During the late 1980’s, Alvaro Palacios travelled his native Spain selling French barriques to winemakers. But his journeys had a second purpose: to find the best place to achieve his goal of making Spain’s greatest wine.

He ultimately decided, in 1990, on Priorat, where he would achieve worldwide fame with “L'Ermita” and “Finca Dofi.” But there had been a close contender: Bierzo. It had all the ingredients that Alvaro wanted-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.

In Pursuit of the Dream

The idea of making great wine from old-vine Mencía never left Alvaro, and his experience in Priorat-particularly with L'Ermita-convinced him of Bierzo's enormous potential. Meanwhile, his nephew Ricardo Perez had finished enological studies in Bordeaux and was travelling across France-absorbing everything he could about great wines. He worked the harvest at Château Margaux, and did internships at other Bordelais firms like Moueix (Pétrus, Trotanoy, etc.). He also visited Alvaro frequently and came to share a belief in Bierzo's potential. In 1998, the two decided on a joint venture and set out in search of the region's finest old vineyards.

Assembling the Pieces 

Alvaro and Ricardo found promising sites in a number of villages but shortly came to believe that the greatest potential lay in a little town on Bierzo's western border named Corullón. Old vineyards lined the precipitous hillsides there, and the local soils were extremely poor—composed mostly of schist—but with incredible diversity. The minute variations in soils and exposures across this zone immediately reminded the two of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, or Piedmont’s Langhe hills.

Remarkable Commitment

From the beginning, Ricardo embraced biodynamic viticulture as a means to craft the transparent wines of his dreams. The effort required in this damp corner of Spain is extraordinary, yet Ricardo believes it yields wines with more balance and transparency. And, it’s allowed him to build an entire ecosystem around his vineyards. Work animals provide fertilizer and help him make the biodynamic courses. He’s worked with locals to market healthier vegetables, and produces fruit juices from surroundings orchards.

Five remarkable wines are the result of this life work. The first, Pétalos del Bierzo, is assembled from old hillside and hilltop vines across from Bierzo’s western edge. The wine is vinified for immediate appeal, but it retains the estate’s signature finesse and restraint.

Corullón is an assemblage from old-vine parcels in and around this town. Its combination of generosity and precision makes a case not only for Corullón’s special status, but also the superiority of Alvaro’s and Ricardo’s winemaking.

The estate also produces up to three extraordinary single-vineyard wines: Moncerbal, Las Lamas and La Faraona. Each is a distinctive expression of a remarkable and compelling terroir.

At a Glance

  • Ricardo and Alvaro put Bierzo and the Mencia variety on the map with their pioneering work.
  • Vineyards are focused in and around the town of Corullon on Bierzo’s western edge;, home to the region’s highest vineyards and its poorest, slate/schist soils.
  • Vineyard work is done primarily by hand and/or mule, and all estate fruit is farmed biodynamically. Ricardo teaches biodynamics at an annual seminar hosted at Descendientes.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION

Descendientes de J. Palacios is located in Bierzo - in Spain’s relatively cool northwestern corner. The best vineyards - located around the town of Corullon - are located on steep hillsides in the mountains on the western boundary of Bierzo. Soils are a mix of rocky, slate vineyards on steep slopes with volcanic minerals in some sites. These hard-to-reach vineyards are worked by hand or mule, and the estate employs biodynamic viticulture methods.

Established: 1998 (First Vintage: 1999)
Proprietors/Winemakers: Ricardo Perez and Alvaro Palacios
Appellation: Bierzo
Soils: A mix of rocky, slate vineyards on steep slopes
Elevation: 500 to 950 meters above sea level

THE WINES

  Vineyard Information Winemaking Average Production

Petalos del Bierzo

Assorted hillside, slate vineyards from Corullon and surrounding towns. 95% Mencia, with 5% other indigenous red and white varieties.

The wine is aged in large oak vats for 10 months to give it immediate appeal, while still retaining the estate's signature finesse and restraint.

30,000 cases

Corullon

An assemblage from over 200 small, estate parcels throughout the town of Corullon. The blend is 97% Mencia with 3% white varieties.

Between 10% and 30% whole clusters are used, and maceration lasts from 45-90 days. The wines are aged in a mix of barrel sizes; from barrique up to foudre, with 15-20% new wood.

1,500 cases

Moncerbal

From an extremely steep, southwest facing vineyard of 610-750M in elevation. 98% Mencia with 2% white, indigenous varieties.

Between 10% and 30% whole clusters are used, and maceration lasts from 45-90 days. The wines are aged in a mix of barrel sizes; from barrique up to foudre, with 15-20% new wood.

175 cases

Las Lamas

Selected from an extremely steep, south facing vineyard. 670-730M in elevation. 98% Mencia & 2% Alicante Bouschet.

Between 10% and 30% whole clusters are used, and maceration lasts from 45-90 days. The wines are aged in a mix of barrel sizes; from barrique up to foudre, with 15-20% new wood.

185 cases

La Faraona

From the highest vineyard in Corullon - 855M in elevation. This is from a southeast facing slope of schist soils with sandstone and volcanic minerals. 100% Mencia.

Between 10% and 30% whole clusters are used, and maceration lasts from 45-90 days. The wines are aged in a mix of barrel sizes; from barrique up to foudre, with 15-20% new wood.

65 cases

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Wine barrels in a cellar

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