Gratallops, or where it all began (the wine boom, that is; see below). It is just a small village 6 km removed from Torroja, on the route to Falset. It is a good place for buying bread, vegetables, meat and wine. The village also has several restaurants. Our favourites are la Fonda (home-style cooking) or Clos de l’Aubac or Els irreductibles (both very sophisticated and a bit pricier).
Gratallops is also a great place for buying wine, e.g. at the Clos de l’Aubac, where you will find a very expensive, international award-winning bottled wine for the discriminating connoisseur. Another good place is “Cecili” (the name of the wine cellar). August, the proprietor and winegrower, has been our wine dealer for years and offers very good bottled and unbottled wines. Be sure to sample his “unbottled Cabernet” or a “Ranci” or a “Dolç”; lovingly treated and kept in oak barrels, these beautiful wines are allowed to mature and mellow for several years before they are sold. It will be time well spent, and if you speak Spanish, August will also be happy to tell you many interesting things about the country and its people.
Then of course there is the Cooperativa, where you can buy unbottled wine. Bottled wine can also be had at the Agrobotiga, an organic shop ”a la Catalan“, which offers a wide range of organically grown delicacies – olives and olive pesto, chickpeas, lentils and beans in glass jars – ready to eat and always delicious – and cheese, sausage and cured meats, and so much more. We always buy way beyond what’s reasonable, but it all tastes so good and we just can’t resist…
A new addition to Gratallops is the Hotel Can Llop, with a restaurant we haven’t tried yet. But it’s said to be good, if not exactly cheap. Ecotourism is definitely the Priorate’s future. After all, precious wines are much more at the mercy of the ups and downs of the globalized crises than is simple rest and relaxation in wonderful wild nature.
But back to the restaurants (it’s unbelievable how many there are, since Gratallops has fewer than 500 residents). Between Gratallops and Falset (some 2 km removed from the village) you will find a restaurant right by the roadside where huge portions are served for very low rates (they will be happy to bag whatever you can’t eat for “later emergencies” or for the village cats – there is a big cat population in Torroja). The specialty of this eatery (which is easy to find thanks to the many cars parking outside at all time of the year) is oven-baked shoulder of lamb. We are sure that hundreds of them make their way across the counter every week … so-to-speak.
In fact, the first successful winegrowers got together in Gratallops about 10 years ago, namely: René Barbier, Alvaro Palacios, Celler Cecili (the last one a continued success who also managed to weather the “dry times“ very well and does not need to live in fear of a crisis or produce a ”secondary brand“ of lower-priced wines). Here is where they were discovered by America’s “wine pope”, Robert Parker, who got the ball rolling. They are all well established now. In the beginning, Barbier and Palacios were just the offspring of Rioja winegrowers determined to try their luck elsewhere and show their parents that they were just as good as they… which they have proven admirably.
Gratallops also has art to offer, in the form of a genius ceramist with a store on the main road (just ahead of the church). And it has a honey shop (across from the bakery – the baker’s wife has the key) offering a selection of home-made honeys as well as organic cosmetics, chocolate, vinegar, and many other treasures.