The Priorat is one of the hidden gems of the Spanish wine world and luckily it is much easier to visit now that the access roads have improved and only takes an hour and a half to reach from Barcelona.
Why go there? Well the terrain is mountainous, the climate very dry and extreme and the roads narrow and winding but despite all of this the drama of the steep slopes planted with almond trees or vines, villages built on rocky outcrops and above all some spectacular wines are what should bring you here.
This is where the traditional varieties of garnacha (white and red) and cariñena are blended with newer arrivals cabernet, syrah and merlot to make some of the most powerful yet complex wines which reflect the wild herbs and red fruit aromas which send wine lovers all over the world into ecstasy.
It is fair to say that these wines have a bigger following outside of Spain due to what is referred to locally as "Riojitis" but cost has also been a factor since many of these wines have been overpriced. Reality seems to have set in and there are plenty of very interesting offerings in the 10-25? range as the number of Bodegas (wineries) has exploded from a dozen to nearly a hundred in only ten years.
A day trip visiting two contrasting bodegas with a full lunch in between is a great way to discover this wild area and I know you will fall in love with it just like me!
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As part of the wine festival there are also olive oil tastings and cooking demonstrations throughout the weekend. This one was held in the main square of Falset and everyone had the same accessories of either a butane camping gas stove or a small charcoal grill on which to prepare their dishes.
All the important ingredients of the area were being shown off in spectacular and imaginative style from wild herbs, pine nuts and almonds, olives and olive oil, wine, vinegar to season wild boar, hare, rabbit and some juicy pork products.
What cannot be passed on through the pictures is the amazing smells and of course the taste, next year you will have to come to sample for yourselves!