Priorat DOCa is perhaps the second most historic wine region of Spain. Located to the south-west of Catalonia, Priorat's wine heritage dates back to the 12th century when the Carthusian monks of Scala Dei introduced the art of viticulture to the area.
The DO of Priorat was formally created in 1954. For much of its early history the production of bulk wine dominated the area. Much of the stardom of in the early 1990s is owe to visionary wine-makers René Barbier and Álvaro Palacios. The DOCa designation gives Priorat one the of two such honors in Spain.
The Priorat region is of volcanic origin, which gives the soil some unique characteristics. The bedrock (called Llicorella in Catalán) is made up of layers of slate with small particles of mica, which reflects the sunlight and conserves heat. The 2 foot thick topsoil is formed of decomposed slate and mica. These characteristics force the roots of the vines to reach into cracks in the bedrock for water, nutrition and minerals.
The nutrient poor soil of Priorat yields wine with a lower PH, resulting in brighter and fresher wines. Priorat's most unique points is the fact that it combines the acidity of cool-climate and the ripe tannins of warm climate. Priorat is a clear example of how "terroir" really matters in wine.
The most important variety in Priorat wines is Garnacha, or Garnatxa as it's locally known. Garnatxa is often blended with Carignan, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Priorat wines are as unique as any other terroir-driven reds. The combination of its unique soil and climate makes Priorat one of the most intriguing and historic wine regions of the world.