In 1979, René and Isabelle Barbier saw opportunity in a land once dominated by vines and renowned in European capitals for its world-class wine – by 1979, the vines and the land had been forsaken. It’s hard to comprehend the singularity of their vision.
The hills of Priorat are steep and covered in slippery schist that crumbles easily and makes for treacherous footing. Terraces (costers), each providing enough flat space for two or three rows of vines and more stable footing, have to be built. Building them is backbreaking work. Without them, men and animals (horses and mules – there’s no room for tractors) would lose their footing, destroying vines, grapes, and likely themselves.
And yet, René and Isabelle saw opportunity and settled near Gratallops, reinvigorating old Garnacha and Cariñena vines and planting new Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah vines. Others joined them, including Carles Pastrana in 1984, Josep Lluís Pérez in 1986, and Álvaro Palacios and Daphne Glorian in 1989, the year of the first harvest.
Today, Priorat once again stands as one of the premier wine-producing regions of the world. Leading producers, including Clos i Terrasses (Daphne Glorian), Álvaro Palacios, Família Nin-Ortiz, and René Barbier’s Clos Mogador consistently produce wines that earn high – and very often perfect – expert ratings.
Read more about Priorat as Walter explores the region in an upcoming article.