine made using the same traditional method. He created his first sparkler in 1872, after the vineyards of Penedès were devastated by the phylloxera plague, and the predominantly red vines were being replaced by large numbers of vines producing white grapes.
Catalan cava producers pioneered a significant technological development in sparkling wine production with the invention of the gyropallet, a large mechanized device that replaced hand riddling, in which the lees are consolidated in the neck of the bottle prior to disgorgement and corking
According to Spanish law, cava may be produced in eight wine regions: Aragon, the Basque Country, Castile and León, Catalonia, Extremadura, Navarra, Rioja or the Valencian Community. The Penedès is located in Catalonia, and there is only one Castilian producer, in the town of Aranda de Duero.
To make rosé cava, small quantities of still red wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha or Monastrell are added to the wine. Besides Macabeu, Parellada, and Xarello, Cava may also contain Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Subirat grapesThe first cava to use chardonnay was produced in 1981. Like Champagne, cava is produced in varying levels of sweetness, ranging from the dryest, brut nature, through brut, brut reserve, sec (seco), semisec (semiseco), to dolsec (dulce), the sweetest.