With its isolated mountain vineyards and arid summers, Priorat is an area for extreme winemaking. Andrew Jefford meets the producers searching for balance and regional character in this demanding corner of Spain.
Priorat is a secret wine kingdom, hidden and remote. Its loneliness strikes you most clearly at night. You can prowl the constantly twisting roads and never see other headlights; turn off the engine, and the silence can make your ears ache. Even the dogs seem shy of barking.
Perhaps they’re awed by the glitter of the stars. If ever a place was destined to lure monks, this is it. The Carthusians had to find their way here – and they did, back in the 12th century. They went to the furthest recesses of the region, hard up against the cliffs of Montsant, literally ‘the sacred mountain’. It’s a remote fastness, even today; back then it must have been wild enough to defy survival itself. What else should they call the spot they chose for their fragile little chartreuse but Escaladei, or ‘God’s ladder’? Not only did they survive, but they prospered to the extent that much of this inland island eventually became their dominion – hence its present-day name, and that of the wine it reluctantly surrenders.
Translated by ICY
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