HISTORY OF DO MONTSANT WINE APPELLATION

First evidence of wine-making in the area dates back to the Roman Empire. Remains of a Roman villa or settlement have been found in the little village of Marçà. Amongst the pieces found there, were wine amphoras which were probably destined to be sent to the great city of Tarraco (present-day Tarragona and Roman Empire capital in Hispania).

Major planting of vineyards took place in what is now the DO Montsant in the Middle Ages, especially after the conquest of these lands from the Moors and the subsequent re-populating of the area by the Christians. The village/hamlet of Siurana was the last Moorish stronghold in Catalonia which was finally conquered in 1153.

However, it was during the return of Christianism to these lands, in fact when the Carthusian monks of Scala Dei brought over new farming techniques and indeed promoted the planning of vines in this region. The establishment/building of the Carthusian monastery/Charter-house became so important to these lands, that they took its name and is used today to designate the geographical region of the Priorat (land belonging to the Prior) which paradoxically is now home to two wine appellations.

There followed moments of crisis and moments of splendour, but winemaking has been a constant activity in the villages of the DO Montsant. International commerce via the nearby city of Reus led to centuries of successly wine production. The heyday/It reached its peak towards the end of the nineteenth century when wines from Montsant were being sold to wine merchants in Bordeaux. The wines from the present-day Montsant wine appellation earned themselves medals and prizes/internacional recognition in the great Universal Exhibitions of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the phylloxera plaque saw the beginning of an important crisis in the sector. Co-operative wineries were set up to try to appaliate/ maintain grape-growing in the area and to stop the rapid depopulation as people rushed to the cities to find work. Good examples of these co-operatives are the beautiful Art Nouveau wineries of Falset and Cornudella de Montsant which date from 1919 and are still in use today.

In 1932, the first official wine appellations were recognised by the Spanish state and were identified in the “Wine Statutes”. DO Priorat and DO Tarragona were amongst the first to be mentioned in this document. In 1954, the first ruling was passed and the DO Priorat was officially established in the central area of the county which had formerly made up the Charter-house/Carthusian Monastery of Scala Dei. Before this, in 1945, the ruling/rules for DO Tarragona which covered a large part of the Tarragona province were also approved. Within this DO Tarragona, there was a clearly established subzone, known as “Falset Subzone” which is now the present-day DO Montsant.

Due to the specific characteristics of the vines and the importance of winemaking in this area, the “Denominació d’Origen Montsant “(Montsant Designation of Origin /Wine appellation) was created in 2001.

 


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