Winery Of The Month: Alvaro Palacios, Spain
We’re back with our Winery Of The Month, and this July we have Spain‘s Alvaro Palacios, named after the winemaker himself. And if we had to pick one winery that truly embodies the promise and spirit of “The New Spain”, it’s this one.
The charismatic and talented Alvaro Palacios is one of nine children born to the owners of Rioja’s respected Palacios Remondo. He later studied enology in Bordeaux while working under Jean-Pierre Moueix at Chateau Pétrus, where he learnt about “the importance of great wines.” He could have returned to his family’s domaine, but he struck out on his own in the 1980s and found the largely abandoned, ancient vineyards of Priorat. Some 60 miles from Barcelona, Priorat was once one of Spain’s important pre-Phylloxera wine regions, and Alvaro believed it was time again to make incredible wines here.
He acquired his first vineyard, Finca Dofi, in 1990, and later, the crown jewel L’Ermita vineyard after which his best bottles of Garnacha are now named. He then created the beautiful Domaine Descendientes de J. Palacios in the town of Corullón, on Bierzo’s western border, which produces as many as seven different wines depending on the year.
Needless to say, Alvaro Palacios has since become one of Spain’s most important and influential producers, winning awards like 2015 Decanter’s Man of the Year, and 2016 Winemakers’ Winemaker Award by the Institute of Masters of Wine and The Drinks Business. They’re expensive, yes, but so worth it. All of the wines are bottled without filtration, and his Finca Dofi and L’Ermita vineyards are farmed biodynamically.
Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses Priorat 2017 ($87)
Les Terrasses is the second wine of Alvaro Palacios, and is their entry-level Priorat. Set alongside the great wines, Ermita and Finca Dofí, Les Terrasses is produced under simpler guidelines, easy, relaxed and more diverse in nature, yet nevertheless, it still has a great fruit-driven personality and balance of opulence and elegance. Les Terrasses spends a year in French oak barrels, 20% of which are new and the remaining 80% are in their second or third year.
Alvaro Palacios Vi de Vila Gratallops Priorat 2017 ($95, U.P. $119)
This is a classic Priorat with a nose of ripe blackberry and cherry fruits, violets and hints of saddle leather. The palate is precocious, generous and finely constructed, its broad weave on the mid-palate belying the detail of its components – details which will unravel gently and pleasingly over the next two to four years.
Alvaro Palacios Camins Del Priorat 2018 ($63)
Camins is the winery’s softer Priorat, where the Garnacha and Cariñena base is supported by Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot from younger vines. This is a supple red wine that has good energy, with vibrant acidity fueling the bright berry and cherry fruit. An ideal fruit-forward red to enjoy on its own or with a roasted chicken generously seasoned with lots of fresh herbs.
Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi 2016 ($139)
The Finca Dofi is mostly Garnarcha, with a drizzle of Cariñena (roughly 5%). Dofi is an impressive vineyard, with stakes supporting the vines and a marked slope marking this iconic Gratallops village site. You get a sumptuous aroma of violets, blueberry conserve and fine cedar. There are some structure and depth too, and the minerality and fine tannins lead to a long warming finish.