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First Taste: Steven Spurrier on Alvaro Palacios 2014 wines

Less than a month after he was crowned Decanter Man of the Year for 2015, Alvaro Palacios was back in London to show his latest barrel samples of 2014 Priorat and Bierzo wines. Read Steven Spurrier's tasting notes below.

Alvaro Palacios with his nephew, Ricardo Perez (left)

Alvaro Palacios, born 1964 (a very good year), is Spain’s third Decanter Man of the Year, following Jose Ignacio Domecq (1991) and Miguel Torres (2002) and while on averages we should expect another Spaniard in the 2020s, it would be hard to find someone so passionately pioneering as Alvaro himself.

His father founded Bodegas Palacios Remondo in Rioja Baja in 1948, but for Alvaro this was just a base for his energy. After studying at the University of Bordeaux, he did an internship at Petrus the following year and another at Napa’s Stag’s Leap Winery the year after that, in 1989. On the advice of Rene Barbier, he then purchased Clos Dolfi in Priorat and 10 years later created Descendientes de J Palacios with his nephew Ricardo Perez in northwest Spain’s Bierzo, a DO created only in 1989. His vision for both regions was again confirmed by the barrel samples of 2014, a vintage that he referred to as ‘un milagro’ – a miracle.

Bierzo DO

Villa de Corullon
97% Mencia, 3% white grapes from 8.6ha of old vines across six different plots. Purple red, fine crunchy red/black fruits, great natural warmth, fine clarity and firm tannins, the ripeness of fruit making it lovely from 2016 and for another 5 years.
Price: £90.90 in bond (IB) per 6 bottles.
Drink 2016 – 2021

Las Lamas
98% Mencia, 2% Alicante Bouchet on extremely steep, south-facing schist and clay-based soils. Red/black colour, black fruits nose and wonderfully smooth yet vigourous palate, firm tannins, great structure and depth.
Price: £101.55 IB per 3.
Drink 2017-24

98% Mencia, 2% white grapes from a mostly south-facing 15ha single vineyard whose vines are nearing 100 years old. Superb black cherry colour, wonderfully lifted fruit, more elegant, less robust than Las Lamas, more length, a beautifully made wine of great class.
Price: £101.55 IB per 3.
Drink 2017-30.

La Faraona
100% Mencia from the most elevated south-east facing vineyard at 950m. Dense purple red, fine expression of black fruits with marked florality, firm and closed on the palate but superb quality is there from low yielding old vines, a great wine.
Price: £1,167.45 IB per 3.
Drink 2018-35.

Priorat DO

Gratallops – Vi de Vila
80% Garnarcha, 20% Samso (Carignan) from high terraced, schistous bedrock soils. Black purple-red, very rich and pure black fruits on the nose, only the fleshiness recalling the southern Rhone’s Grenache with Samso adding spice and grip, fine natural concentration, will always be rich, but also firm and retain florality.
Price: £108.60 IB per 6.
Drink 2016-24.

Finca Dolfi
94% Garnarcha, 6% Samso from high vineyars. Black purple-red, superby crunchy black fruits nose and terrific power and grip on the palate, tannins firm and chalky and the wine just beginning to form itself, but already florality, even charm is there, the serious of a great Priorat to come later.
Price: £75 IB per 3
Drink 2018-35

91% Garnarcha, 8% Samso, 1% white grapes from Alvaro’s famous single vineyard. Deep purple red, beautifully expressed fruit with total depth and purity, almost too pure to describe, but all possibly fruits is there with florality and vineyard depth, a truly great wine.
Price: £1,462.80 IB per 3
Drink 2019-40

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