Here are my top winery recommendations when visiting Priorat. You will need to allow three days to discover all of them and all require appointments in advance.
In the south valley near the town of Gratollops, you will find Clos Mogadar and Clos Martinet.
Clos Mogador is rooted in the history of the region, and a must visit to understand this chapter in Priorat. René Barbier along with Carles Pastrana, Álvaro Palacios, José Luis Pérez and Daphne Glorian (the only women) are known for coming together to put this region back on the wine map and releasing their first vintage together in 1989.
At the time the area was a collection of dilapidated Roman terraces that had seen over a century of neglect. Riding around the vineyards in an old van you can almost get a feel of what an adventure this must have been and a huge risk. Their vision, passion and hard work revived the region and set it on an exciting course for generations to come.
Today René Barbier’s son Christian is in charge of the vineyards and using his own biofertilizers to drive their biodynamic practices. The 2015 Clos Mogador is considered a typical wine style (of this chapter) predominantly Grenacha and Cariñena blended with Cabernet and Syrah, spending 18 months in oak casks.
A unique wine we tried, and would be fun to do in a blind tasting, is their Nelin. A white wine made of Grenacha blanc and fermented in barrique barrels. Golden in color, with peach, apricot, and floral nose. It is full-bodied and creamy but with some minerality and dryness on the aftertaste. Not being your typical white it was a stand out for me for its individuality.
At Clos Martinet, the next generation is forming a new chapter in the history of the winery. Originally started by Josep Lluís Perez one of the original five, now the winemaking torch has been handed down to his daughter, Sara Perez.
Sara’s philosophies have shifted the style of the wines being made. She has pulled back on the use of oak and ferments in concrete. In the cellar, you will find large cement jars as well as some ceramic amphorae, which they are only just beginning to explore. She has also changed the blend of her wines using fewer French grapes. Pérez is a champion of Garnacha and Cariñena, which she considers the authentic grapes of Priorat.
Along with winemaking Sara has changed the culture of working the vineyards naturally. This environmentally-friendly approach also extends to the winery, with the utilization of solar panels and generators to reduce energy resources.
Visiting here you'll drive up the winding back roads to their highest vineyard, Els Escurçons, where you will enjoy a picnic while taking in magnificent views. This vineyard was planted with over 4 acres of Garnacha using the traditional "costers" approach. This vineyard specific wine was my favorite of those we tried.
Sara along with her husband, Rene Barber Jr, has many other projects going on across the region. You will have the opportunity to try and purchase those as well.
The other significant wine area is in the north valley near the towns of Poboleda, and Torroja. Here I recommend visiting Mas Doix and Terroir al Limit.
We enjoyed our time spent with Valentin Doix who runs Mas Doix along with his brother and niece Sandra, the winemaker. The family has been growing grapes for centuries just outside the town of Poboleda and making wines with minimal intervention.
By driving and then climbing to the highest vineyards we were truly able to appreciate the terrain. The climate here differs from the southern locations, protected by two mountain ranges, and the Siurana valley has cooling breezes from the north.
We followed our hike with a tasting of their full spectrum of wines. Each wine enjoyable and unique; differing in the age of the vines and the mix of the grape blend. My favorite wine was the 1902, 100% Cariñena; it was complex, structured and well-balanced. This wine comes from their highest vineyards, and the name comes from the year the vineyard was planted. The old vines, which develop deeper roots, and lower yields, resulting in a more concentrated and complex wine.
Terroir al Limit, like the name, suggests, it is a terroir-focused winery in the village of Torroja. Dominik Huber is the owner, winemaker, and driving force behind a fresher and lighter style of wine. His winemaking principles follow biodynamic practices, early harvest, and whole cluster fermentation. Aging is done in concrete tanks or large mature Austrian oak casks. Dominik produces single vineyard wines inspired by Burgundy with a focus on Cariñena and Grenache grapes. His wines tend to have a lower alcohol content than typically found in the region. He has also started an entry-level wine line under the brand Terror-Historic. These are unoaked, cement-aged wines that can be produced in volumes, which means the wines should be widely available and affordable.
He recently opened a B&B, Cal Compte, where we enjoyed our tasting with a typical Spanish meal that centered around paella. The Les Manyes wine stood out for me, from old Garnatxa vines. This vineyard is one of the highest in the Monstant Mountains just above the Scala Dei Monastery and is on clay-limestone soils rather than llicorella. The perfumed nose is intoxicating; a mixture of flowers and berries and hints of spice. It’s fresh and balanced with a subtle minerality and fine tannins.
On your way to Siurana you can visit Perinet, a modern winery, which is owned by Alpha Omega in Napa. The winemaking team in California consults with the team on-site at the winery that understands the land. The team on the ground makes the decisions on when to harvest. Sara was so helpful in assisting with many of questions on our visit to this region and provided a fantastic tour and tasting.
Vall Llach can be found in the town of Porrera, or if you run out of time as we did, you can make a stop at their wine bar and restaurant in Barcelona. They have tanks where their sommelier will assist you in blending your wine from their varietals; Cariñena, Garnacha, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier.
When visiting the town of Porrera, a wonderful place to dine is Restaurant la Cooperativa. Of course, everything is locally grown, mostly organic, and prepared authentically. If you haven’t tried a wine you could probably find it here and the service was superb.
Wine Region Overview: Learn about the grapes, vineyards and terroir