The Priorat county or region is to be found to the south of Catalonia and only 130 km from Barcelona.
From its hidden location, away from the ever-changing bustle of the outside world, this land has watched history unfold. It is a land of steep vineyards, harsh cliffs and imposing rock-faces, hidden valleys and cool ravines. It is a place of flatlands and mountains, crystal-clear streams, sunny and ordered cultivated areas. It is a world of small but resilient villages which have survived plagues, severe frosts, conquests and floods. This land has been inhabited since men lived in caves; since they started to work the land and build dry-stone walls to support the slopes. They cleared the forests and planted their crops; they constructed bridges, hermitages.
The region of the Priorat has two wine designations of origin or wine appellations, the DOQ Priorat (the more prestigious) and the DO Montsant (DOQ- Denominació d’Origen Qualificada; DO– Denominació d’Origen).
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.
The traditional grape variety grown in El Priorat is the red Garnacha Tinta, which is found in all the older vineyards. Also authorised are the following red varieties: Garnacha Blanca, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Four white varieties are also authorised: Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximénez and Chenin.
Priorat is a good place to visit all year round, but as it is an area which is based on agriculture, the landscape is ever changing.
Priorat is a very dry region with limited annual rainfall (around 400 litres a year) and is clearly a region of stark contrast: intense heat in the summer and cold in the winter with some snowfall, mainly in January and February.
Its small geographical area and proximity between wineries facilitates an easily trip to visit different wineries in one day. If what you want is a visit of several days, Priorat offers many alternatives such as hotels, rural guesthouse, restaurants, idyllic countryside of vineyards and cultural visits.