The area surrounding Torroja (i.e. the Priorate and the Montsant) is a very special winegrowing area. Here, the vines grow predominantly on “llicorella” (shale rock) and remain small plants on steep hillsides all their lives. The harvest per hectare is also very modest, but as a compensation the wines of La Hermita, El Clos de l’Obac, El Mas Martinet, Terroir-al-Limit, Trio Infernal, Celler Cecili and all the rest of them regularly score top reviews at all the international competitions. The wine prices currently achievable compensate the farmers somewhat for their years of laborious toiling on the steep, dry and slippery shale hillsides. After many years of oblivion (the wine had supposedly been “too strong” to serve with business dinners) it was discovered by the Americans, who have for years been buying up the wines virtually before they are harvested. The region is currently experiencing a kind of “wine rush”, which confuses and embitters many a farmer because the land is now run over by the “in crowd” from outside, including people from the Catalan singer-songwriter scene, who buy up the real estate by the hectare. A second revival, if you will, because at the end of the 19th Century, Spain, due to an invasion by the American grape phylloxera in the rest of Europe, was considered the only European country left with a healthy vine population, and hence became a leader in the international markets. At which point, however, the grape phylloxera “changed its mind“ and did what nobody would have thought possible: it crossed the Pyrenees and pitched into all Spanish vineyards within a few short years. The Priorate was hit hard and a massive rural depopulation ensued, which in some cases persisted until not long ago. Now, however, the tables have turned and everyone is marvelling at the “half pint“ (7 villages, 6,000 souls) that is now all the rage; everyone claims to have known it and nobody is the wiser. And who was that fool who had once classified the wines as “too strong”?
Torroja itself boasts bodegas aplenty, among them the “Terroir al Limit“ (liberally translated ”the vineyard at the end of the world“), which ranks among the top 20 bodegas in Spain. Sadie and Dominik Huber make a “Vi de Poble“ (a village wine) which is really something … and more. We’ll be happy to introduce to you Mr. Huber if you are interested in sampling this and other noble wines right at the bodega (not even 100 metres away from Cal Viola).
Even attempting to visit half of the winegrowers in the Priorate (many of whom are quite hidden and modest) would go way beyond our mere three weeks of vacation. We have coined the saying that nobody has liver enough to drink his or her way through all wines of the D.O. Priorate and D.O. Montsant!