Alvaro Palacios, Spain Superwine hero ( 2/3)

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I continue where I left off on the work of Alvaro Palacios in Spain. On my post of November, I covered the Priorat. On this post, i will cover Bierzo and of a future post Rioja.

Bierzo wine history goes back to ancient Roman times. The Romans colonized Bierzo with the purpose of mineral exploitation. Like they did in other places that they went, they cultivated the vine to fulfill the thirst of the settlements. Pliny the Elder, who perished in the A.D. 79 wrote the earliest references on Bierzo wine.

The Mencía grape is the star here, where it occupies nearly two-thirds of the vineyards. A variety that dominates in northwestern Spain (especially in the Galician DOPs- appellations- Valdeorras, Monterrei, and Ribeira Sacra), Mencía has only recently gained respect as an honorable grape variety. In good hands, it reveals fresh fruity notes, smooth tannins and that elusive reflection of mineral terroir. Although known as a wine that shines well in its youth, yielding fruit driven and accesible wines, some Bierzo producers are demonstrating that with judicious usd of oak it can make worthy cellars. Other grape varieties cultivated in the Bierzo include Garnacha Tintorera, Godello, Doña Blanca, Malvasía, Palomino and, in experimental quantities, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo.

The vineyards in Bierzo are some of the prettiest in Spain and even in Europe. Many are planted in beautiful view-terraces along the steep slopes of the Sil river valley, some with such marked inclination that only mules can be used for the harvest. The soils are a mix from alluvial near the riverbed, to rocky and slate-filled on the higher slopes. The vineyards, which are planted at elevations of up to 1000 meters, enjoy moderate rainfall and, thanks to the mountains that protect them from the winds of the Atlantic, a relatively mild climate.

Much of the region’s fame is attributed to our superheroe, Alvaro Palacios. After succeding in Priorat, he enture with his nephew Ricardo in the Region. However, some sources say that he wanted to start in the Bierzo before the Priorat. However, his success there inspired Alvaro to search again for another challenge, this time establishing a vision in the potential of Bierzo and the area’s primary varietal Mencia.  In 1998, Alvaro and Ricardo, who had just finished studying in Bordeaux, created the te Descendientes de Palacios estate. Purchasing old vine Mencia vineyards, Alvaro and Ricardo revitalized Bierzo in the same way Alvaro did in Priorat. The winery is dedicated to Alvaro’s father, and Ricardo’s grandfather, who passed away in early 2000, once again sourcing inspiration from their families’ long history in Spanish winemaking. 

Petalos del Bierzo is born on several vineyards located on a group of hills of slate in the villages of Corullón, Valtuille, Villadecanes, Parandones and Villafranca del Bierzo. The soils of Corullón are of early cambrian period and of the rest of the villages from Tertiary era: Ferrous Clay with quartzites wnd pebbles.

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This is almost solo varietal of Mencia. The grape makes 95% of the blend with the leftover consisting of 3% white grapes, 2% Alicante Bouschet and other local red varieties

Pétalos del Bierzo is a lovely fragant and aromatic wine. I was impressed by its core aromas of fresh blueberries and blackberries. It also has a sizzling crushed black pepper with violet infusion component that echoes a Syrah from The Northern Rhone in France. In the mouth, it is full body, rich but satiny with ripe tannins. Its retronasal flavors bring to mind fresh mountain herbs with cool mineral nuances that transport you to the hills of Bierzo.

The flagship wine of Alvaro and Ricardo is Corullón. This is an assemblage from old-vine parcels around the town. The estate also produces up to four extraordinary single-vineyard wines: San Martin, Moncerbal, Las Lamas and La Faraona. Each is a distinctive expression of the enigmatic terroir of the Bierzo.

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