Land of vineyards
Back in 1775, the British traveller Henry Swinburne stated that, in the region of Reus, “the best wine is the one made from the Carthusian mountains”. Two centuries later, these mountains are still being cultivated with vines that produce excellent wines, which makes this raw material be recognised, both in the past and nowadays.
Viticulture has taken place in various Scala Dei cellar estates for hundreds of years now. In these lands the vines have been unspoiled throughout centuries, since our grapes have always reached an acknowledged quality. The grapes used to make our wines come from vineyards that are, on average, 50 years old. They cover almost 70 hectares ─ of mainly Grenache ─ distributed into 41 different vineyards: they are like small worlds which have nothing to do with each other, which requires them to be dealt with according to their peculiarities. Some estates are between 400 and 800 metres above the sea level, which make them the highest vineyards in Priorat. There are 3 types of soil ─slates, clay and calcareous─ and, due to the rugged terrain in the area, they all have different orientations. These features provide us with a wide range of nuances in the wine making; we pay attention to the smallest details within the production, considering it is the very same cellar that directly controls and works the land.
Founded by the same families that bought the Cartoixa in 1840, Cellers de Scala Dei are the true history of Priorat’s wine. This cellar produced the very first bottles of wine in the Priorat in 1878, which were sent to the Paris World’s Fair. Its wines are still being aged today in the old Carthusians cava, dating from the 17th century, and which is now exclusively open to guided tours.
The foundation of the Cartoixa
On the initiative of king Alfons II, the Carthusians who arrived from Provence settled in Scala Dei. However, a properly conditioned Cartoixa was not open until 1215, which included a church and 12 individual cubicles. The Cartoixa was gradually given privileges, which translated into protection from the king and some of the most powerful families in the country.
The monks gradually purchased estates from several territories and started gaining knowledge about viticulture. In time, the Cartoixa developed their own Manual de Plantar Vinyes (Vine Growing Manual), where they already stated: “Not all the plants are good, nor do they ripen when grown in cold land. As for red varieties, only Grenache and Mataró are recommended”.
Beyond the clergy, who would enjoy a contemplative life, Cartoixa de Scala Dei was never quiet. In the late 16th century, the monks initiated a great transformation of the Cartoixa, which became an expansion focus of the Renaissance in Catalonia. Scala Dei was, at the time, an artistic beacon, and the monastery walls used to present paintings by the great Raphael.
Confiscation of Mendizábal
The monks quickly abandoned the monastery due to what is known as the government seizure of Mendizábal. The locals, who were furious and tired of paying debts and First Fruits, assaulted the Cartoixa, which was completely destroyed within just a few years. The Carthusians never came back to the land they had inhabited for over 600 years.
The union. Wine exploitation
As a result of the seizure that had taken place a few years before, the Cartoixa and its surrounding lands were auctioned. The land’s property was distributed among 5 families. These new owner families then founded a society in order to put unproductive pieces of land back to work, as well as promote wine growing. This society ─known as Societat Agrícola la Unió─ was the origin of what we know today as Cellers de Scala Dei.
The first bottled wine in Priorat
The owner families in the old Cartoixa bottled wine in 1878, which were the very first wines to be bottled in Priorat. Its labels proudly showed that the wines were made in Priorato de Scala-Dei, which was already an acknowledgement of their location and terroir.
Success in the Paris World’s Fair
The wines bottled as Priorato de Scala-Dei took part in the 1878 Paris World’s Fair ,in a pavilion specially assigned to agriculture, where they were awarded a Gold Medal. Ten years later, in the 1888 Barcelona World’s Fair, they won a Gold Medal once again.
Scala Dei requests wine protection
Various owners in the region, among whom we find Scala Dei, mobilised to protect the reputation of Priorat. A few years later, the Estatut del Vi del Ministeri d’Agrigultura recognised “Priorato de Scala-Dei” Priorat as a winegrowing area to be protected. However, the beginning of the Civil War hindered the constitution of DO Priorat, which had to wait until 1954.
Refurbishment of Scala Dei
Cellers de Scala Dei was re-founded, and introduced the first “modern” Priorat wines. This winery went even further by launching an ambitious advertising campaign. For years, and up to the great success of the 90s, Cellers de Scala Dei was one of the very few private wineries to bottle Priorat wines.
Transfer of the Cartoixa
After several unsuccessful attempts with the Administration, the owners of Cellers de Scala Dei transferred the old Cartoixa ─which had been acquired in an auction in the mid-19th century─ to the Generalitat de Catalunya so that they could start an archaeological renovation while promoting it as a tourist attraction. From that moment on, the Cartoixa has welcomed over 20.000 tourists every year.
Let’s make the future
Cellers de Scala Dei take a step forward with the renovation of its technical team and the introduction of important changes in the wine-making process. The wine is conceived in the vineyard, we take care of the viticulture with utmost attention, endeavouring to achieve the maximum expression of each one of the terroirs.