This is the region’s great historical winery, linked to the arrival of Carthusian monks in Priorat in the 11th century, who were responsible for spreading the cultivation of grapevines. In the 1830s, with the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizábal —which resulted in the expropriation and privatisation of monastic properties in Spain— the convent was raided and partially destroyed, although some years later five families acquired the properties and set up the Societat Agricola l’Unió agricultural society. That is where they bottled the first Priorat wine in 1878, which was presented at the Paris World’s Fair. The company was re-founded in 1974, once again resulting in the first wines bottled in the region, this time in the modern age. Codorníu became a shareholder in the mid-2000s, assuming control of the winery.
Scala Dei’s wines from the 1970s were used to develop a second revolution in Priorat in the 2000s by incorporating production techniques such as fermentation with stems or ageing in large foudres compared to smaller 225-litre Bordeaux barriques. Scala Dei itself, with its current winemaker Ricard Rofés, has created a line of Garnachas that largely follow this philosophy and reflect different soils and altitudes: La Creueta (slate), St Antoni (red clay) and Artigots (pebbles), all around €63, in addition to Mas Deu (€75), the freshest and most impressive, from a plot that combines clayey and chalky soils at 720 metres above sea level.
In 2015, the winery has released its first white called Massipa (1,000 bottles, €30), a 80% Garnacha Blanca, 20% Chennin Blanc blend from an East-facing plot with red clay soils and some gypsum; and a rare rosé Priorat: Pla del Àngeles (2,000 bottles, €18) is made from high-altitude 25-35 year-old Garnacha vines planted on red clay soils.
Scala Dei has 60 hectares of vineyard, mainly with Garnacha and Cariñena varieties, spread over 42 different plots between 400 and 800 metres above sea level, climbing up the slopes of Montsant mountain. Its classic line of wines has also been renewed. The wines come now in Burgundy-shaped bottles and part of them undergo whole bunch fermentation (15% to 20%). Wines feel far fresher and fruitier than in past times with hardly a trace of oak in them. The young, entry-level red Scala Dei Negre (around €10) is now 100% Garnacha, while Prior (€17) only includes 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah in the blend. Since the 2011 vintage Cartoixa (€38), has forgone foreign grapes and is made now with 75% Garnacha and 25% Cariñena.
The winery is open to visitors year-round and bespoke tours are also available. The Carthusian monastery is also open to visitors and was owned by the winery’s owners until 1991, when it passed into the hands of the autonomous government of Catalonia.
The wines can be bought at the group's online store.