“The only people for me are the mad ones,” famously says my man Jack Kerouac in “On the Road,” “the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn…”

I love plenty of people whom neither Jack nor I would consider mad, yet still I light up in thrilled affirmation whenever I encounter those lines. It’s natural to be drawn to extremes.

Wines from the hardscrabble Priorat region of Catalonia in northeast Spain are extreme wines, and say anything but the commonplace. They are mad, they are desirous of everything at the same time, they burn.

To drink them is to be violently yanked away from indifference, and to be shoved just as violently to the ropes. With tongue black and heart aflame, your next move will manifest either love or fear, and it will come quick.

Priorats are not elegant, and nothing can tame them. The best Priorat wine makers respect this and limit the use of new oak barrels, especially ones untempered by the “envinado” process of breaking in barrels with second-tier wines.

They also stick with majority Grenache (Garnacha Tinta and Garnacha Peluda) and Carignan (Carinenya) rather than succumb to the mellowing effects of too much Merlot. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are also allowed; a nice chunk of Syrah can do spectacular things to lend Priorats a gamey quality.

I have a delicate personality and drink mostly white wines, and for a long time have preferred reds that express more sensitivity, more finely, than Priorats. Yet I adore these; I can’t think of a red wine I’ve fallen for more passionately than the ones listed below.

What is it about these brazenly unique, and brazenly brazen, wines that makes us tender boys swoon? One of the great new-generation white-wine producers in Austria, Rainer Christ, told me recently that in reds (which he also makes in small amounts), he “love(s) to drink wine that kicks off my mind… I want it to set off impressions, visions, possibilities.”

Exactly right. We seekers of the transcendent, so often cut down and beleaguered by the violent banality of each day, are too often too eager to seek quiet and coherence, too quick to claim the neutered or the boring in the name of peace. There certainly are times when everything comes together, when all really does point to connectivity, when phenomena align. But these are not really those times.

And these are not those wines. We should have red wines knock us around a little bit. We shouldn’t recover from them too quickly. Like Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, the appropriate role for a Priorat is “not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.”

As befits a wine derived from inhospitable country (necessarily by hand and usually from untreated/organically-grown grapes in exceptionally low yield ratios), Priorats of quality cost a little coin. Not too much; just enough to get you planning and saving for a week or two.

Because Priorats are so tannic and so intriguingly blend traits of the Old World (rusticity, earth) and the New (plump fruit, boldness), they are the ideal sort of wine to buy multiple bottles of and open one a year for a decade or more. Open it several hours before you plan to taste.

At some point recently, I remembered what Jean-Luc Godard wrote as he reviewed a Nicholas Ray movie by referring to older canonical filmmakers: “There was theater (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray.”

Now there is red wine. And the red wine is Priorat.

Mas Igneus Barranc dels Closos Negre 2009, $20 (Central): Incredibly spicy at first, with quite a bit of noise. This tempers over time, and you get marvelous blasts of licorice, dark chocolate and cherries from the center of the earth. I swear I tasted beef broth in there. They make a fascinatingly stony, salty, golden-raisiny white as well, from Macabeo, Garnacha Blanca, Pedro Ximenez and Muscat.

Clos Martinet Menut 2007, $19 (Wicked): Whereas the Barranc dels Closos’ personality is all stones, the Menut’s is all earth. The nose expresses distinct manure, wrapping surprisingly lovely plum fruit and roasted peppers, delineated by blue steel and hard slate. This is the earthiest, smokiest Priorat I know, and after a few hours it presented like an aged-Brunello-level Sangiovese.

Cesca Vincent 2009, $20 (Devenish): At first, you think everything’s going to be fine and dandy: Here are some nice violets and a little tobacco, all draped in a soft, fruity robe. Nothing in that first few seconds prepares you for what’s to come: Blasts of blinding sparkle, dirt-caked shards of metal raining down on asphalt, blue lights flashing in a dark night as the police cars rush to the scene, and the scene’s serious.

Here’s how Kerouac finishes the lines that introduce this column: “…like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ”

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. His blog, soulofwine.com, continues the conversation, and he can be reached at: [email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.