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blog swirl & savor

The 12 Wines of Christmas, 2013 Descendientes de Jose Palacios Petalos

Beth Ribblett

A fun way to introduce you some of our favorite wines in the store that we believe would make great gifts!

Old vine Mencia in Bierzo, Spain

Old vine Mencia in Bierzo, Spain

Our next wine of Christmas  is made by a passionate winemaker who brought a grape and a region back from near extinction...

It's always a great story when some obscure, indigenous grape variety is coaxed back from near extinction by a passionate winemaker.  It is a story that happens only in the ancient wine producing regions of the world, places where historically wine has been made for centuries.  Our story for this post is about Spain and a region in the Northwest quadrant called Bierzo.  

The first written record of wine making in the region was some 2000 years ago by Pliny the Elder and it is continually mentioned throughout history as an important area where grapes were cultivated by the Romans and later by the Christian monks who set up monasteries and hospices to help the pilgrims on their journeys to Santiago de Compostela. Then phylloxera arrived and nearly wiped out Bierzo and it was a very long, slow process to breathe life back into this obscure little region.

But in the 1990's a famous winemaker, Alvaro Palacios, visited Bierzo and saw the potential in the region with its incredibly steep hillside vineyards, distinctive terroirs, and most importantly, ancient vineyards of Mencía—a unique red grape believed brought by French pilgrims during the Middle Ages.  He got distracted by another promising region, Priorato, for a time but he never let go of his dream to make wine from old vine Mencia in Bierzo.

Alvaro and his nephew Ricardo Perez, another up and coming winemaker, came back to the region in 1998 and decided to base their operations in a  little town on Bierzo’s western border named Corullón.   Alvaro and Ricardo's vision was to make great wines from old vineyards in the region. They now make seven wines, including five single-vineyard wines from exceptional terroirs, all made with the once obscure Mencia grape

Our featured wine, the Pétalos del Bierzo, is the entry level, but it’s always a serious effort. Produced from biodynamically farmed small hillside parcels of 60-100 year old vine Mencia grown in rocky slate soil around Corrullón, the wines are bottled without fining or filtration. Petalos has been a long time favorite of the store since I tasted it with Matt Lirette more than 8 years ago and it just seems to get better and better with each year.  Beautiful nose of lavender, incense, spice box, black cherry, and cranberry, with nice weight on the palate, intensity, and layered fruit, it would make a great gift for anyone who can appreciate a well made, balanced with with a great history.

2013 Descendientes de Jose Palacios Petalos
91 pts - Wine Spectator
"Expressive black cherry, currant, licorice, mineral and smoke flavors mingle in this focused red. The texture is gentle but firm, with well-integrated tannins and racy acidity providing structure. A compact wine that shows good intensity. Drink now through 2023.