Priorat has an especially long history of wine making since at least the 12th century. Its poor, stony soil underlaid by slate and quartz planted with very old vines gives its established vineyards incredibly low yields of only 0.3 tons/acre. Perhaps because of the unbelievable concentration of their fruit, Priorat vineyards produce world class wines from the usually ordinary Grenacha and Carignan grapes. Surprisingly, these varietals -- elsewhere popular for rosis and light character reds -- engender big sturdy red wines with smooth, plentiful tannins, perfect for long bottle aging. The most recent trend amends local tradition by adding the French varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah to newer vineyards; and also by aging new wines in new French rather than the more usual American barrels. The resulting wines have been described as richly concentrated but well-balanced, with strong tannins and high alcohol - both powerful and graceful. Priorat has also begun to offer some new dry whites and rosis (rosados) in the fresher international style.
Ever since the Phoenicians and Romans brought their knowledge of vine cultivation to Spanish soils, the country's culture has grown alongside wine production, with wine being a vital part of Spanish identity and Spanish traditions. Each region of Spain has a wine quite distinct from the others, and it is produced by smallholders and families as much as it is by large companies and established wineries. From the relatively mild and lush regions of La Rioja to the arid plateaus that surround Madrid, grapes are grown in abundance for the now booming Spanish wine industry, and new laws and regulations have recently been put in place to keep the country's standards high. By combining traditional practices with modern technology, Spanish wineries are continuing to produce distinctive wines of great character, flavor and aroma, with the focus shifting in recent decades to quality over quantity.