With magnificent outlooks all around, one finds oneself in a peaceful state of awe. So it is no surprise that El Lloar means “the praise.” Its narrow streets look up towards Els Rogerals, deep-red rock cliffs found at the southern end of the Montsant. Along the eastern side of the village is a balcony built for gazing across the Montsant River valley to the eastern side of the Priorat, with Gratallops and L’Ermita in the foreground. Views from all sides of El Lloar open up to unforgettable panoramas of the Priorat.
The fountain of Minfami, found above the village in the mountains, suggests the Moors occupied the land early on. But the village was actually formed after the Reconquest, when it was added to La Figuera. In 1748, when the community was deemed worthy of a church, the establishment of El Lloar was official. The residents dedicated their new church to St. Michael, the archangel and leader of the army of God, who fought the forces of evil. He is also the symbol for the village crest.
The climate is hot and the soils are a mixture of llicorella and clay, depending on location. A dominance of Carinyena and years of dedicated viticulture have resulted in wines with concentrated elegance.
On a clear day the villages appear across the landscape like wedding cakes sprawling down hillsides. They are close enough to each other to feel connected, but before there were roads, which was not that long ago, they were too far apart to reach in a day. Imagine working in the vineyards, seeing a friend on a hillside across the valley collapse from the hot sun and having no cell phone to call for help. These circumstances kept each village reliant upon its own community. But some people managed to fall in love with “exotic” spouses from other villages, though they were all intrinsically bound by the Montsant.
Technically there are nine villages in the Priorat. Only the land around El Molar and Falset is within the DOQ Priorat, not the villages themselves. Scala Dei is technically part of La Morera, but it has its own community and terroir distinctive enough to be referenced independently. Some villages have less than 10% of the population they had at beginning of the century. After the phylloxera epidemic the population plummeted, and by the end of the Franco era the region was in stasis. But the Priorat was not depressed because, while the people had little money, they still had their land and their freedom, which had value all their own.
As the region finds prosperity again, families are returning to their ancestral villages and restoring their family homes along with the regional pride. Narrow pedestrian streets now make room for modern cars, but the church squares remain the place for social gatherings. The older generation stroll the streets, recollecting each stone and plant along the way. Some things are changing, but others never will.
Ethos Priorat is vividly panoramic. It is best viewed in landscape format to fully enjoy the experience.