In 1194 the Carthusian Priory of Scala Dei was founded at the foot of the Montsant mountains in extreme southern […]Keep Reading
In 1194 the Carthusian Priory of Scala Dei was founded at the foot of the Montsant mountains in extreme southern Catalunya. This remote area had been depopulated due to centuries of warfare between the kings of Aragon and the Moors. But it was an ideal spot for the Carthusians who practiced a rigorous form of monasticism, one that valued silence and strict isolation.
While the Carthusian monks were walled away in their individual cells, their lay brothers developed the land around the monastery, planting the first vines, olives, and hazelnuts for which this part of Catalunya would become renowned in centuries to come. In the process, they also founded outposts – at some remove from the Priory – and encouraged peasants to settle there and farm the lands. These outposts grew into the nine villages of the Priorat – Bellmunt, Gratallops, El Lloar, La Morera, Porrera, Poboleda, Scala Dei, Torroja del Priorat, La Vilella Alta, and La Vilella Baixa. Each village has a unique history, festivals, and customs but they share the same rugged geography and rich viticultural traditions established by the Carthusians at the end of the 12th century. In 1835 the Priory was dissolved but its ruins remain and its legacy lives on in the very name of the region – the Priorat.
Black Slate is a collaboration between Eric Solomon, founder of US-based importer, European Cellars and four estates in the Priorat: Conreria d’Scala Dei (Escaladei and La Morera), Celler Cecilio (Gratallops), Bodegas Mas Alta (La Vilella Alta) and Celler Cal Pla (Porrera). Despite the fact that European Cellars is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Eric spends part of his time in Gratallops. This is not only a testament to his love of the region but also because he is married to Daphne Glorian, one of the founders of the modern Priorat. An unsolicited bottle of Clos Erasmus many years ago piqued his interest in the region and after visiting he fell for both the region and Daphne.
Since the arrival of that fateful sample bottle, Eric Solomon has become the preeminent ambassador for the wines of the Priorat in the United States. The objectives behind the Black Slate project are: creating an awareness of the Priorat for the entry-level wine consumer, offering value-priced wines to build their loyalty and encourage their exploration of the region, showcasing the terroir of the region by offering a variety of wines from different villages (the Burgundian model locally known as Vi de la Vila), and nurturing economic opportunity for our partners while garnering attention and support for their other estate wines.
Black Slate is built upon the Vi de la Vila designation established by the DOQ in 2009. While there is a greater homogeneity of terroir in Priorat than in Burgundy, its rugged landscape and the varying orientations of vineyard sites allow for a wide range of micro-variations. Unlike the mono-varietal makeup of the Côte d’Or, in the Priorat there is a wider range of varieties permitted, allowing growers to take advantage of minor differences in micro-climate and terroir.Close