Growing grapes and making wine in the Priorat is simply a way of life, but once the wine is released to the world, it becomes a form of art subject to the judgment of critics and the whims of connoisseurs. The Priorat was lucky to reappear on the wine scene at a time when its natural virtues fit the dense, heavily extracted taste of the times. It also possessed the powerful sense of terroir that the soul craves. The Priorat was in the spotlight then and has not let its audience down since.
In the beginning the great debate was rustic versus elegant. Some felt that the spirit of the Priorat had disappeared in the process of seeking elegance no matter how well crafted the wine was. Rustic was authentic but perhaps too unrefined. The new question is about freshness, a trend that requires cooling winds from the sea and earlier grape picking than in the traditional wait for optimal maturity that resulted in the classic concentration.
Now the Priorat is making vins de vila. Each village has its own temperatures, altitudes and soils, which result in different styles of wine. Exploring these nuances will provide new ways for people to explore the region’s wines. The existential winemakers of the Priorat will continue to think, imagine and evolve, but at the core there will always be llicorella and the wild landscape to maintain its distinctive sense of place.
The wines of the Priorat extend an invitation to sit and listen to the story of their lives. The flavors take you on a journey into the earth, collecting echoes of history along the way. The vines of the Priorat and the people who care for them tell a story of survival and the will to drink deeply of life.
The language of the senses is not communicated through words. We try so hard to find the right nouns and adjectives to express a flavor, a smell, a memory, yet, as Hugh Johnson so aptly put it, “words follow lumberingly after the clear, precise, yet indefinable impressions of the tongue.” Wine is an elusive language that has no form.
Those who have visited the Priorat find themselves in awe of the aliveness of the landscape. It stands to reason that its wines communicate with similar vitality. The energy of wine is documented. Nothing else in nature is capable of giving us so much. Perhaps this is why wine has remained a significant and often controversial part of human history since it was first enjoyed.
Critics and winemakers focus on terroir these days. The distinguishing characteristic of a great wine is sense of place, and minerality is argued to be at its core. If this is true, the wines of the Priorat have it all: història (a story), sense of place and minerality. So, argue as one might about its virtues, a Priorat wine merely has to focus on being itself.
Wine drinkers today are more adventurous, irreverent even. They are willing to try new things, explore the recommendations of friends and ignore the opinions of “authorities.” For the Priorat, this is a good thing, allowing the wines to speak for themselves and letting people receive their own version of the stories relayed in that intangible language of the senses.
Ethos Priorat is vividly panoramic. It is best viewed in landscape format to fully enjoy the experience.