Only Rioja and Priorat qualify as DOCa, the highest qualification level for a wine region according to Spanish wine regulations; but those two regions are very different on most accounts. Where Rioja wines are generally fruity, juicy and luscious, Priorat wines are dark, powerful, and very intense. Those differences are due to both human factors (choice of varietals, winemaking techniques) and natural ones – with for instance Priorat’s distinctive volcanic soil, the llicorella, very much ensuring that the local wine will pack a punch.
Those two regions are also remarkable – and starkly different – in their relationship to history and tradition. Where the Rioja has a long and uninterrupted history of winemaking over the centuries, Priorat has been struck very hard by the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century, and almost no wine production took place there for decades as a result. This means that when wine production restarted, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, it was with very innovative teams and techniques; and it hardly took a few years for their successes to get wide recognition.
As to the wines themselves… well it’s a bit of a challenge to describe such a wide variety of wines, but you can get a first picture by comparing Markus and Andreas’s tasting comments for Priorat wines and those for Rioja wines on blindtasted.com‘s search page. We hope that will put you in the mood to gather some friends and try and compare those wines as well!