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A man reads outside the wine shop at Irreductibles restaurant in Gratallops, Spain, near the winemaking region of Priorat. Thanks to 80-year-old vines and shale-flecked soil, Priorat’s best wines are seriously expressive -- intense and rustic, yet elegant and complex. But perilous hillsides make viticulture difficult and the wines wildly expensive. Now vintners are trying to shake things up. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Retired barrel maker Francisco Guiamet stands with an American oak plank used in storage casks for shipping wine. The winemaking tradition in the region stretches back to the 12th century. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Husband-and-wife vintners René Barbier Jr., left, and Sara Perez followed in their parents’ footsteps. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Vintner August Vicent i Robert of Celler Cecilio winery in Priorat inspects the wine cellar. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Esther Nin oversees Clos Erasmus, one of Priorat’s pioneer wines. Nin considers preserving the lands’ traits to be crucial. “We like to work with mules on the slope vineyards, not tractors on terraces,” she says. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Maria Jose Hernandez, left, vintner Raimon Castellvi, Isabel Vila and vintner Esther Nin share a bottle of wine near Priorat. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Vintner Raimon Castellvi, left, conducts a tasting in Priorat. The region’s wines are blends dominated by Garnacha or Cariñena grapes with complex cherry and black-plum flavors. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Diners enjoy an evening underneath hanging grapevines in Gratallops, Spain, at Irreductibles restaurant. With the wine business growing, surrounding towns such as Porrera have come back to life with a handful of restaurants and guesthouses opening. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Vintner Raimon Castellvi, left, shows his vineyard to Stan Oste from Belgium. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Low-to-the-ground vines spring from slate soil, which gives the wines a unique minerality. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Priorat sits among steep rolling hills that are challenging to viticulturalists. (Joan Alberich / Consell Priora)
Visitors and locals in Gratallops can enjoy a glass of Priorat red at Irreductibles restaurant, a contemporary restaurant opened by a group of young winemakers including René Barbier Jr. and his wife, Sara Perez. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Dark violet Cariñena grapes hang from a local vintner’s vines. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)
Homes dating back centuries line cobblestone streets in a village in Priorat. Porrera, the largest town in the region, has 500 residents. (Larry Mangino / For The Times)