Priorat Region of Spain- Is it Good only for Wine Production?
Grape growing and wine production was brought to the area in the late 1100's by the monks of Scala Dei village. They ruled over the several small villages of the region and looked after the vineyards until the mid 1800's, when they were expropriated by the government and turned over to local land owners. The Priorat region was granted the prestigious Designation of Origin Qualified status in 2000, thus becoming at the time only the second wine growing region after La Rioja to receive such prominence.
Grape growing in Priorat is extremely difficult, to put it mildly. It is a very undulating region at the base of the Montsant Mountains made up of many peaks and valleys. The vineyards cling to terraces that are carved into the sides of the mountains and along valley floors making for picturesque views everywhere you look. The sides of the mountains and valleys also create micro-climates that cause the grapes to frequently ripen at different times making the picking process very difficult.
The soil is another aspect of the Priorat region that sets it apart from nearly all the other wine producing regions in the world (List of vineyard soil types). The soil is of volcanic origin and its primary component is slate, the red, black and dark green stone-like material that is also frequently used as floor and wall covering. This type of soil has certain mineral qualities that are beneficial to wine making but it is also very porous and retains very little water. The effect of this lack of water is low grape yields from each vine and the resulting wine productions are relatively low when compared to wine producing areas in other parts of the world. It takes a lot of efforts for an experienced wine maker to manage all of these variables and produce an excellent wine.
The Montsant Mountains majestically tower over the Priorat region. This is not your typical mountain range with many high peaks and pine trees but rather an enormous multi-colored stone faced mountain always magnificently present in the background. They say that this is the single factor that brought the monks to this region and is believed to be the reason they built their monastery at the base of the mountain.
Prior to the emergence over the last twenty years of the Priorat wines, the region suffered greatly from a lack of adequate economic activity to keep the surrounding villages alive and well. Several generations journeyed off to other areas of Catalonia such as Barcelona and Tarragona to study and find work. This left these villages essentially abandoned with only the older generations left behind to care for the vineyards and continue the winemaking traditions. Now with the emergence of the wines, the children of these lost generations are returning to the region to continue the family traditions that their parents and grandparents were forced to abandon.
This brings us to the most impressive aspect of the Priorat region; the beautiful old villages and the surrounding areas (see here). With the lack of economic growth in the region, the villages became rundown and forgotten. The wine industry has reactivated the economy and the villages are again becoming populated with young people returning to what their parents and grandparents left behind. But they are doing so using all their best efforts to maintain and restore the original essence of these beautiful old villages. New modern wineries are being built, but with designs and architecture that fit in well in their beautiful surroundings.
Tourism, by way of old buildings tastefully renovated into exquisite hotels, is active as people come to visit the region in search of the gastronomic treasures the region has to offer, and naturally to taste the excellent wines. Priorat is not only about wine and the Montsant Mountains, but also about the villages.
Written By: Monte Field, Sta. Eulalia del Rio, Ibiza, Spain
If you want to go for a tour to Scala Dei monastery in the Priorat region of Spain to check for different wineries then visit www.winerist.com
Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )