Alvaro Palacios is not exactly a new face in the wine scene – he has helped revolutionise the Spanish wine industry by making rich, complex wines from Priorat and is considered, along with Peter Sisseck of Pingus, to be one of the most important winemakers of Spain’s modern era.
One of nine children from the esteemed Rioja winemaking family Bodegas Palacios Remondo, Alvaro Palacios interned in Bordeaux at the side of Christian Moueix, the celebrated winemaker of Pomerol château Pétrus. He credits his tenure under Moueix for much of his winemaking philosophy and for showing him “the importance of great wines.” Upon his return to Spain he decided against getting involved in the family business and instead pursued his own ventures. Strongly drawn to the ancient, abandoned vineyards of Priorat, Alvaro acquired his first vineyard in 1990. Located 60 miles from Barcelona, Priorat had been one of Spain’s important pre-Phylloxera wine regions, planted predominantly with Garnacha, with Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot producing a smaller percentage. Known for its minerally black soil and the powerful wines produced from this terroir, Alvaro believed he could make a wine that would truly express the unique area. He was right. His first wine there, 1995 L’Ermita, is what orginally gained him recognition as one of the world’s most inspired and dedicated winemakers.
His success in Priorat inspired Alvaro to search again for something new, this time putting his faith in the potential of Bierzo and the area’s primary varietal Mencia. In 1998, Alvaro and his nephew Ricardo Perez, who had just finished studying in Bordeaux, opened the doors to Descendientes de Palacios. Purchasing old vine Mencia vineyards, Alvaro and Ricardo hope to bring new life to Bierzo in the same way Alvaro did in Priorat. The winery is dedicated to Alvaro’s father, and Ricardo’s grandfather, who passed away in early 2000, once again drawing inspiration from their families’ long history in Spanish winemaking.
The wines we have available from the Palacios group include almost everything available, those labeled Descendientes de J Palacios are from Bierzo and wines labeled Alvaro Palacios are from Priorat.
Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat ($21.95) $15.70 special
Stephen Tanzer 91 points “Bright purple. Aromas and flavors of ripe red berries, cola and spicecake, with a deeper note of licorice emerging with air. Lush and seamless, with very good finishing breadth and spicy persistence. Shows plenty of upfront appeal but this wine has the concentration and balance to reward at least mid-term aging.”
Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi 2008 ($74.95) $59 special
Stephen Tanzer 93 points “Deep ruby. Rich, complex aromas of raspberry, Asian spices, smoky minerals and violet. Focused and precise but also lush and sappy, with a texture of liquid silk and strong minerality adding to its intense red and dark berry flavors. Finishes impressively long, with resonating minerality and very suave tannins.”
Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi 2010 ($69.95) $59 special
Stephen Tanzer 94 points “Bright violet color. Suave, highly perfumed nose offers fresh raspberry, minerals, candied flowers and Asian spices. Sappy and minerally, offering intense, spice-accented red fruit and floral pastille flavors with superb clarity. Wonderfully supple in texture, with outstanding finishing persistence and only a hint of sweet tannins.”
Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses VV 2008 ($39.95) $33 special
Stephen Tanzer 92 points “A sexy, highly perfumed bouquet displays scents of candied raspberry, cherry cola, licorice and potpourri, supported by a strong mineral undertone. Juicy, penetrating red and dark berry flavors stain the palate and repeat the licorice note. Dusty tannins add grip and focus to a long, mineral-dominated finish.”
Alvaro Palacios Priorat Gratallops 2010 ($49.95) $39 special
Stephen Tanzer 92 points “Dark ruby. Aromas of cherry, cassis, cocoa, Asian spices and underbrush, lifted by a strong mineral quality. Juicy, sappy and nicely concentrated, with very good density to its flavors of blackcurrant, bitter cherry and candied rose. A lively, sexy wine that finishes with strong mineral bite and impressive length.”
Descendientes de J Palacios Petalos 2010 ($24.95) $16 special
Stephen Tanzer 91 points “(all mencia, as is the case for all of these wines, which are aged briefly in new French oak and then in older barrels before bottling): Dark ruby. Ripe red- and blackcurrant aromas are complicated by anise, cola and sexy oak spices. Soft dark berry preserve flavors gain minerality and firmness with air. Zesty cherry skin and mineral notes carry through a long, gently tannic finish.”
Descendientes de J Palacios Corullon 2010 ($49.95) $37 special
Stephen Tanzer 92 points “Bright violet color. Pungent, youthful aromas of dark berry preserves, cherry-cola and candied violet, with a mineral topnote. Offers an array of sappy red and dark fruit flavors, with spicecake and anise nuances building with air. Silky tannins give shape and grip to a long, penetrating finish.”
Descendientes de J Palacios La Lamas 2009 ($119.95) $69 special
Stephen Tanzer 94 points “Vivid ruby. Alluringly perfumed nose combines blackberry, cherry-cola, violet, anise and a pungent mineral note. Sweet and lively in the mouth, offering juicy red and dark berry flavors underscored by intense minerality. The sweet, floral-accented finish features a strong mineral quality and fine-grained tannins and clings with impressive tenacity.”
Descendientes de J Palacios Las Lamas 2010 ($119.95) $69 special
Stephen Tanzer 94 points “Deep, bright-hued ruby. Powerful, spice-accented aromas of red berry liqueur, cherry pit, rose oil and incense, with a bright mineral topnote. Sappy, penetrating raspberry and bitter cherry flavors show impressive energy and punch, picking up floral pastille and spicecake nuances with air. Finishes chewy and very long, with slow-building tannins and insistent floral and spice notes.”