Priorat is rugged and hilly, with towns populated by as few as 25, and often no more than 500, inhabitants, and connected by serpentine roads that can be as dizzying as they are scenic. There are few hotels and restaurants scattered among 11 well-aged towns, and mostly small wineries to visit. But that’s what makes Priorat special. Next to rugged Priorat, nearby Cambrils, the most southerly city in a string of Catalonian beach towns, is a posh Mediterranean jewel. It features a boardwalk, a marina filled with private yachts, countless indoor/outdoor cafés and bars, and a good number of seafood restaurants.
Where to Taste:
Among the sleepy pueblos that make up the Priorat, Gratallops offers the greatest concentration of wineries to visit. Recommended wineries open to the public include Scala Dei, the oldest winery in Priorat and the spot where the region’s wine industry was founded by Carthusian monks in the 1100s; Clos Figueras, a small operation owned by wine exporter Christopher Cannan; and, depending on your taste in architecture, the most visually appealing or appalling winery in Priorat, Ferrer Bobet, owned by Spanish pharmaceutical heir Sergi Ferrer-Salat and his winemaking partner, Raül Bobet.
Prominent Grape Varities:
Garnacha, Cariñena, Garnacha Blanca, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are the noteworthy varieties. Richness in the reds, nuance in the whites result from a combination of modern and traditional winemaking approaches. The region’s loose, black, granite-like soils of slate and schist are known to the Catalan people as
Where to Dine:
At the Irreductibles restaurant and store in Gratallops, you can dine on modern interpretations of regional cuisine and purchase many of the best Priorat wines. In Cambrils, restaurants like Joan Gatell and Can Bosch represent the high end. For sheer seafood perfection and palatable prices, seek out Germans Miquel’s.
Where to Stay:
In Gratallops, the quaint and modern Cal Llop hotel offers rooms with exquisite panoramas of the Montsant Mountains. In the heart of Torroja and housed in a former private mansion, Cal Compte features expansive views of hillside vineyards; the staff can assist with reservations for winery visits. The Hotel Tryp Port Cambrils is a respectable four-star hotel located near the beach and main port.
Mireia Torres, managing director of Torres Priorat: “There is a nice restaurant in Falset called El Celler de l’Aspic. The owner is Antoni ‘Toni’ Bru, a sommelier from Tarragona with a great reputation. They do Mediterranean cuisine with products from the Priorat, and always season[al]. They have many wines and Toni knows all the producers in Priorat.”
Rent a bicycle in Cambrils and ride for miles on the paved boardwalk with the Mediterranean at your side.
BUDGET TIP: Priorat is a hiker’s paradise. Explore hundreds of kilometers of mountainous trails, taking in vineyard views, almond groves, hazelnut trees and wildflowers. Check with Turisme Priorat for a trail map.
When to Go:
Late spring, before the weather gets hot and tourist season cranks up.
Cal Llop Hotel: cal-llop.com
Can Bosch: canbosch.com
Clos Figueras: closfigueras.com
Ferrer Bobet: ferrerbobet.com
Germans Miquel’s: germansmiquels.com
Joan Gatell: joangatell.com
Scala Dei: aveniubrands.com/portfolio/wines/scala-dei
Turisme Priorat: turismepriorat.org