Due west of Barcelona but about 25 km from the sea, Priorat had 12,500 acres planted to vine before the arrival of phylloxera in the late 1800s. When René Barbier rediscovered the region in 1979, there were only 1,500 acres still in existence, many planted in the 1950s. Since then, plantings have soared to 5,000 acres as of 2018. Barbier convinced Alvaro Palacios and a few other young winemakers to join together and produce 5 'Clos' wineries which, when first rated stratospherically by Robert Parker Jr. and other critics blew the lid off the sleepy region and started a land rush. And for some wines, created stratospheric prices for a region no one had ever heard of before then. The secret to Priorat's success is a very special soil type known as llicorella, a dark red and black slate with the volcanic elements of mica and quartzite. Despite a low annual rainfall, the combination of llicorella soils and a decent water table allow for unirrigated vines and the ridge of Montsant to the north protects the region from the cold blasts of the Spanish central plateau. Powerful, concentrated reds are all that is made here.
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