The history of the Priorat is as legendary as its sudden rise to fame. It is a collection of fantastic stories that date back to the Phoenicians, who traded amphoras of ancient Catalan wines with the pharaohs. There was the occupation by the Romans, famous for their appreciation of wine. And there is the engaging tale of the Carthusian monks, who founded their monastery at the base of the Montsant Mountains because a shepherd told them a story about angels ascending a ladder to heaven.
There is another great story about how the Priorat’s naturally dense wines saved the French wines when France’s vineyards were devastated by phylloxera. The Priorat thrived during those years. But the French replanted to resistant rootstock and that era ended, followed by bad harvests. Then, finally, phylloxera found its way over the Pyrenees.
Then another tragedy took place, the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent Franco years. One of the bloodiest battles, the Battle of Ebro, was fought in the region. The elders remember the sounds of bombs and having to run with all their belongings and hide in the countryside. Homes were ransacked and taken by the Republicans. Spain was in a terrible economic crisis and the Priorat was all but forgotten.
J. V. Foix, a beloved Catalan poet, wrote the following in his journal in 1918: “I like, for no reason, to wander along the walls of past eras, and from my dark countenance, under a laurel tree or beside a Tuscan font, with evening on the way, conjure sieges and old battles.” He was not writing specifically about the Priorat but he could have been. A sense of history permeates the air and the earth. The people who have lived and worked this land have kept the Priorat's wine heritage alive. They say Catalans can make bread from stones, but in the Priorat it is wine that comes from stones!
Ethos Priorat is vividly panoramic. It is best viewed in landscape format to fully enjoy the experience.