Alvaro Palacios: The King of Spain

Alvaro Palacios was born to the respected Rioja wine making dynasty of Palacios Remondo. There, his family made some of the best expressions of the region, churning out consistent and classic examples of Rioja wine that were known and appreciated all over Europe. Following in his family footsteps, Alvaro went to enology school in Bordeaux and eventually landed a job at the legendary estate Chateau Petrus. It was there, he claims, that he learned the importance of not merely good, but “great” wines. These were wines that could transcend experience and elevate the cultural cache of entire countries. Alvaro wanted to make great wine in his home country, and he felt that he needed to move beyond his family’s Rioja domaine to do it.   

 

Alvaro returned to Spain in the late 1980s and took a job as a travelling barrel salesman, selling high quality French Oak Barrels to many of the countries best wine producers. This job had the obvious advantage of introducing Alvaro to many of Spain’s best vignerons, but it also allowed him time to explore the winemaking regions themselves so that he could search for vineyards upon which to eventually make his “great” wine of spain.

 

Eventually Alvaro found the nearly abandoned region of Priorat. It once was known to make some of the greatest wine in all of Spain, until the Phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century destroyed the winegrowing economy. Unlike Rioja, Priorat never recovered from the devastation. But Alvaro saw the potential of the steep slopes, austere slate soils, and ancient vine material that still dotted the mountain sides. It was here that he planned to make Spain’s next great wine. In 1994 he acquired a precipitous, northeast-facing Grenache vineyard on well-drained Schist that had been planted between 1900 and 1940. He named it L’Ermita, or Hermitage in French, an obvious homage to the legendary vineyard of the Northern Rhone in France and a telling indication of Alvaro’s ambition for the wine he would make from these vines. Evidently, the christening of the vineyard turned out to be appropriate: just a few years after he made his first bottle of L’Ermita, the critical swell of praise for the wine reached an epic proportion. Soon, bottles were selling for well over $1000, and people all over the world were looking to Priorat as one of the world’s next great wine regions.

 

Alvaro’s next project was to explore the road not travelled, as before he settled in Priorat, Alvaro had seriously been considering Bierzo, a region in the mountainous, green, north west of Spain. Much like Priorat, Bierzo is a region that is defined by shockingly steep slopes and a surplus of old vine material that is a relic of a more prosperous time. And so, in 1998 Alvaro set off to Bierzo to search for his next great vineyard. Alvaro found not one great vineyard in Bierzo but four, each surrounding the a small town near the western border town of Corullon. Near Corullon, they found old vineyards lining precipitous hillsides, each with an incredible diversity of ancient, broken up soils. The minute variations in soils and exposures immediately reminded Alvaro of Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, or Piedmont’s Langhe hills. Alvaro named the estate after his late grandfather, calling it Descendientes de J. Palacios. Beginning in 2001, Alvaro began to make their case for the uniqueness and potential of this region by individually bottling four vineyards that he thought particularly special: San Martin, Moncerbal, Las Lamas, and La Farona . Today, Bierzo is undergoing an incredible renaissance in winemaking, with more and more producers coming to explore the regions distinct terroirs that Alvaro Palacios brought renewed attention to.

 

Today, Alvaro Palacios continues to make all of these high end cuvees to great success. But he has also expanded both his Priorat and Bierzo projects to include wines that serve as incredible introductions to their region and his incredible winemaking. They both represent fantastic values and we always recommend them to our customers that are looking to explore the great wines of Spain. Interested in his top bottlings? Get in touch with us at leduwines@leduwines.com.

 

Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses Velles Vignes 2015 – $39.99

While originally conceived of as a value wine, when Alvaro Palacios was looking for vineyards to source the grapes, he found an embarrassing richness of old vines that were too tempting to pass up. Thus, Les Terrasses “Velles Vignes” has slowly evolved into the essence of what makes Priorat special. After a continuous 15+ year search for the best vines possible Les Terrasses is now sourced from a series of incredibly steep and old vineyards—many of them north-facing to avoid the intense afternoon sun. This wine is a blend of Garnacha and Carinyena (Carignan). The Les Terrasses offers a bountiful bouquet of violets and roses, ripe cherries and blueberries, dark cacao and leather. The ripe nose is followed by a slightly fresher palate, the fruit tightened up by a healthy dusting of tannins and balanced beautifully by a generous acidity. Pretty yet powerful, lively yet lush.

Descendientes de J Palacios Petalos del Bierzo 2015 – $21.99

Wine Advocate, 92 Points: “The entry level 2015 Pétalos del Bierzo, their regional wine, in the new official category that will start working in the appellation from the 2017 vintage, a blend of many different vineyards planted with field blends, where the breakdown might come to some 5% white varieties (Valenciana/Doña Blanca, Godello and Palomino/Jerez) and around 1% other reds (Pan y Carne, Negrada and Gran Negro), all from vines ranging between 40 and 90 years of age on slopes (half of the grapes around the village of Corullón and the remainder in the rest of Bierzo). It’s a showy, approachable, aromatic and open version of Pétalos, and as I tasted it later on in the season, it felt more polished and round, with a lush texture. It’s extremely aromatic, in a way similar to the 2012. This is always one of the best values not only of Bierzo but for the whole of Spain. 310,000 bottles and 2,000 magnums produced.”