Living in Barcelona, we are so lucky because we don’t need to travel far to discover amazing places. Catalonia is quite rich from a cultural and gastronomical standspoint and has become a landmark concerning wine tourism in Europe. Thus, last year we could finally enjoy the wine region called Priorat, which is located in the Tarragona province. The capital of Priorat, Falset, can be reached in just 1 hour and 45 minutes driving from Barcelona.
The geography of the Priorat region is pretty mountainous and, therefore, cultivating vines is not easy. Consequently, large-scale production is not possible in this land. But apart from its renowned wine cultivated in the Montsant massif and the beautiful village of Siurana, in Priorat you can also find an old monastery that has survived until our days: La Cartoixa d’Escaladei (Scala Dei Chaterhouse).
Scala Dei is a hamlet within the village of La Morera de Montsant, in which the first monastery of Carthusian Order in the Iberian Peninsula was built in the XII century.
Once the monastery was built, the monks who settled there started the cultivation of vine in their properties, which received the name of Priorat (but whose extension was smaller than the one of the current region). Due to its assets and the control that Scala Dei exercised over the rural region, it was considered the richest charterhouse in the territory formed by Catalonia, Aragón, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. However, in 1835, due to the Mendizábal disentailment, the monks were obliged to leave the monastery. In two years, the Scala Dei monastery was sacked by the local farmers and turned into ruins. Fortunately, in 1990 the owners of the property gave it to the Catalonia Government who decided to restore and keep the ruins.
And why Scala Dei? Well, the legend says that when the king Alfons I El Cast decided to give the land to the Carthusian Order to build a monastery, they sent some monks find the best place in accordance with their needs. During the search, they found a shepherd who told them that he had been dreaming about angels that climbed to heaven by means of the stairs that laid over a tree. The monks thought that it was a divine indication and decided to found the monastery in that place.
And going back to wine, you cannot leave the Priorat region without having visited a typical winery. As we said above, the geography of Priorat makes it difficult to cultivate vines massively. But, as a consequence of that, wine from Priorat has gained a good reputation worldwide. In fact, Priorat is considered to produce some of the best wines in the world. Production is made mainly in small properties, most of which can be visited by tourists. Priorat produces mainly red wine.
One of the villages with more wineries is Gratallops, where we moved to visit the winery named Clos Figueras. There, we could learn about the process of production of wine, the history of the winery and the qualified designation of origin for wine coming from the Priorat region. According to the Spanish wine regulations, Priorat holds the highest qualification level for a wine region together with La Rioja, located in the north of the Iberian Peninsula.
Moreover, the Priorat region is close to the World Heritage site of the Poblet Monastery, so if you decide to visit the area don’t forget to visit Poblet too. 🙂