by Guest Contributor Fernando Vigón

Alvaro Palacios is one of the most outstanding personalities in the Spanish wine milieu. Back in the eighties he was the youngest wine maker of the group that started the Priorat revolution. His blockbusters then include Les Terrasses, Finca Dolfí, L’Ermita and Corullon. His mark has always been working with native grapes like grenache, mencia, graciano, and mazuelo.

Luckily for all of us, Alvaro worked also in El Bierzo and Rioja in the late nineties. I had the opportunity of tasting some of his second generation wines during Christmas.

To my mind Petalos de Bierzo 2006, Descendientes de J. Palacios, D.O. El Bierz, was the best of them. 100 % mencia (reportedly a 50-80 year old vine). Aged for 6 months in French oak, it is a knock out wine for a price of only 17 euros. Opaque ruby and purple coloured. It reveals an astonishing breath of minerals and raspberry. Medium bodied, round in mouth, powerful, fruity and well balanced. A bit too early to drink, in two years time it should explode.
From El Bierzo I also strongly advice you to have a go at the Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas, 100 % mencia and Pitacum Aurea Roble 100% mencia , of course without forgetting Alvaro’s master piece Villa de Corullon, 100 % mencia.

Then we have Alvaro in La Rioja: Finca La Montesa 2003 Bodegas Palacio Remondo, D.O. Rioja. Aged for 12 months in French and American oaks. An unusual blend of 40% grenache, 45 % tempranillo, 5% mazuelo and 10% graciano it shows a medium to dark ruby coloured with a purple edge , a very elegant aroma: fresh fruit, cacao (well, others tasters dixit), round in mouth with pure and long finish, but it lacks the complexity you always look for in Alvaro Palacio.

I enjoyed however very much the Propiedad 2005, Bodegas Palacio Remondo, D. O. La Rioja. A blend of 60 % grenache and 40 % tempranillo. Aged for 14 months in mostly French oak. Deep ruby-cherry coloured with scents of ripe fruit and hints of toasty oak. On the palate it is a delicious medium to full bodied wine, powerful and moderately tannic. It can be drank now as well as over the next decade.

All the wines were magnum bottled and it is well worth remembering that 2003 was very good in La Rioja, 2005 excellent in la Rioja and 2006 was also excellent in El Bierzo. In any case, I vote for spending more time (and money) in El Bierzo.