The Red That Made Bierzo Famous
“This is always one of the best values not only of Bierzo but for the whole of Spain,” raves Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, in its 92+ point review. How could it not be? Partners Álvaro and Ricardo Palacios can boast of astonishing pedigree — Álvaro trained at Pétrus; his nephew Ricardo at Château Margaux. This 2015 “Pétalos” is culled from 60-year-old vines rooted on precipitously steep mountainous slopes, revealing a red packed with the region’s wild fruit notes, fresh and explosive aromatics and mineral depth. Find out why this wine has made Bierzo famous — strongly recommended by the case.
Álvaro Palacios was already a legend by the late 1990s. A scion of the family behind the renowned Rioja winery Bodegas Palacios Remondo, he traveled to France to learn the winemaking trade from a Right Bank icon — Christian Moueix, who oversaw 40 brilliant harvests at Chateau Pétrus. In 1995, Álvaro revolutionized the Spanish wine industry by introducing the world to Priorat, releasing the famous “Finca Dofi” and “L’Ermita” cuvees, the latter of which would capture four 98-100 point scores from Wine Advocate.
But Álvaro remained fascinated by a place he’d discovered in the 1980s during his travel through the country selling French barriques: Bierzo, a rugged, mountainous region forgotten by time in northwestern Spain. There he had found a diversity in soils and microclimates that recalled the best Barolo vineyards of Piedmont, as well as incredibly steep slopes, poor, schist soil, and ancient vines. His nephew, Ricardo Pérez Palacios — a Bordeaux-trained enologist with experience at Château Margaux — was equally besotted with the place, and in 1998 they shook hands and resolved to do for Bierzo what Álvaro had done for Priorat a decade earlier.
By all indications they are succeeding magnificently. Wine Enthusiast calls Bierzo “Spain’s most exciting wine region” and James Suckling included four of Ricardo and Álvaro’s Descendientes de José Palacios wines on his 2016 Top 100 Spanish Wines list, including the #4 ranked wine. Their single-vineyard releases are extraordinary, with the “La Faraona” winning 100 points from Wine Advocate and commanding prices in the four-digit price range.
But for the money, the Pétalos del Bierzo cuvee is unbeatable, landing on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines in 2015. Made with fruit drawn from hilltop and hillside 60-year-old vines outside the village of Corullón, this silky red combines the elegance and finesse of Cote d’Or Pinot Noir with the power and fruit purity of sun-drenched Spain.
2015 — one of the top three vintages ever for Bierzo, says Álvaro — may have been the best yet. James Suckling awarded this wine 92 points, calling it “a standard bearer for the region” and “such a tight and beautiful red.” Wine Advocate bumped that score up to 92+, declaring, “This is always one of the best values not only of Bierzo but for the whole of Spain.” At this value, it should be a case-buy that will appeal to lovers of Pinot Noir and Rioja while our allocation lasts.