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Priorat (DOQ)

Template:Infobox Wine Region

Priorat is a Catalan Denominació d'Origen Qualificada (DOQ) in Catalan for wines produced in the Priorat county to the south-west of Catalonia

The DOQ covers 11 municipalities. It primarily produces powerful red wines, which came to international attention in the 1990s. The area is characterised by its unique terroir of black slate and quartz soil known as llicorella.[1]

It is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify as DOCa, the highest qualification level for a wine region according to Spanish wine regulations, alongside Rioja DOCa.

Priorat is the Catalan spelling, which is the one usually appearing on wine labels, while the Spanish spelling is Priorato.


The first recorded evidence of grape growing and wine production dates from the 12th century, when the monks from the Carthusian Monastery of Scala Dei, founded in 1194, introduced the art of viticulture in the area. The prior of Scala Dei ruled as a feudal lord over seven villages in the area, which gave rise to the name Priorat. The monks tended the vineyards for centuries until 1835 when they were expropriated by the state, and distributed to smallholders.

At the end of the 19th century, the phylloxera pest devastated the vineyards causing economic ruin and large scale emigration of the population. Before the phylloxera struck, Priorat is supposed to have had around Script error: No such module "convert". of vineyards.[2] It was not until the 1950s that replanting was undertaken. The DO Priorat was formally created in 1954. The seat of the DO's regulatory body was initially Reus, some 30 km to the east of the wine-region, rather than in Priorat itself.

In the decade from 1985, the production of bulk wine was phased out and bottling of quality wine phased in.

File:DOQ Priorat location.svg
Location of Priorat in northeastern Spain.

Early on, winemaking cooperatives dominated. Much of the development of Priorat wines to top class is credited to René Barbier and Álvaro Palacios. [3] Winemaker Barbier, then active at a winery in Rioja owned by the Palacios family, bought his first land for Priorat vineyards in 1979, convinced of the region's potential. At this stage, there were Script error: No such module "convert". of Priorat vineyards. In the 1980s, he convinced others, including Palacios, to follow suit and plant new vineyards in suitable locations, all named Clos. For the first three vintages, 1989–1991, the group of five wineries pooled their grapes, shared a winery in Gratallops, and made one wine sold under five labels: Clos Mogador (Barbier), Clos Dofi (Palacios, later renamed to Finca Dofi), Clos Erasmus, Clos Martinet and Clos de l'Obac. From 1992, these wines were made separately. In 1993, Palacios produced a wine called L'Ermita sourced from very old Priorat vines, which led to an increased interest in using the region's existing vineyards to produce wines in a new style.

The Catalan authorities approved of Priorat's elevation from DO to DOQ status in 2000, but national level confirmation from the Spanish Government in Madrid only came on July 6, 2009. [4] In the period from 2000 to 2009, when it was approved as DOQ but not yet as DOCa, despite the fact that these designations were exactly the same but in Catalan and Spanish, respectively, the situation was somewhat confused. A new set of DOQ rules were approved by the Catalan government in 2006. The regulatory body moved from Reus to Torroja del Priorat in 1999.

The vineyard surface of Priorat has been continuously expanding since the Clos-led quality revolution in the 1990s. At the turn of the millennium there was Script error: No such module "convert". of vineyards, with an equal amount of planting rights secured. [2] As of 2009, there are close to Script error: No such module "convert"..

File:Cartoixa d'Escaladei - Vista.jpg
The village of Escaladei with the Montsant mountains in the background.
File:Porrera - Vista.jpg
Porrera, one of the villages of Priorat, with vineyards visible on the left behind the village.


The DOQ comprises the valleys of the rivers Siurana and Montsant. The vineyards are planted on the slopes on terraces at altitudes of between 100 m and 700 m above sea level. Priorat is almost entirely surrounded by the DO Montsant, which makes wine in a similar style.

The demarcated zone has a total size of Script error: No such module "convert"..

In 2013, the enotourism guidebook series, Vinologue published the first comprehensive guide to all the regions of Priorat as well as profiles for all the full production cellars. [4]


The area is of volcanic origin which confers interesting characteristics to the soil. The basis (called llicorella in Catalán) comprises reddish and black slate with small particles of mica, which reflects the sunlight and conserves heat. The 50 cm thick topsoil is formed of decomposed slate and mica. These characteristics force the roots of the vines to reach the base for water, nutrition and minerals. These soil characteristics confer special quality to the wine and keep the vines firmly anchored to the earth during the strong winds and storms which are common to the area.


Even though Priorat DOQ covers a small area, there are several different micro-climates present. Generally, the climate is more extreme than most continental climate areas, though there is a marked contrast between the valleys and the higher areas. There are both freezing winds from the north (mitigated somewhat by the Montsant mountain) and also the warm Mistral wind from the east.

Summers are long, hot and dry (max temperature 35°) while winters are cold (min temperature -4°C). There is the occasional risk of frost, hailstones and drought. The average annual temperature is 15°C, and average annual rainfall is 400–600 mm.


File:Cartoixa d'Escaladei 1.jpg
Vineyard belonging to Scala Dei.

The traditional grape variety grown in El Priorat is the red Garnacha tinta, which is found in all the older vineyards. Also authorized are the following red varieties: Garnacha Peluda, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Four white varieties are also authorized: Garnacha blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximénez and Chenin.

The trend among the red varieties is that Garnacha stays constant, Cariñena decreases and the international grape varieties increase. While Cabernet Sauvignon has always been in the lead among these, in recent years, Syrah has increased faster.

Yields are very low, usually much lower than the authorized maximum yield of 6,000 kg/ha, due to the rocky nature of the soil that does not allow the accumulation of water. The vines are usually planted as low bushes (en vaso) though the newer vineyards tend to be planted on trellises (en espaldera).

As of 2008, Priorat had Script error: No such module "convert". of vineyards, of which Script error: No such module "convert". or 96% was planted with red varieties, and Script error: No such module "convert". or 4% with white varieties.[5] The average planting density was 2,850 vines per hectare, compared to the mandated 2,500 to 9,000 vines per hectare.

The distribution of grape varieties is as follows:

Priorat grape varieties (2008 situation)[5]
Red varieties White varieties
Variety Planted area (ha) Proportion Number of vines Variety Proportion Planted area (ha) Number of vines
Garnacha tinta 667.52 37.8% 1 980 645 Garnacha blanca 39.8 2.3% 132 705
Cariñena 442.61 25.0% 1 029 082 Macabeo 20.37 1.2% 42 950
Cabernet Sauvignon 248.92 14.1% 775 012 Pedro Ximénez 8.06 0.5% 17 514
Syrah 191.59 10.8% 702 440
Merlot 104.1 5.9% 230 528
Other varieties 34.04 1.9% 86 063 Other varieties 10.07 0.6% 30 010
Sum 1688.78 95.6% 4 803 770 Sum 78.3 4.4% 223 179


In 2008, Script error: No such module "convert". of grapes were harvested, of which Script error: No such module "convert". (96%) was red grapes and Script error: No such module "convert". (4%) white grapes.[6] This resulted in Script error: No such module "convert". of wine. During the recent expansion of Priorat vineyards, production of red grapes has expanded, while the production of white grapes has even declined somewhat. Thus, the proportion of white grapes has dropped from 10% in 2001 to 4% in 2008, while the total production increased by 92% over the same period.[6]

The yield in 2008 corresponds to 2,700 kg of grapes per hectare compared to the official maximum of 6,000 kg per hectare, and corresponds to 16 hectoliter per hectare. The official maximum corresponds to a yield of 39 hectoliter per hectare, as a 65% conversion (0.65 litre of wine per kilogram of grapes) is foreseen. Some producers have yields of only around 5 hectoliter per hectare.[1]


The traditional reds from El Priorat are a single grape bottling of Grenache and Carignan or then a blend of these two grapes blended in a "Bordeaux" style with other French varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon (which is falling out of favor), Merlot, or Syrah among others. [4]

  • Criança wines must remain in oak barrels for 6 months and then 18 months in the bottle.
  • Reserva wines must remain in oak barrels for 12 months and then 24 months in the bottle.
  • Gran Reserva wines remain in oak barrels for 24 months and then 36 months in the bottle.

Few wineries (cellers) follow these guidelines strictly and the usual practice is to produce what is known as vi de guarda (aged wine) that has been in oak barrels for 18 months followed by 6 months in the bottle, the optimal moment for consumption being 2 years later. [7]

See also


  1. ^ a b Jancis Robinson, ed. (2006). "Priorat". Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 548. ISBN 0-19-860990-6. 
  2. ^ a b Johnson, Hugh; Jancis Robinson (2001). World Atlas of Wine (5th ed.). London: Mitchell Beazley. p. 198. ISBN 1-84000-332-4. 
  3. ^ Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2007: Priorat: the next big red
  4. ^ a b c Miquel Hudin & Elia Varela Serra (2013), Vinologue Priorat, Vinologue, p. 432, ISBN 978-0-983-77185-2 
  5. ^ a b DOQ Priorat: Hectares, accessed on December 26, 2009
  6. ^ a b DOQ Priorat: Production of grape, accessed on December 26, 2009
  7. ^ DOCa Regulations, published in DOGC no. 4618 dated 21-4-2006. In Catalan

External links

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