Essential Magazine February 2022

Page 168


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HOW TWO LUMINARIES FOUNDED A WINE REGION No lover of wine will expect a prize for nominating the most wellknown Spanish regions: La Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Jerez, Rías Baíxas, Jumilla, etc. But how many can identify the other 62? It just so happens that the regions which sell the most wine also produce the most, so the system feeds on itself, but aren’t there lesser-known regions that deserve to be recognised more widely? WORDS ANDREW J LINN PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF CLOS MOGADOR


t is very seldom that, anywhere in the winemaking world, an entire wine production area has become established thanks mainly to the efforts of two people. But this is just one of the reasons that the area known as Priorato is so fascinating. Located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, about 60 km from Barcelona, the journey used to take more than three hours over rutted tracks, now fortunately improved by tarmac. It was originally the preserve of religious orders, in this case


Carthusian monks in the 12th century. They were prepared to bear freezing winters and sizzling summers in the name of their faith. But these hardy monks always brought vines from wherever they came in order to make communion wine (not for the sustenance of the brothers, of course). Priorato means priory, so the thread is easy to follow. Nevertheless, a more inhospitable location for growing grapes would be hard to envisage. Terraces were manually hacked out of steep mountain sides, and what little

soil that existed was hidden under layers of rock. Even today the vineyards are worked almost as they were in the 19th century, using mules and not employing chemicals. There is possibly no other wine region anywhere like this one. Garnacha and Cariñena are the commonest grapes, with minimal amounts of white and rosado varieties. There are few wine regions with such a low grape production per hectare, in this case 2,000 kilos as opposed to the 10,000 kilos for many ‘industrial’ wineries.