Priorat – you may also see it written with its Spanish equivalent spelling, Priorato – is a Catalonian region in north-east Spain. The region has had a rocky past, with the decimation of vine plantations due to the phylloxera pest at the end of the 19th century. Since then the region has had a dramatic reversal of fortunes. In the 1950s (with only 2 operating wineries!) a re-planting programme begun and Priorat is now regarded as one of Spain’s finest wine producing regions – if not THE finest – being one of only two regions in Spain granted official DOCa status.
Vines are rooted in the free draining slate soils on the hillsides – in the famous schist soil of Priorat called Llicorella – planted on some of the wildest and austere terrain. These old vines receive more than 3,000 hours of sun a year, less than 380 mm annual rainfall, and are cooled by an inland wind and the influence of the nearby sea. The result is wines with a warm, rounded structure and bold, fruity and mineral quality.
Álvaro Palacios was born into a family whose history of winemaking spans 350 years. In the last 20-30 years, Palacios has become widely regarded as Spain’s finest winemaker; with the exception of Peter Sisseck (Pingus) and Mariano Garcia (Vega Sicilia), each successive release of his wines from Priorat has seen them attract the highest level of acclaim, plaudits and scores of any wines in Spain. As a result, many consider Alvaro to have revived the whole reputation of this once renowned region. In 1993, he first released the old vine single vineyard l’Ermita, which has become Priorat’s most renowned wine.
Garnacha, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cariñena, Merlot.
Harvested grapes are destemmed and sofly crushed. Fermentation occurs in a mix of stainless steel, cement and large wooden vats. Ageing follows for 8 months in barrels and wooden vats.
Totally savoury and satisfying – a must for shepherd’s pie (with a dash of Worcester sauce), sausages in onion gravy, stews and casseroles.