Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 15

Classifying Priorat
Tradition Meets Terroir in New, Site-Specific Designations
by Patricio Tapia
Scala Dei's Masdeu is one of the highest vineyards
in Priorat. From its perch at 2,624 feet, the surrounding landscape looks like a mosaic. The mountains point in all directions, dotted with the green
of vineyards, the black of slate, the red of clays and
the imposing chalk white of the Sierra del Montsant.
Under the ancient stands of cariñena and garnacha vines, the black slate, or llicorella, may be the
most renowned factor of the region's terroir, imparting a distinctive mineral character to the wines.
But from Masdeu, the terroir looks much more
complex. Not only because the soil in that vineyard
is clay and chalk rather than slate, but also because
the wild peaks of the surrounding mountains hide
hundreds of nooks among their slopes, hundreds of
microterroirs that the locals know and have always
differentiated.
This region has been planted to vines since the
Carthusian monks moved in and began establishing vineyards in the 12th century. Today, vines cover
about 43,500 acres, spreading around 12 vilas, the
small medieval villages built of stone.
All these mountaintop villages are connected by
paved roads, but imagine their isolation in the Middle Ages. Before René Barbier, José Luis Pérez, Carles
Pastrana, Dafne Glorian and Alvaro Palacios arrived
in the area in 1989 and put it on the world map of
wine, each vila made its wine in the village cooperative. Each village's wine had its own distinct identity, from the intense, sturdy, acidic carignan of Porrera, the nearest town to the sea, to the fragrant and
broad garnachas grown in the heights of Scala Dei, or
the ripe, voluptuous reds of Bellmunt, to the south,
where the slopes are softer, the soils more fertile and
the climate warmer.
Until 2009, the region's wines were bottled simply
as "Priorat." Then the Consejo Regulador established
a new category, Vi de Vila, "the wine of the village," to
identify wines grown 100 percent within the borders
of any of the 12 towns. This year, the Consejo has
proposed further refinements to the system, adding
new designations: Vi de Paratge are wines from small
areas within a town's borders that have long been
known to produce wines of special character; Vi de
Vinya Clasificada and Gran Vi de Vinya Clasificada
are designations for single-vineyard wines.
Priorat is not alone in this new crusade to identify
the specific origin of its wines. Other regions, such
as Bierzo and Rioja, have also announced changes
to their classification, as has the Consejo for Cava.
15

WINE & SPIRITS

OCTOBER 2017

These new regulations will allow producers to label
their wines with the names of the towns of origin or
the vineyards from which they come, and that information will carry the same importance as the name of
the region, which, until now, has been the only classification for wines in Spain that referred to the place of
origin. In the past, Spanish wine legislation focused
on what happens in the winery, with aging requirements for designations such as Crianza or Reserva.
Of all the new classifications that have been presented in Spain, Priorat's seem to be the most exhaustive. Salus Alvares, president of Priorat's Consejo
Regulador, told me that the work has taken them 12
years and that, when they tried to define the paratges, for example, they studied all the important areas
in detail, making a file of each of the 400 classified
paratges, with aerial photos, dimensions, topography
and records from historians and geologists.
However, the proposed requirements for vineyards classified as Vi de Vinya Clasificada have some
unusual parameters. Such a site must have at least
five years of international recognition, ten years
for a site classified as Gran Vi de Vinya Clasificada.
Why external opinion should be a decisive factor is
an open question. The Vi de Vila and Vi de Paratge
are based on the land, its history and local tradition,
yet the single-vineyard wines are subject to recognition from outside the zone. What will this recognition entail? Perhaps the Consejo will set some kind of
minimum average point score from critics; or maybe
it will be based on price.
Further, the Vi de Vinya Clasificada requires a
minimum vine age of 25 years, the Gran Vi de Vinya
Clasificada a minimum of 35. What is the difference
between a wine from 25- and 35-year-old vines? It's
hard to say, but it does raise a different, more crucial question about the way producers might think
about their vineyards in the future. The great heritage of Priorat is in its old garnacha and cariñena
vineyards, plants that have survived for 80 to 100
years or more. Could this classification lead to growers gradually replacing those ancient, less productive
vines, while still meeting the vine-age requirements
for the top classification as set by law?
Even if there are many things to correct, a number of producers are enthusiastic about the proposal.
And, in the end, the real value of these new classifications in Priorat and throughout Spain is that, for the
first time, the concept of territorial diversity is being
codified into Spanish law. n

Alvaro Palacios's L'Ermita,
planted between 1900 and 1940

"We know that
this is just version
1.0 and, soon, new
and improved
versions will
come. We are just
learning, and all
this is still very
young."
-Alvaro Palacios

WINE & SPIRITS

OCTOBER 2017

15



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wine & Spirits - October 2017

Contents
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover1
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover2
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 1
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 2
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 3
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 4
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Contents
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 6
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 7
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 8
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 9
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 10
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 11
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 12
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 13
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 14
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 15
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 16
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 17
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 18
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 19
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 20
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 21
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 22
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 23
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 24
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 25
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 26
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 27
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 28
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 29
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 30
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 31
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 32
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 33
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 34
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 35
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 36
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 37
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 38
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 39
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 40
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 41
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 42
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 43
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 44
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 45
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 46
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 47
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 48
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 49
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 50
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 51
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 52
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 53
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 54
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 55
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 56
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 57
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 58
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 59
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 60
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 61
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 62
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 63
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 64
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 65
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 66
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 67
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 68
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 69
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 70
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 71
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 72
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 73
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 74
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 75
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 76
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 77
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 78
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 79
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 80
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 81
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 82
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 83
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 84
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 85
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 86
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 87
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 88
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 89
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 90
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 91
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 92
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 93
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 94
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 95
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 96
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 97
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 98
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 99
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 100
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 101
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 102
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 103
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 104
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 105
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 106
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 107
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 108
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 109
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 110
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 111
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 112
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover3
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/202108
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/202106
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/202104
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/202102
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/202012
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2020winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/202010
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/202008
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/202006
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/202004
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/202002
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201912
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201911
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201910
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201908
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201906
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201904
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201902
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201812
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2018_winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201810
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201809
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201808
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201806
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201804
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201802
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201712
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2017winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201710
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201709
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201708
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201706
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201704
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201702
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201612
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2016winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201610
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2016fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201608
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201606
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201604
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201602
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201512
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2015winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201510
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2015fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201508
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201506
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201504
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201502
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201412
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2014winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201410
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2014fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201408
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201406
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201404
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201402
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201312
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2013winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201310
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2013fall
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201308
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201306
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201304
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201302
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201212
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/2012winter
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201210
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/fall2012
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201208
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201206
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201204
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201202
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/drm_test
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201112
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/winespirits/201110
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com