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Priorat and Vino de Pueblo

Hope for value, but if not there's always Montsant

Map of the Spanish wine regions of Priorat and Montsant.
Map of the Spanish wine regions of Priorat and Montsant.

by Mike Supple
published: 26 Jun 2009
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As was recently reported by Decanter magazine out of the United Kingdom, the Priorat region of Spain has been granted "a new category of 'Village Wines' within the DOCa of Priorato" called 'Vino de Pueblo.' This is potentially huge news for winemakers in Priorat. [Priorat = Priorato.]

Let's back up briefly - just in case your issue of Decanter got lost in the mail. Spanish wines are split into 4 major categories:

  • Vino de Mesa - Basic table wines that do not list a specific region or grape on the label.

  • Vino de la Tierra - Specific large regions of Spain (stated on the label) with general laws regarding types of grapes that can be used in each region.

  • Denominación de Origen (DO) - Very specific geographic regions (there are about 60 in Spain at the moment) stated on the label. Regulations dictate the grapes used in each region, the way in which the grapes must be grown and how the wine is made.

  • Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOC, DOCa, DOQ) - Technically the cream of the crop. Currently only two regions have been given this status: Rioja and Priorat. The standards for these wines are higher than those of DO status; the wines are tasted by the governing body and must be of high quality.

The major thing to note here is that wine makers in DOCa regions are only allowed to grow grapes and make wines as dictated by the rules. This allows for very little experimentation by grape growers and wine makers. Adding this new 'Vino de Pueblo' category will give a little more latitude to explore some new techniques or retry classic styles that may have been lost.

Although 'Village Wines' seems like a category that describes wines of lower quality, I would be surprised to see any of these new wines coming into the US at low prices. Why? Priorat produces some of the best (darkest, thickest, ripest, fruitiest, tannic, and most worthwhile of aging) wines in all of Spain - hence they are some of the most expensive. Growers who are willing to eschew the almost guaranteed high sale price of their Priorat bottles to try something new are most likely going to be making tiny production, high quality and high priced wines they hope will achieve international acclaim.

If you're looking for VALUE though, you still have some options. There is a region around Priorat called Montsant. These wines are made from similar grapes (usually a combination of one or more of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cariñena due to the influences of Bordeaux and Southern France just to the north) and have great complexity, yet the price tag is usually much lower than on the wines from Priorat. These wines can be enjoyed when they are released (although many can age as well).

I'm intrigued, and I'll be looking for the new Vino de Pueblo wines coming from Priorat. But unless I find something of amazing value, I'm sticking with Montsant!

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