Priorat Revisited and recovering our past heritage

Born in the Sixties of the 20th century, our generation was brought up with the knowledge that as adults we would be packing our bags and abandoning rural life. People believed in those days that village life and working the land was a hard and difficult way to earn a living. Barcelona or any other large city beckoned, far away from the rural communities, for those who wanted to start afresh and study for a professional career. This is what was expected of us and of all our generation.

One had to, as they said then, flee our rural lifestyle. This was the common thought, accepted virtually by everyone. We were no exception and took heed of our parents’ advice and left to start our respective liberal professions away from our birthplace. Things went well, we got established and then, one fine day, many years later, we discovered that Barcelona was not the place for us and it wasn’t the place where we wanted to live. There were so many things that we missed from our old lives in the villages of Priorat County! There were so many in fact that we decided to buy a return ticket to our origins, much to the surprise and chagrin of our family!

Our project when we returned to Priorat was called Mas d’en Rafel - a 46 hectare (113 acres) estate, half of which is woodland due to it being slowly abandoned over the last fifty years.

Now, after having recovered some of the abandoned acres for farming, we have discovered dry stone walls under the tangle of weeds. These dry stone structures tell of when this little corner of the Mediterranean was populated by other generations of farmers who struggled to use some of the acres of the mountain slopes and turn them into farmland and plant a few olive trees or a few acres of vineyard.

For this reason, from our point of view, the dry stone constructions (a traditional technique which allows one to build terraces and other constructions by piling stone upon stone without using any type of mortar or cement) represent an important part of our heritage with lots of sentimental as well as historical value. It also makes us happy to remember the efforts of our ancestors as we rebuild the “marges” or dry stone walls if necessary and we struggle once more to recover part of the land abandoned during the 20th century.

We do this every day, while we try to work our vineyards in a way which cares for the environment and allows us to make good wines based on the typical grape varieties of the D.O. Montsant, whilst at the same time, expressing the singularity and diversity of our estate.

Coupled with this, our children run through the streets of the village again with their group of friends just as we did. And whilst they play at hide and seek, grandma calls them in to have their “berenar” or afternoon snack consisting of a thick slice of farmer’s bread with a hunk of chocolate.