Gillian Sciaretta, Wine Spectator (Oct 2021)
About this WINE
Descendientes de Palacios
Alvaro Palacios is not exactly a new face in the wine scene – Alvaro has helped revolutionise the Spanish wine industry by making rich, complex wines in Priorat. His first wine there, 1995 L’Ermita, gained him recognition as one of the world's most inspired and dedicated winemakers (Alvaro produces two other compelling Priorat wines Finca Dofí and Les Terrasses). He continued to make waves with his involvement in other Spanish appellations, such as Ribera del Duero and Rioja.
Palacios comes from the large and esteemed Rioja winemaking family of Bodegas Palacios Remondo. In his early 20s Alvaro Palacios interned in Bordeaux at the side of Christian Moueix, the celebrated winemaker of Pomerol châteaus of Pétrus and Trotanoy. Upon his return to Spain he originally decided against getting involved in the family business and instead he pursued his own ventures where he would have the freedom to make distinctive, top-quality wines. His success in Priorat inspired him to search again for something new, this time putting his faith in the potential of Bierzo.
Bierzo's principal grape is the obscure, indigenous red variety Mencía. While Bierzo is a relatively new wine appellation (a Denominación de Origen since 1989), it has a wealth of very old vines, planted on extremely steep hillsides, and in this respect it much resembles the Priorat region.
Palacios with his nephew Ricardo Perez (who also spent time in Bordeaux) established Descendientes de J. Palacios in 1998 in the village of Villafranca del Bierzo. They named the estate in honour of Alvaro's father who passed away in 2000.
Their Descendientes de J. Palacios releases are all 100% Mencía wines:
Bierzo Corullón comes from 3 vineyards with vines from 60 to 100 years old. It is a vivid and unique, a red wine that marries rustic flavours with modern polish.
Petalos, the latest triumph from Alvaro Palacios, comes from 60 year-old vines and farmed biodynamically, is an intense wine that mingles beautifully wild plum, smoke and spice flavours.
Las Lamas is farmed at very low yields (15 hl/hr) some at an altitude of over 700 metres. This wine is the sine qua non of Alvaro Palacio’s adventure in Bierzo.
The wine region of Bierzo (or El Bierzo) is a small, rural and remote ancient region in the north-western corner of Castilla y León, touching the eastern border of Galicia. Up until the 1990s, it remained unknown to the international wine markets.However, thanks to the wave of investment and innovation that swept many parts of Spain in the late 1990s, the wine region of Bierzo now counts as one of the country’s rising stars, on a par with other wine hotspots such as Rueda, Penedès, Toro and Jumilla.Mencía is the region’s primary grape and undisputed star, covering nearly two-thirds of the vineyards. This red grape variety is grown almost exclusively in the north-western part of Spain (especially in the DOs of Galicia, Valdeorras, Monterrey, and Ribeira Sacra). Mencía ripens early, by mid-September, and is well suited to the maritime climate of Bierzo where autumn rains are quite common.
Mencía has only recently come into the spotlight as a quality, potential-laden grape variety. When properly made, it offers fascinating wines across a contrasting spectrum of styles: at one end are fruity and forward wines with supple tannins and succulent fruit; at the other, more concentrated, powerful styles with an exotic earthiness, smooth tannins and an enviable reflection of the mineral-rich Bierzo terroir.
Mencía is capable of making excellent wine on its own, with no need to sacrifice its unique character in the Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot blends that are so commonplace elsewhere in Spain.Other grape varieties planted in Bierzo include the red Garnacha Tintorera, and the aromatic whites Godello, Doña Blanca and Malvasía.
The region received its DO (Denominación Origen) from the Spanish wine authorities only in 1989. Today it is home to approximately 60 wineries and over 4,000 growers, which means that Bierzo remains a highly-fragmented wine region where the average holding is miniscule.
The wine region made its breakthrough in 1999 when Alvaro Palacios teamed up with his nephew, Ricardo Pérez, to establish Descendientes de J. Palacios. Alvaro Palacios is recognised as one of Spain’s most talented and visionary winemakers, having revolutionised the wines of Prioriat in the late 1980s - he was one of the “founding 8” of Priorat winemakers who brought international fame to the region.
Descendientes de J Palacios remains one of the best wineries in the region, focusing on the Mencía grape, with some of its vineyards planted on steep hillsides and as much as 50 or even 100 years old.
Mencía is the primary grape of the Bierzo region and its undisputed star, covering nearly two-thirds of the vineyards. This red grape variety is grown almost exclusively in north-western part of Spain (especially in the DOs of Galicia, Valdeorras, Monterrei, and Ribeira Sacra). Mencía ripens early, by mid-September, and is well suited to the maritime climate of Bierzo where autumn rains are quite common.
Mencía has only recently come into spotlight as a quality, potential-laden grape variety. When properly made, it offers fascinating wines across a contrasting spectrum of styles; on the one end are fruity and forward wines with supple tannins and succulent fruit. On the other end are more concentrated, powerful styles with an exotic earthiness, smooth tannins and an enviable reflection of the minerally-rich Bierzo terroir.
Mencía is capable of making excellent wine on its own, with no need to sacrifice its unique character in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot that are commonplace elsewhere in Spain.