Located in Spain’s far northeast, perched perfectly beside the Mediterranean sea, Catalonia is an autonomous region. The Catalans are proudly independent of their Spanish compatriots in both their language and culture. The region’s capital, Barcelona – one of the world’s truly great cities – is bursting with life, art and heritage.
These days, the region of Priorat in southern Catalonia is at the forefront of modern Spanish wine. Some of Spain’s most talented winemakers have flocked here to produce expressive wines of power and balance. Located southwest and inland of Barcelona, it’s a region of steep hills and sweeping vistas and, for those willing to make a go of it, a wonderful place to explore by bicycle.
Priorat sits like an off-centre bullseye in the middle of the DO Montsant, the region’s special designation resulting from its black slate soil, known as llicorella, which contrasts with the surrounding sedimentary and calcareous soils of Montsant. Many of its top vineyards are planted on steep, terraced hillsides.
The up-and-down roads
When cycling in and around Priorat, there are plenty of alternative routes to choose from, but you will be climbing (and, therefore, descending) no matter where you decide to go. It’s a great region for road cyclists to explore and is a hotbed of mountain biking. For wine enthusiasts without much cycling experience, e-bikes (see ‘nuts and bolts’ box, below) will make a Priorat trip a memorable experience without much training required.
As an experienced cyclist, I covered some of these routes in fairly compressed days. However, I suggest an itinerary that is approachable and allows for ample time to enjoy Priorat’s hospitality and vinous bounty. Coffee, pastries and long lunches are just some of the charms afforded by its small towns. Take full advantage. Most importantly, cyclists are responsible for their own safety. Given the region’s searing daytime heat and the realities of wine consumption and operating a bicycle, I strongly recommend riding early in the morning and spending the afternoons and evenings tasting wines in cellars and over dinner. A long day in the saddle makes for guilt-free indulgence afterwards. Cycling is a great way to take in the world’s wine regions, but remember that drinking (other than water and electrolytes) and cycling do not mix. Make smart choices and enjoy your time responsibly.
Upon arrival, I recommend checking in for an overnight stay at the gorgeous Hotel Mas La Boella, a renovated 12th-century farmhouse and now luxury boutique hotel just outside the city centre of Tarragona, on the coast. Enjoy a 10-course dinner here that showcases locally sourced ingredients with a pairing of regional wines. Eat well: you’ll need the fuel.
Catalonia cycling tour: The nuts and bolts
In Montbrio? del Camp, you can hire a bike (and guide) from Montbike – a wonderful bike shop with possibly the best coffee in Catalonia. It has professional mechanics and guides who know the region intimately and can help you craft a cycling itinerary based on your interests and fitness. A road racing-style bike will be perfect for this trip and costs about €27 (£24) per day; if you need a boost on the climbs (recommended for most people), e-bikes are available for about €39 per day. The prices go down for longer rentals. Guides are available for €150 per half-day and €200 for full-day excursions for groups of up to 10.
Wine itinerary and transfer
While you always have the option to carry your own luggage and make your own arrangements, cycling luggage-free is obviously a much more pleasant option. The bespoke travel company Travel Priorat can arrange transfers, winery tours and accommodation for you – as well as pick-up from the airport or train station – making for a hassle-free…
Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine/pedalling-priorat-a-catalonia-cycling-guide-521396/