Nights become cooler and the landscape begins to shift from green to a fantastic array of juicy gummy-bear colors, advising everyone that the grapes are ready to be picked. The decision is, of course, more than just visual. Every vineyard in every part of the Priorat moves at its own pace. Each has its moment of readiness and every grower has a way of analyzing what that should be.
Finally, the decision is made. The grapes are at their optimum for picking. The entire region is in motion; everyone is involved; friends and family gather and go to work. This is the culmination of the year, the moment that the vine and its people have worked toward. Everyone is up before the sun, cutting the clusters from the vine, hands sticky and sweet; then they migrate to the cellar to complete the grape selection, day after day until the harvest is complete. The grapes have begun their journey from the quiet contemplation of the landscape, transforming all that they witnessed into a very special wine.
Eventually the colors fade, and the leaves begin to dry and fall away. The vines are collecting their energy into their core so they will be ready to begin again next year. While the grapes ferment, the people are back with their vines, turning over the soil so it can breathe, as if lovingly tucking the vines into bed for a good winter’s sleep.
In the Priorat, the vines and the people move through time as if they were one. They respond to the sun and its seasonal rhythms with an unconscious awareness of when to rest and when to be fruitful. They are dependent on one another. Nature takes care of man so man can take care of nature — the perfect circle for ongoing life. This kind of synchronized rhythm could be explained by the fact that man is ultimately an integral part of nature, but in the Priorat this relationship is also a matter of heritage.
This is what makes generations’ cultivating the same land so crucial to a good wine. The more experiences that growers have with the land, the better prepared they are for dealing with the unpredictable that each vintage delivers. Knowing the trends, being familiar with each vine and recognizing signs inform intuitive viticulture. These experiences are recorded in memories that have become part of a farmer’s DNA. Stories are shared over a game of dominoes; children and grandchildren appear to be playing, but they are also listening as if to a collection of Aesop’s Fables, each with a lesson for life.
The neutral gray of hibernating winter gives way to the electric glow of spring. This is the signal for the people to wake up, put on sunglasses and get to work. The vines have rested and so have they. It is nice to be outside again, in motion, clinging to the sides of their beloved schisty slopes. They have no will to resist the telluric impulses. Walking amongst their ancestors, breathing the air of new life, they greet the new vintage with vigor for another year. Hard work, challenges and great reward await in this blessed life.
Ethos Priorat is vividly panoramic. It is best viewed in landscape format to fully enjoy the experience.