For those used to the open-door, drop-in policy of many cellars around the world, the Priorat way of doing things is very different. While around half of the cellars are officially open for visits, they require appointments ahead of time. Although it takes more organising, it means that you’re likely to be received by an attentive owner or enolog instead of someone who just clocks in and out. With 200 different cellars between DOQ Priorat and DO Montsant, it can be hard to choose which ones to visit, so here are some of my own favourites.
Cellers de Scala Dei Situated just a kilometre from the monastery, Cellers de Scala Dei is open daily for both drop-in tastings and hourly visits to the cellar. Enolog, Ricard, and tasting room managers, Ferran and Yuri, are passionate about wine and happy to tell you about the cellar’s history. Make sure to try their new series of brilliant single vineyard wines called Garnatxes d’Scala Dei.
Vall Llach: Catalan folk singer Lluis Llach and his childhood friend, Enric Costa, founded this winery, initially as a social project, in Porrera. Since then, this beautiful cellar has grown to produce some very classy wines. You need to book an appointment ahead of time. Visits include a tour of the cellar and various barrel tastings including their limited, top-of-the-line Mas de la Rosa that is epic, but comes with a hefty price tag at€€92 a bottle.
Sangenís i Vaqué: A family-owned winery in Porrera that makes the more classic style of Priorat wines which are easily able to age for up to 20 years. The tastings, which need to be scheduled beforehand, include their older wines which are just now peaking at 15 years old.
Clos Mogador: One of the classic wineries, Clos Mogador was started by René Barbier III and his wife, Isabelle Meyer, in the late 1970’s and was a key player in the region’s wine-producing fame. Visits need to be scheduled and include a tour of their gorgeous terraced vineyards in Gratallops and a tasting of all their wines, including the top-end Clos Mogador.
Ficaria Vins: The village of La Figuera is worth a trip in itself, but to make a day of it, a stop at Ficaria Vins is highly recommended. Jaume Roca and his wife, Montse Castro, started their cellar a decade ago and are making Grenache wines from only the vines within the village, showing how unique this higher-altitude, windswept region is. They speak only Catalan and Spanish, so if you need the tour in English, let them know when making the arrangements.
All of these cellars speak English unless otherwise noted.For more information about the Priorat, see Miquel’s books in the Vinologue series (www.vinologue.com). Miquel also gives guided wine tours in the above cellars and others in the region (www.hudin.com/tours).