Priorat – the other Spanish DOC

I wish I could speak Spanish well enough to say Denominación de Origen, but it just comes out sounding French.

We will stick to the easier acronym of DOC. Out of the four classifications for wine in Spain, DOC is the most strict and the most prestigious. It has many similarities to the AOC regulations in France and the DOCG classification in Italy. But unlike France and Italy, the Spanish give this honor to only two wine regions. Everyone has heard of Rioja, which is esteemed for the delicious wines made from Tempranillo, the top Spanish varietal. However, most causal wine consumers may not know about Spain’s other DOC- Priorat.

Located just southwest of Barcelona, this region produces powerful reds as a result of the unusual growing conditions. Priorat has a unique soil makeup of reddish black slate and mica (know as llicorella in Catalan) and this combination distinguishes it from any other grape-growing region in the world. The extreme soil conditions force the roots of vines to dig very deep in search of water, and accounts for the intensity and mineral character of the wines.

To add to the extremity of what makes Priorat unique is the fact the vineyards are situated precariously in the mountainous terrain surround the area. Vines are tended by hand and it is a wonder that growers don’t slip on the shiny, shifty rocks and slide right off the mountainside!

The major grapes grown here are Grenache and Carignane, and traditional wines are either 100% Grenache or a blend of the two. Some vineyards claim their vines are up to 130 years old!

Having only claimed its DOC title in 2000, it hasn’t take long for the world to recognize the special quality of Priorat wines and make it known as one of the most exciting wine producing regions in the world.