Scala Dei is home to the fabulous historic ruins of the Priory of Scala Dei, since partially restored. Here, in 1194 French monks built a monastery, established farms, gardens and wine culture. For 600 years, they then went about manipulating and extorting from the local peasantry per the general business model of expansionist Catholicism, perhaps the most ruthlessly organised of all organised superstition syndicates. Hundreds of years of carefully fostered ignorance later, it remains the ‘spiritual’ centre of the contemporary wine appellation, DOQ Priorat (Prior-at derives from Prior-y).
Here in Scala Dei, way up in the north of the valley, is a markedly different Priorat. The climate here is fresher and more moist, and much of the terroir here is limestone riddled with brilliant clay. There is far less blue steel and licorice minerality. The wines are lighter and more transparent, very nimble compared to the power found further south in more typical slate-soiled villages like Gratallops. Here, Garnatxa is queen, with very little Caranyena evident. The wines have freshness, bright fruit, spice and tension, growing at as much as 800m of altitude.