[Image: Bunch of Grapes]
Europe Wine Diary 1998

© Copyright 1998 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Spain - Priorat

Monday, May 18, 1998

Alvaro Palacios (left) and Victor de la Serna assume mirror-image positions as they stand at the top of Palacios's noted mountainside Priorat vineyard, L'Ermita.

Alvaro Palacios, Gratallops, Tarragona

Palacios 1996 Finca Dofi Priorat (barrel sample) - Very dark garnet. Ripe and full cherry-berry fruit aromas and big, fruity and herbal flavors, structured and tannic. Good balance already, but obviously raw and in need of time. Although it will be bottled at the end of summer, Palacios advises holding it for 10 years before drinking.

Alvaro Palacios

"I'm happy with it," Palacios says, surveying the 24 barrels that constitute the world's entire supply of 1996 L'Ermita.

Palacios 1996 L'Ermita Priorat (barrel sample) - Opaque. Herbal and mineral "terroir," with marked mint and fennel notes that seem to echo the herbs that surround this mountainside vineyard. Massive wine, showing incredible concentration and balance, with great potential.

Palacios 1996 Les Terrasses Priorat (tank sample) - Inky dark garnet. Lovely, though oaky, cherry-brandy scent reflects oaky vanillins and ripe fruit. Full, warm and strong, needs a little time to come together. (To be bottled in May 1998.)

Palacios 1992 Finca Dofi Priorat - Dark garnet, with herbal aromatics and black fruit on the nose; full and balanced flavors, evolving well. A light vintage, perhaps maturing more quickly than most.

Palacios 1995 L'Ermita Priorat - Inky reddish-purple with a "day-glo" bright edge. Herbal as a Priorat hillside, fennel and mint. Deep, brooding black-fruit flavors consistent with the nose, huge yet delicate, big yet subtle. Outstanding.

Alvaro Palacios's new bodega combines high-tech winery operations and modern architecture. When completed in the autumn of 1998, it will resemble a modernistic ship's prow overlooking the valley in which the village of Gratallops stands.

Clos Mogador (René Barbier), Gratallops, Tarragona

Clos Mogador 1996 Priorat (barrel sample) - Just blended this day for blending the following week, Barbier says it's "traumatized" by the experience and not showing well. Even so, it's a good wine, a blend of 40 percent Garnacha (Grenache), 40 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 percent Syrah. Inky garnet in color, it's showing good pepper and black-fruit aromas, with lots of big fruit, tart acidity and tannin on the palate.

Rene Barbier

Clos Mogador wine maker René Barbier draws a vat sample.

Clos Mogador 1997 Priorat (vat sample) - Still in the making, this sample incorporates the Garnacha and Cabernet only; the Syrah, aging in separate barrels, will only be blended in at bottling time. Dark reddish-purple, it's showing a delicious, jammy Grenache aroma and a full, fruity and peppery flavor, very tasty even in its unfinished state.

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