Alvaro Palacios Priorat 2018

In Priorat, (Alvio) has 47 hectares of vineyards, 42 of them in the village of Gratallops. Like what happened with Rioja, they saw a return to more normal conditions with the 2018 vintage, more classic weather. Palacios calls it a "reunion" with snow, which he says always seems to bring something magic. There was more rain in the spring and the dry, Mediterranean summer, with a special moment during the harvest when heavy rains appeared, so he decided to wait and give time for the grapes to soak it up; the alcoholic degree went down and the wines also have more acidity. 2018 has something of 2010, 2012 and 2016 but with more finesse, 2018 being a more powerful but more elegant version of 2016, which are the two most elegant vintages of recent times for Palacios. LUIS GUTIERREZ

Some of you may remember Rory he was the super enthusiastic Irishman who helped with fine wine sales out of the Essendon store. We sent him on a Spanish trip in 2014 and he was hooked - particularly with the wines of Alvaro Palacios - now back in Ireland with his own wine company Station to Station wines he still promotes many of the same wines we see at Prince Wine Store - and has even anointed Alvaro 'The King of Spain'.

Rory helped Prince Wine Store establish a great following for Alvaros' wines and more recnetly we have highlighted his amazing 2018 from wines Bierzo and Rioja - but today it is back to where it all started.

The 2018 release from Palacios Priorat is one of the best ever - a classic season has resulted in perfectly balanced and super intense wines. This is the best freshness and elegance I have seen from Priorat in a long time.

A great vintage and a classic set of wines that will reward patience.

Alex Wilcox.

The following was written by Rory on his return from the trip and I feel still helps set the scene.

Priorat's history can be traced to the creation of the Scala Dei Priory, Cartusian Monks migrated from Provence in France and brought with them a penchant for growing vines. It is known for its steep sloping vineyards and an intense fidelity to its soil. This unique terroir main feature is llicorella, a slate that seems to glisten in the regions plentiful sun. Deeply coloured and easily breakable, this slate forces the vine roots to delve deep in search of water and imparts a very striking earthy, truffle like character to the wines setting Priorat wines apart.

Garnacha and Carignan are the most prolific varieties planted. Carignan provides body, astringency and an intense pigmentation. With a naturally high alcoholic content, it is the perfect blending partner for Garnacha, which provides a finer, more aromatic edge. There are also small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot plantings. Innately suitable as blending companions, these wines were planted more recently to cater for the international market, and while they are still used by many, some winemakers feel that the natural patrimony of the land dictates fidelity to the indigenous varieties.

After Phelloxera and the rule of Francos iron fist, Priorat was left in a state of desolation. Led by the charismatic Alvaro Palacios, a group of young wine makers returned Priorat to glory by successfully blending modern winemaking and respecting the history and tradition of the valleys viticulture. Commanding considerable praise and price internationally, Alvaro's top wine: L'Ermita is recognised as being one of the finest wines coming out of modern Spain. Made exclusively from Garnacha and Carignan, the vineyard is situated on one of the steepest hills in the region (when I was there they were using a mule to precariously plough, Alvaro told me "maybe I am crazy to do it, people tell me I am crazy - but I like it this way, the soil likes it this way").