The Priorat’s miracle
The Priorat’s miracle
Priorat is synonymous with wine.
The Priorat is an area located in the South of Catalonia, in the Tarragona province. The development of the area has always been linked to wine production.
By the early 1980s the area was in decline, suffering from depopulation, abandoned vineyards, and an ageing population. How did this once prosperous region fall into this disastrous situation? To discover why, go to History of the Priorat.
But change was coming. It started in the late 1970s. Four men who were convinced of the capabilities of the local area, bought land and joined forces: René Barbier started in 1979 (he settled with his family in the Priorat, near Gratallops), Carles Pastrana in 1984, Josep Lluís Pérez in 1986, Álvaro Palacios and Dathne Glorian in 1989. To learn more about René Barbier, click here.
The lands in the Priorat were full of old grapevines. René and his friends kept them, but also planted new Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet sauvignon vines. In 1989 and 1990 they joined forces to produce the wine, though each bottled his own brand. In 1991 they decided to split and produce wine individually.
The first wine harvest was in 1989: 10,000 bottles. They used garnacha, cariñena and cabernet sauvignon grapes. The group of friends decided that René (who speaks French) should travel to Paris so the wine could be tested by a French expert.
They also decided that the minimum price for a bottle should be 1,500 pesetas, because producing wine in the region involves high costs (later on I explain why). On the other hand, they agreed their wine should be on a par with a good French wine, not just in quality but also in price.
You can read what happened when René went to Paris in the trip descripton of our cycling and walking tour in the Priorat.
In 1992 the renowned French restaurant guide Gault-Millau published an article about the wines in the region and gave a score of 18 out of 20 to René Barbier’s Clos Mogador, the wine made at his winery of the same name.
In 1993, Robert Parker gave Clos Mogador a score of 92 out of 100. Since then, Clos Mogador has never scored below 92. In 2014 the wine Arrels del Priorat Ca les Viudes scored 100 out of 100.
In 1994, the well-known Catalan singer-songwriter Lluís Llach, settled in the village of Porrera (Priorat), made a recording where he talked about Porrera, and started to make high quality wines.
1999: At Christie’s auction room in New York somebody paid 68,000 pesetas (in today’s values, 5,000 euros) for a Magnum bottle of La Ermita, wine made by Alvaro Palacios, one of René Barbier’s friends.
In 2000 the Spanish Government granted the Priorat DOQ status, which means “a designation of origin of great quality wines”. So far, there are only two DOQs in Spain: Rioja and Priorat. What does a wine region have to do to be recognised as a DOQ? See the details in this document.
And the rise of the wonderful wine continues unabated. Some figures below:
More info at DOQ Priorat
Why are the Priorat wines so appreciated? Read Talking about Priorat is talking about wines.
Please comment below on the Priorat’s Miracle.
If you wish to travel to the Priorat and see the most beautiful spots in this part of Catalonia – see the hiking and cycling tour we have for you or contact us here for any Tours questions you might have.