Touring the vineyards of Priorat
I arrived at the small village of El Lloar in the morning, ready to lose myself in the vineyards of the region of Priorat, an area of great winemaking tradition. I chose a route that starts at the Plaza de la Iglesia in El Lloar and takes you through the old Camino Real de la Figuera, also known as El de la fuente de Minfami, which crosses through the vineyards belonging to the Torres winery. If you start the itinerary in the morning, like I did, I recommend stopping by the winery later on. It’s actually better to enjoy the walk in the early hours to avoid a blazing sun. It’s a beautiful journey and the signposts are easy to follow. However for those who like to rely on directions, the tourism office of Priorat has published a brochure and also offers to download the itinerary straight to your GPS.
This route was once a bridle path, where for centuries peasants walked on with their mules, loaded with grapes from the highest vineyards. It is easy to be transported to those days. It has alternate areas of cooling shade, with sunny open spaces where it’s good to use a cap. After you cross over the pass of Bassetes, the trail climbs on sandstone slopes where you can see picturesque caves eroded by wind and rain. Soon you will encounter one of the most odd elements of the itinerary: the Nas d’en Quilma (Quilma’s nose), a rock that’s shaped resembling the profile of a human head. It’s worth to take a break here to enjoy the magnificent sights of El Lloar and the vineyards of Priorat. Further up you will find a fork on the path. Take the path on the right, called “el de la Figuera” until you find the GR that leads down towards El Molar through a site called Damunt Roca. It is a great area to take pictures.
The tour will take you then past the Fuente de Minfami (Minfami fountain) and the Mas de la Pedregosa. To avoid getting lost if you aren’t using a GPS, look for the cypresses. It’s an indication that you are going in the right direction. Soon you will find your way back to “El camino de la Figuera” (Figuera’s way). The return is on the same path we came, so it’s all down hill now. Be careful of stones. After a few minutes you will reach the Torres winery, again. Now it’s time to go inside. It’ll help you better understand the history and the winemaking tradition of this southern region of Catalonia. Please note that it is required to make a reservation with at least two days in advance.
In 1996, this century-old winery acquired hundred of hectares of vineyards in El Lloar. Soon after opened their current facilities designed by architect Miquel Espinet, where they produce two wines: Perpetual and Salmos, both with guarantee of origin D.O. Priorat. You won’t regret tasting samples of the two.
You can visit both, the winery and the vineyards, where we are told that the hardness of the slate soil and extreme temperatures of the region –very cold in winter, very warm in summer–, require of each vine to give its best. At harvest time, between the months of September and October, grapes go through a very thorough selection and it shows. Salmos has an intense flavor but with a silky feel, reminiscent of macerated berries, with a hint of fresh aroma of pacharán. It is an explosion of density, with a touch of acidity that travels towards the back of the mouth. The Perpetual has more body, has more prominent aroma and deeper color in the glass. It has minerals hints mixed with tones of blackberry and plum. An intense flavor that comes from an intense landscape. This wine has a particularity: It is made with grapes from centenarian vines which do not produce more than 300 grams of fruit each year. As a consequence, the production of bottles is limited, and the final product…more expensive.