The rise of a new wine region or the revival of an old one must always start with a few pioneers. We have featured here such pioneers as Andrea Franchetti of Etna, David and Diana Lett of Oregon and Andrew Will of Washington State. Today we present Alvaro Palacios of Priorat. Palacios is from a family with five generations of wine making behind them in Rioja. He studied oenology at the University of Bordeaux and trained for two years at the legendary Chateau Petrus. His experience at Petrus sparked the ambition to create a premium wine of similar quality in Spain. In 1989, at the age of 24, his search for land brought him to a then unheralded wine region 60 kilometers from Barcelona called Priorat.
Priorat is a very small and somewhat remote region just a short distance inland from the Mediterranean. Vines have been grown there since Roman times, but the area is so mountainous and steep that in the 19th and 20th centuries it was slowly abandoned. In the late 80s, however, the region was re-discovered by adventurous winemakers who thought that the terroir of Priorat, with its steep terraces and blue slate and schist soil, was just too promising to ignore. Alvero Palacios was among those. Drawing on his experience at Petrus he at first planted Bordeaux varietals. However, dissatisfied with wines produced, he decided that the indigenous Garnacha, which was already growing on the property, was best suited to the terroir. Says Palacios, Garnacha is "the only variety that transforms heat and aridity into a beautiful, refreshing liquid."
Palacios now makes Spain’s most expensive wine, L’Ermita, which goes for an average of $800 or so on release (and happy hunting on finding that elsewhere). What we relievedly present here without nosebleed pricing is his second wine, Finca Dofi. The Finca Dofi is mostly Garnacha with a vine age of 20 years. The 2017 is full and broad with fine-grained tannins and there are underlying mineral and earth notes that make for a very food friendly and savory red. The grapes are handpicked, the wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts and unfiltered, and vineyard practices are biodynamic.
Wine Advocate, 95 pts. - “The single-vineyard 2017 Finca Dofí comes from ten hectares that were planted 20 years ago in the village of Gratallops. It's mostly Garnacha with 8% Cariñena and 1% white grapes that fermented after being destemmed and lightly crushed in oak vats with indigenous yeasts. It matured in large oak barrels (bocoyes and foudres) for 16 months. There is no trace of oak in the wines, and there are no edges; they all feel sleek and elegant. This Dofí expresses the Mediterranean vintage from this vineyard at 300 to 320 meters in altitude, where the slate has a lot of iron, which turns the soils red and makes round and velvety wines, with flavors of red cherries, cherry pit, nectarines and even blood orange. The warm soils are compensated by mostly northern exposures. The palate has volume and is juicy, sensual and velvety, with some fine-grained tannins that currently call for food. It makes for a very gastronomical red. 29,700 bottles produced. It was bottled in April 2019. In 2018, there will be a separate bottling from one hectare of pure north-exposition grapes from Dofí, a new wine called La Baixada.” (8/2019)
James Suckling, 94 pts. - “This is so perfumed and floral; it just rises out of the glass with crushed berries, strawberries and violets. Medium to full body. Firm and silky tannins. Lovely length and brightness for this hot and dry vintage. Drink or hold.” (7/2019)