I had never seen this in 2023, neither the frost, nor the hailstorms, nothing has been as serious as this drought. There was very little rain and in August we had a heat wave that dried out the grapes. We could only save 35% of the harvest. But we have started 2024 much better than last year; nearly 150 liters per square meter will have fallen since January. I’m optimistic”, comments Joan Asens, fifth generation of Masroig winegrowers, at Tasting with Gratallops, one of the activities under the umbrella of the Falset Wine Fair.

Some 35,000 people passed through the Priorat at the weekend. In the capital, Falset alone, there were around 24,000 attendees who drank wines from 71 wineries from DOQ el Priorat and DO Montsant, say the organizers. There have also been tastings in Bellmunt, Gratallops or Torroja.

Joan Asens opens a bottle of La Coma d’en Genís, with black pepper. It is the wine of his son Genís, who has been involved in the production process in the vineyard and in the cellar since he was very young. He now studies at the School of Enology in Falset and also learns at home, at Orto Vins, the project of his father and two other farmers. Both rush to serve drinks and explain the details of this black to an audience eager to taste everything they can.

The measured optimism expressed by Asens and other vintners has nuances. “Another 100 liters of water should fall, the vine must not suffer before flowering, and it is also necessary that it rains in the summer, when the grapes change color”, he explains.

Asens notes that the market now demands wines with a lower degree and, if the Priorat was previously the land of reds, the offer of whites and rosés is only growing. Clos Mogador presented a rosé in Gratallops on Saturday and there were tastings of whites and brisats.

Everyone regrets the losses of 2023, but with hopeful eyes on 2024. Meritxell Pallejà, head of the winery of the same name in Gratallops, confirms that, in his case, production dropped by 40%. “It wasn’t any worse for us because we plowed three times in the summer to better maintain the soil’s moisture. As the grandparents say: ‘A ploughing is a watering’. And this year is looking good at the moment, the vines have sprouted very well, but in August it must rain”, he emphasizes while serving glasses of one of his wines, Nita.

The majestic building of Cal Compte, in Torroja del Priorat, yesterday hosted another of the expected events of the fair, a tasting with 24 wineries. Among the visitors was René Barbier, one of the architects of the renaissance of the Priorat, who also regrets pronounced drops in production. Although he admits that the rains of the first months have been very timely, he insists that we have come from three years of drought and that the water table needs much more water. “I had never seen a situation like this, but the Priory always stands up”, he says.

The winegrowers of Mas Sinén, Clos Pachem, Mas d’en Gil, Mas d’en Compte… are distributed throughout the different interior spaces and on the immense terrace with views of Cal Compte to let you taste their creations. Ricard Rofes and his Valldencompte, from Torre de Fontaubella, the only winery in this town, offers a 2020 white, from the last year before the drought. Like René Barbier, Rofes emphasizes that the water stress accumulated since 2021 cannot be overcome with the latest rains. “Twice as much water has fallen as in 2023, but if you go to the field and dig a hole, you will see that the humidity remains up to about 40 centimeters, further down there is dust. At the moment, we are better, everything depends on what happens from now on”, says Rofes, who in the previous campaign lost between 35% and 40% of production.

What they all agree on is that in 2024 there was indeed spring. The landscape, another of the Priorat’s calling cards, is stimulating; the green of the vineyard is combined with the mauve, yellow or blue of the wild flowers, as the thousands of visitors who came to the region from Friday afternoon until yesterday could verify. In Falset alone, some 64,000 tastings were sold, according to the organization, the highest figure they have ever recorded.