The Carthusian monks started to grow vines in this inland part of the province of Tarragona way back in 1262. Since then, and in spite of the poor quality of the soil, the considerable thermal fluctuations and the extremely dry climate, an excellent quality wine has been produced.
This Designation of Origin comprises the towns of Bellmunt del Priorat, Gratallops, El Lloar, La Morera de Montsant, Poboleda, Porrera, Torroja del Priorat, La Vilella Alta, La Vilella Baixa and some of the villages of Falset and El Molar.
Back in 1932, El Priorato was recognised as a protected wine-growing area and, in 1954, the first rules of procedure for the Designation of Origin were approved. Given the quality of its wines, it is currently recognised as a Qualified Designation of Origin.
The wines are characterised by originating from a harvest with very low output. This is due to the llicorella soil, a slate-like stone, grey and rough which is typical in the area.
It is essentially red wines which are made mostly using the cariñena and garnacha varieties. They are dense, strong, bright and persistent.
The white wines are made using garnacha blanca and pedro ximénez varieties and are mature and penetrating. They also produce rosés, mature and sweet wines.
In general, the wines of El Priorato undergo a long fermentation process. Those aged in oak are particularly popular.
The best way to get to know them is to visit the wine cellars where they are made. The Designation of Origin has 28 wine cellars which can be visited and which offer varying experiences with wine.
For example, the Buil & Giné wine cellar in Gratallops offers visits to the vineyards by segway, a two-wheeled electric vehicle. The Burgos-Porta wine cellar makes organic wine in Mas Sinén, a stone country house from the 17th century.
Cal Pla, in Porrera, is a family-run wine cellar, over than two hundred years old, which has ancient inscriptions in relation to interesting facts from the world of wine. The Els Cups wine cellar, founded in 1800, includes an exhibition of ancient wine-making tools and makes a mature wine, the oldest of which is ninety years old.
The Joan Simó wine cellar is located in a manor house on the façade of which an ancient sundial can be seen, typical of the village of Porrera and which dates back to 1887. The Masia Duch wine cellar is set in a building dating back to the 12th century and on an estate, El Tancat, which belonged to the Carthusian Monastery of Escaladei.