The territory which now comprises the DOCa Priorat largely coincides with the Priorat Histórico (the historical Priorat), the old dominions of the Carthusian monastery of Santa Maria d'Escaladei. In fact, the very name “Priorat” refers to the lands of the prior, the religious leader of the monastic community which established itself in the region in the late 12th century.
The land here has always been home to grapevines and other tree crops commonly found in the Mediterranean. In order to comprehend the current vinicultural context of Priorat, we have to know its past. There are few places where historical events have left as indelible a mark as here, and in the process they defined a unique understanding of viticulture.
The monks cultivated the two Priorat varieties par excellence, Garnacha and Cariñena, which serfs, squires, and knights brought from Aragon in saddlebags full of cuttings and shoots.
After the Reconquista, Alfonso the Chaste, king of Aragon, ceded the land to the Carthusians, who built the country's first Carthusian monastery, Scala Dei, in 1194. The religious order created by Saint Bruno always had a deep connection to viticulture which transcended mere liturgy. The needs of the people living in the area encompassed by the lands of the new Carthusian monastery, along with the necessity of having a product with which to consolidate trade, marked a turning point in the development of wine culture in Priorat.
Climate and Geography
Priorat enjoys a Mediterranean climate, which displays a continental influence on its westernmost side. The winters are mild during the day, but the low temperatures take on a different dimension at night. The summers, by contrast, are very hot and dry. The marinada or sea breeze brings in moist cool air that tempers the heat of the sun when it is at its strongest, which can last several hours.
If there is one thing that defines the renowned personality of Priorat wines it is the soil they grow in: llicorella (slate) from the Palaeozoic Era. The vines dig down deep, snaking their roots vertically through the soil in search of water.
Mas de la Rosa vineyard (DOCa Priorat), a Familia Torres property, reveals the presence of llicorella in the soil.
The only way to grow wine in this rugged terrain, with its precipitous slopes, was to carve out unique terraced vineyards that have become the celebrated signature of the Priorat landscape. Some are so narrow they can only accommodate two vine rows, which makes mechanized vineyard work and harvesting impossible.
Mas de la Rosa vineyard, a Familia Torres property, near the village of Porrera (DOCa Priorat)
The style that has consolidated Priorat as a DOQ or qualified appellation of origin resides in the firmness and elegance of its reds: rich, spicy, firm in structure and bearing, with an expressive and aromatic nose and a smooth velvety perception of alcohol on the palate.
El Lloar winery, a Familia Torres property, in the village of El Lloar (DOCa Priorat)
Familia Torres is continuing the legacy of this region. The winery in El Lloar provides a tangible example of this. Located within the municipal area of El Lloar, the winery is the picture of modernity. At the same time, it is seamlessly embedded in the landscape, forging a close connection with the surrounding vineyards, visible through its enormous windows.
The first wine produced in Priorat was Salmos. Consistent in its excellence vintage after vintage, the wine is defined by a distinctive sense of place.
Perpetual is an opulent wine that takes pride in its identity; complex yet clean on the palate. Its mature round tannins carry through to the finish, which is so long it seems as though time were standing still as we lose ourselves in end notes of liquorice and caramel.
In the most secluded corner of Priorat, with the village of Porrera visible in the distance, lies an old vineyard planted with 80-year-old vines: Mas de la Rosa. Thriving on a scant 1.9 hectares, at an elevation of 500 metres, are Garnacha and Cariñena vines, the varietal duo par excellence of the region.
Mas de la Rosa springs from a search for the uniqueness of its small namesake vineyard. A superlative red wine, displaying exquisite finesse and a fresh style that preserves the essence of the fruit, favoured by the vineyard's location in a cool, east-facing area. The row orientation allows for long, well-paced fruit maturation. In the summer, the vineyard is shaded from the early afternoon on, thus protecting the clusters from direct sun exposure
Mas de la Rosa, a DOCa Priorat red wine from Familia Torres
The latest addition to Familia Torres's collection of DOCa Priorat wines is Secret del Priorat. The varietal blend defines the wine's flavour profile, an assemblage of local grapes, predominantly Garnacha and Cariñena, with an emphasis on ripe, expressive red fruit. It is a modern, innovative Priorat, in keeping with new trends and sensibilities but without losing the essence of its place of origin.
Secret del Priorat, a DOCa Priorat red wine from Familia Torres
The Priorat region strikes a perfect balance between tradition and modernity, rooted in its steep hills and terraces, its Mediterranean forests of juniper, thyme, pine, and rosemary, and in the slate mosaic of its soils. It lives on in its history and heritage, in its people, in the way time seems to stand still here.