Alvaro Palacios

Published by Sally on June 2, 2009

Alvaro Palacios drives the breadth of northern Spain on a regular basis between his eponymous Priorat property, his family’s Rioja estate – Palacios Remondo – and he and his nephew’s venture in Bierzo – Descendientes de J. Palacios.

Palacios was one of René Barbier’s group of friends who resurrected the wines of Priorat in the late 1980s and 1990s with his Clos Dofi (later renamed to Finca Dofi). His Priorat property was founded in 1989, when there were only 600 hectares (ha) of vineyard left in the largely abandoned wine region.

His Priorat property is 30 ha. He also works with 110 producers and 150 parcels.  The densely-folded mountain terrain necessitates terraces and vineyard parcels can be quite tiny.

L’Ermita is his most famous vineyard. It’s a north-facing, so away from the sun in the northern hemisphere, single vineyard slope at 400 to 520m above sea level, planted only to garnacha.

With more than 20 years experience in Priorat, Palacios has begun to move away from using international grapes such as cabernet sauvignon in his wines.  He says he’s favouring more of the traditional garnacha. His wines still contain the international varieties, but, he said: “all the wines will be more and more garnacha.”

Alvaro Palacios

Alvaro Palacios

He is also reverting from trellised vines to the bush training of the original vineyards. He said: “I’ve realised in the last years of heat and drought the bush vineyards are better.  The ‘bush’ is close to ground, so the sap does not have far to travel. And there is no humidity to avoid.” Trellis training is usually higher, as it is traditionally found in areas where humidity needs to be avoided.  Also, he added: “On trellises, grapes are exposed to the sun. On bush vines, the fruit is in the shade,” so in a warm to hot Mediterranean climate, the fruit does not burn and become raisined on the vine.

Priorat wines:

Tasting notes (tasted March 2009, at the property)

Camins del Priorat 2007: 55% carinena, 35% garnacha, rest cabernet sauvignon and syrah.  Fresh, supple, red fruits, silky texture, really approachable. Sweet fruit.

Les Terrasses 2007: For the first time in 2007, the wine is made from old vines, 60 years plus. 60% carinena, 30% garnacha, some cabernet sauvignon and syrah. 12 months in barrique, 25% new.  Spicy, red berried fruit, with attractive fragrance.  Elegant, defined. Rich fruit.

Gratallops, Vi de Vila, 2007: 35% garnacha, 40% carinena, cabernet sauvignon. Chewy, bright, fresh, linearity and poise, good concentration, and depth of fresh fruit. Balance and deportment. Long finish, vg

Finca Dofi 2007: 55% garnacha, rest cabernet sauvignon, syrah. Bit of merlot in cooler vintages such as 2007.  Deep colour, fresh, bright, crunchy berry and cherry, finely grained youthful tannins. Long palate length. Sensual texture. Medium full body, smoothening mid-palate.

L’Ermita 2007: medium deep colour; cherry, bitter chocolate, liquorice. Sweet spice to the red berry fruit. Succulence of fruit, no massive bulk/hulk; elegance and finesse. Fine textured sweet tannins.

L’Ermita 2008: bright medium cherry colour. Pure cherry and strawberry, light yet with concentration, finely grained tannins, very serious wine with intellect.

This article was inspired by a visit to the region sponsored by Wines from Spain.

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