Ever since 1984, UK wine magazine Decanter have bestowed an accolade on a figure from the the world of wine, crowning them man of the year. The first recipient was Serge Hochar. The most recent, and a very popular choice, was Alvaro Palacios, who at the age of 50 (he’s 51 on Monday) is still very much in his prime. Indeed, it is remarkable how much he has achieved at such a relatively young age.
To celebrate, Alvaro threw a dinner at the Beaumont. It was a relaxed, enjoyable affair, with some brilliant wines, as you might expect.
Alvaro came from a wine family, and is the seventh of nine children. He was working with Christian Moieux in Bordeaux when at the age of 25 he got a call from Rene Barbier to come and join him in Priorat. So he sold his motorbike, borrowed a car and moved there. Over the next few years he created Priorat’s village system and helped revive this remarkable region from obscurity. I’ve reviewed his wines before here.
Then, in 1999 with his nephew Ricardo Perez, he headed to Bierzo to form Descendientes de J. Palacios.
In 2000, his father died and Alvaro returned to the family business, Palacios Remondo in Rioja, which he has rejuvenated.
He has been a leader in the new Spanish wine revolution. ‘The image and reality of Spanish wines has changed forever,’ said Decanter’s publisher Sarah Kemp, in her speech. She pointed out Alvaro’s dynamism and courage in pioneering, his respect for the past, and his work ethic as factors in his success. ‘He has let the great terroirs of Spain express themselves.’
‘All the [Decanter] men of the year have been my heroes,’ Alvaro responded. ‘I still cannot believe that I have been awarded, among the hundreds of great producers around the world. I am just a link in the chain with all those producers who have had faith in Spain.’
Alvaro’s younger brother Rafael, who makes wines in Valdeorras, was also present at the dinner, as was celebrated Ribera del Duero producer Peter Sisseck.
Palacios Remondo Plácet Valtomelloso 2012 Rioja
This is very attractive with white peach, subtle fennel notes and fine herbal notes in the background, but the core of the wine is sweet, rich fruit. It’s kept stylish and taut, though, with some nuttiness, too. A lovely white balancing richness and freshness very well. 93/100
Descendientes de J Palacios La Faraona 2010 Bierzo, Spain
This comes from a half-hectare plot at 750 m altitude, in a vineyard on a geological fault. Some of the vineyard has soft slate and clay, but this portion has very hard slate oriented horizontally, without the usual vertical fissures that allow the roots to penetrate. The result is very small clusters of grapes, and because it’s south east facing it gets the white light of the morning. The result is incredible. It’s pure, floral and youthful with dense yet fresh primary blackberry and black cherry fruit showing some lushness and ripeness, but also grippy structure. There’s a silkiness surrounding this structure, and although its approachable now, it really needs time. 95/100
Alvaro Palacios L’Hermita 2010 Priorat, Spain
Alvaro describes this vineyard as a ‘whim of nature’. It’s from 1.5 hectares planted in 1939, and is mostly Garnacha with a bit of Carinena. The vineyard faces north East. ‘This is such a luminous, hot place, the best wines are made from the shade areas,’ explains Alvaro. This is a brooding wine: taut, grippy and yet fine, with a hint of mint and lovely black cherry fruit. Attractive and supple with tar, spice,hints of liquorice and nice grippy structure. Give this plenty of time: it’s almost a sin drinking it now. 95/100
Valdespino Moscatel Toneles, NV, Jerez
This was a real treat. From a very old solera, this is an antique Moscatel. Brown/black in colour this has a hugely aromatic nose of raisins, spice and tar. The palate is immensely concentrated with sweet viscous flavours of raisins, treacle, spice, old casks and citrus peel. It has an eternal finish and a little goes a long way. Very sweet but with nice acidity and a savoury twist. 97/100