Until the start of this century, Montsant belonged to D.O. Tarragona (subzone Falset). In 2001, it was awarded Denominación de Origen status. It is an area of splendid, wild nature forming a horseshoe shape around the better known Priorat. The same grapes are planted here as in Priorat but the wines have their own character. Production is in the hands of family estates and cooperatives. Since acquiring D.O. status, a lot of hard work has gone into the quality of the wines, which are mostly made by young, local, ambitious oenologists. Their top wines easily compare with those of Priorat.
It has a Mediterranean climate with continental influences: summers are dry and in autumn there is an average of 650 mm rainfall. While hail and frost are not unknown here, this region is generally well protected between different mountain ranges (the Sierras).
At their lowest point, the vineyards are located 50 metres above sea level. Most of the land is much higher at altitudes above 700 metres. The soils are made of granite, limestone and the shale that is particularly popular in neighbouring Priorat ('LLicorella'). There are about 1,800 hectares of vineyard in total, spread between 16 municipalities, six subzones and 53 wineries (details of the D.O.). 94% of the wines are red.
The red wines are made from blends of Garnacha, Cariñena (Samsó) and experimental French grape varieties. They can be of very high quality, and the Cariñena ensures that they are capable of ageing well. Garnacha and Cariñena are by far the most widely planted. Ull de Llebre (known locally as Tempranillo) and above all Syrah follow closely on their heels. Garnacha Blanca and Macabeo win out in white. Some traditional Generoso wines are still made in this area, although nowadays Garnacha Blanca is also often fermented in a modern way with temperature control.