We spent the last week in Falset Spain, a small town on the edge of the Priorat wine region. The town is in the mountains just off of the Mediterranean in Catalonia. Catalonia has it’s own language, culture, and history. We were excited to use our Spanish language skills but were not completely successful as most people use Catalan, which is a mix between Spanish and French.
We have been drinking great wine here. There are two main wine appellations, the “Priorat historic” and the Montsant. The Montsant forms a ring around the Priorat with the separation being made by the change from the sandy soils in the Montsant to black slate in the Priorat. The vineyards and wine making practices here were introduced by the Carthusian monks in the 12th century. The monks tended to the grapes until the mid-19th century when the land was taken over by the state and redistributed…then phylloxera came…and finally it wasn’t until the 1980s that landowners helped to establish the region as a high quality international wine producer. The character of wines from Priorat are truly unique, the vines here must grow deep roots through the slate in search of water. This protects the plant from the extreme wind and drought-like conditions. All this makes for a low-yield vine with lots of flavor and character in the grapes.
In Falset, we are in between two great national parks and just above the Ebro Delta, a paradise for fish, seafood and rice fields. After walking around the area each day, we cooked some amazing food, and at an affordable price! Almonds, hazelnuts, fish, rice, olive oil, figs, olives, oranges, good bread, cheese, sausage, tomatoes, artichokes, pine nuts…all these things are locally produced in the area. You can take your 5 liter jug over to the olive oil cooperative and fill it up with extra virgin arbequina oli for 20 euros.
Every night we were like a couple of kids in a candy store walking around to all the little shops and scheming up what to cook. We tried a few of the traditional dishes like pa amb tomàquet (bread and tomato with olive oil), esqueixada (salted cod salad with tomato and onion), suquet de peix (a seafood casserole), mongetes amb botifarra (beans and pork sausage), and of course paella. But we were also just as happy eating a buffet style meal of nuts, cheese, sausage, and bread.
On Sunday afternoon, we were lucky enough to be invited for a feast at the home of Rachel Ritchie, an amazing woman who has lived in the Proriat for the last 20 years. She works as a guide in the area and we met her at our first wine tasting tour. We learned a lot from her and her family. The meal was also epic…one of the guests brought huge Tupperware boxes full of freshly steamed mussels, snails, and razor clams with the best allioli I’ve ever tasted.