Catalan wine producers in Spain are pushing ahead with a bid to have Priorat recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Image credit: Jordi Roque / Wikipedia

The campaign, which has been endorsed by the government of Catalonia, aims to protect a landscape that has generated an economy based on wine and olive oil production and wine tourism.

Among the most vertiginous wine regions in Europe, Priorat is home to deep-rooted vines grown on the unusual llicorella slate soil near Tarragona. Producers want the region to be listed as a ‘mountainous, Mediterranean agricultural and cultural landscape’ by UNESCO.

Rachel Ritchie, liaison officer of Priorat wine council’s Espai Priorat event, said World Heritage status would help protect Priorat’s non-terraced hillside vineyards, known as ‘costers’.

‘The introduction of terraces in Priorat has not worked as well as ‘costers’, so World Heritage status would protect traditional winemaking techniques,’ said Ritchie on the sidelines of the Decanter Mediterranean Fine Wine Encounter in London over the weekend.

Producers claim UNESCO’s global reach would help raise awareness of the values of Priorat’s landscape and cultural heritage.

“We have work the land with the upmost respect for the environment,” said campaigner Joan Asens, Oenologist at Orto Vins winery and former winemaker for Decanter Man of the Year Alvaro Palacios.

The campaign for Priorat follows the inclusion of the Alto Douro wine region in Portugal as a World Heritage Site in 2001. More recently, St Emilion in Bordeaux and Barolo vineyards in Piedmont have made the list.

The Priorat area is home to both Priorat and Montsant DO wine regions and an olive oil DO. Campaigners now have to present a final dossier to the Spanish government, which would then take responsibility for pushing Priorat’s case on the international stage.

Written by Barnaby Eales