Hidden Valley: Why Spain’s Secret Wine Region Is This Spring’s Most Enticing Travel Destination
Ripe for rediscovery, Priorat beckons with incredible vintages, superb restaurants, and a luxe new hotel
Two hours south of Barcelona and about an hour inland from seaside Tarragona, Spain’s Priorat is a magnificent rural region where highly prized (and priced) Denominació d’Origen Qualificada Priorat wines are produced. Now, with the opening of the 24-suite Gran Hotel Mas d’en Bruno, a Relais & Châteaux property tucked into a valley between the village of Torroja del Priorat and the Priory of Scala Dei, Priorat finally has a luxurious base from which to be explored. It’s very likely to become one
of the world’s great wine-tourism regions, since this decadent retreat is exceptionally comfortable and suavely rustic.
“The Masía [farm building] told us what to do,” says the hotel’s architect, Ignasi Raventós, of Barcelona firm C97 Arquitectes/Associats, who also did the renovation of Gran Hotel La Florida in Barcelona. “The building dated to 1797 and was in bad shape, but we were able to save the original wooden doors, the vestibule, most of the façade, and many beams. We respected the original proportions of the building, which is why the hotel’s spa is located in the space where olive oil was once pressed.” The result is an exceptionally harmonious structure where the old and new are legible but exist in a seamless equilibrium.
Mas d’en Bruno’s warm, earth-toned interiors were conceived by Astet Studio, a Barcelona interior design firm that privileged natural materials like wood, marble, and stone; avoided straight lines; and brought the region’s curves—hills, grapes, wine barrels, and bottles—into bespoke furniture elements like desks, étagères, vanity tables, and credenzas. Suites come with either soaking tubs or huge rainforest showers, and 16 feature attached terraces. The hotel has two restaurants, a wine bar, and a brilliantly designed pool where pairs of sunbeds are ensconced inside private cabanas.
“Priorat is a special and secret place with a very old soul”Jose Javier Jimenez
Among the many charming villages in Priorat, Siurana is the must-visit, and two winemakers not to miss are Clos Figueras (its restaurant is excellent for lunch) and La Conreria d’Scala Dei, which is famous for making superb white wines in a region best known for reds. “Priorat is a special and secret place with a very old soul,” says Jose Javier Jimenez, the genial sommelier at Clos Figueras’s restaurant, Les Figueres. Holding up a shard of gray slate typical of the terroir, he notes that the nearly vertical slopes of the surrounding mountains were made from this stone. “This means that the vines struggle to produce their fruit, which explains the character and intensity you find in Priorat wines. They’re great wines to meditate on over a long, lazy lunch or dinner.”
He’s right, too, which is why Priorat is a great winter holiday destination. To note, Mas d’en Bruno closes after New Year’s Day and reopens on March 28, just in time to see Priorat’s sheer slopes decorated by the soft-pink puffs of the region’s blossoming almond trees.
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2023 Winter Issue under the headline “Hidden Valley.” Subscribe to the magazine.