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Debut: The “Romanée-Conti” of Spain Delivers from the "Stairway to Heaven" and Ancient Vines
August 7, 2020

US Debut: “The Romanée-Conti of Priorat” – A First Ever from the Cult Winemaker and Ancient Terroir! It’s a New Classification for this True “Grand Cru” of Spain. Best of All the Value Begins Here Under $35.

“…the 2018 vintage, more classic weather…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

What is Spain’s finest release from the highly anticipated 2018 vintage? Certainly, the near perfect Álvaro Palacios L’Ermita would once again be a contender. A mere 200 cases of this scarce cult icon were produced, and, unfortunately, little will arrive to the U.S. With the 2017 and 2018 releases, it should be noted that these are the first vintages of the cult wine to receive the new Gran Viña Clasificada label, thus the reference for many calling the revered wine the “Romanée-Conti of Priorat." IWM is now pleased to be the first in the country to present the iconic wine along with the L’Ermita siblings from the more classic and balanced 2018 vintage. This offering also includes the value-oriented Les Terrasses from 2017 – which is a “lot of wine for less than $35.” But, even before the prized L’Ermita came to be, there was the original cru patriarch, Finca Dofi - which is IWM's signature recommendation for the region. Often referred to as the second wine of L’Ermita, it is an icon in its own right, and with the 2018 vintage we were fortunate to receive a mere five cases of Finca Dofi – including rare Magnums which are unavailable elsewhere.

If you are new to Priorat and Alvaro Palacios, here is a helpful introduction. Much in the way that Sassicaia, Solaia and Ornellaia revolutionized Tuscan winemaking, L’Ermita with the help of the older sibling Finca Dofi and the neighbors of Clos Erasmus and Clos Mogador, are the “founding fathers” in Priorat. They are part of the revered “Gratallops group” that is responsible for the pioneering wines of Spain that brought worldwide attention to the steep, terraced hillsides, schist based soils and ancient vines of this forgotten land about 100 miles southeast of Barcelona. This is one of the most breathtaking wine regions in all the world, and with its unique typography and religious ties to the country's first monastery, Priorat has appropriately been referenced as the “Stairway to Heaven.” A visit to Alvaro Palacios in Gratallops validates this claim and the view is simply unforgettable – as are the wines. And when you see just how steep and small the treasured L’Ermita vineyard is, you get a hint of how magical this special place is. The wines from this particular area are hands-down some of the most exciting from Priorat and all of Spain – in particular, the vibrant and fresh bottlings of the 2018 Palacios.

IWM has secured its small allocation and we are now presenting the official debut of the 2018 releases today (pssst – with a sneak peek at the other monument to Spainish winemaking– Peter Sisseck and Pingus). For Palacios, these are wines that are even more reflective of the ancient region and terroir; there is concentration and rusticity, but there is also a balancing energy and brightness to them. We appreciate the underlying minerality from the special llicorella soils that adds to the balancing structure of these wines. Álvaro Palacios is undoubtedly Spain’s great modern-day visionary alongside Raúl Pérez Pereira, and having visited the winery and tasting with Alvaro on several occasions, we could not agree more with these recent comments listed below from Spain’s respected wine critic Luis Gutierrez! Do NOT miss out on the limited releases, there is a lot to explore and there is something for everyone – the established collector and budding enthusiast!

Featured Wine(s): Álvaro Palacios & The Ancient Wines of Priorat (Click to Order)

Note: wines arrive in September

Additional Notes and Reviews:

96+ Points, Luis Gutierrez, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The origin of everything here and the first single-vineyard red, 2018 Finca Dofí excels in 2018. Those 10 hectares planted 20 years ago in the village of Gratallops are mostly Garnacha, but the wine also has some 8% Cariñena and 2% white grapes. They all fermented after being destemmed and lightly crushed in oak vats with indigenous yeasts. The wine matured in large oak barrels (bocoyes and foudres) for 16 months. This is the refined version of the Gratallops (the vineyard is in the village!) but with an extra degree in depth and complexity, especially nuance and elegance, showcasing the captivating finesse and harmony of the vintage, which is a little in the style of the 2016 with more energy. I see that these 2018s are quite transparent and show the style of the zone, the iron soils, the dusty roads and the warmth of the soils; it's round and lush, spherical but with a spike of freshness. The élevage has been polished so as to render it almost invisible. This is drinkable now, and I think it's also going to age nicely in bottle and drink nicely throughout its life.

94 Points, Luis Gutierrez, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The "vi de vila" or village wine 2018 Gratallops was produced with a blend of 74% Garnacha, 25% Cariñena and 1% white varieties that were crushed and destemmed and then fermented in oak vats with indigenous yeasts. The wine matured in oak containers of different sizes, bocoyes and oval foudres, for 15 months. This is the most approachable and open of the 2018s, aromatic and with the characterful profile of wet slate, nuts, Mediterranean herbs and acid berries. It has a lively palate with great acidity but especially with complete but sustained freshness. It has fine tannins and is nicely textured. Textbook Priorat.”

99 Points, Luis Gutiérrez, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The flagship 2018 L'Ermita is already classified as Gran Vinya Classificada, the new category of Grand Cru vineyards from the Priorat appellation of origin. Like the 2017, the blend here is mostly Garnacha with about 20% Cariñena (the highest for this wine) and 2% of white grapes that fermented with indigenous yeasts in oak vats with a maceration of 56 days and matured in oak barrels of different sizes for 14 months. The grapes were picked quite late but on the same date as the previous year, the 17th of October, because the vineyard is so regular. The wine is aromatic, intense and elegant, with a lifted nose, a high-pitched note of violet pastille, more refined than the Aubaguetes and Baixada. It is classical and proportioned, with contained and complex aromas and flavors and lots of energy, light in its feel but with inner power and strength. As with most great wines, it should develop nicely and for a long time in bottle but will drink well throughout its life. Grand vin, yes..”

93 Points, Luis Gutierrez, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “I've always had a special interest in this Garnacha and Cariñena blend from Álvaro Palacios, and the current vintage is now the 2017 Les Terrasses Velles Vinyes. It's produced with grapes from 80 different vineyards in eight villages and therefore is a regional wine. 2017 was a warm and ripe year that produced powerful wines. This 2017 is 55% Garnacha with 44% Cariñena and a 1% pinch of white grapes that fermented in concrete and oak vats with indigenous yeasts and matured in barrique and oak vat for 11 months. This is the earthiest of the bottlings, and it has some rustic touches from the Cariñena, which gives it its personality. 2017 was their earliest harvest ever (the first time they ever started harvesting in August!). They used a little more new oak, yet the wine is not oaky or excessively ripe. There is no room for sweetness here, and the wine is clean, reflecting very healthy grapes and very elegant tannins, quite transparent, not dry, but rather juicy. Great Terrasses, a triumph over the conditions of the vintage.”

98-100 Points, Luis Gutierrez, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “The good news after a short and challenging 2017 in Ribera del Duero is that the barrel sample of the 2018 Pingus I tasted promises to come back strong. The sample blend of Pingus I tasted was very harmonious, the result of a change in the élevage. Part of the wine, some 10% of the final blend, matured in 2,000-liter oak vats, and that change seems to have added texture to it; the tannins feel rounder than ever, more elegant, and the wine has kept incredible freshness. This is a slightly different style of Pingus, and Peter Sisseck is not sure if it's going to continue in other vintages or not. We'll have to see how the wine gets to bottle in the summer of 2020, because the idea is to complete the élevage in used barriques. That's if Sisseck doesn't change his mind, of course! The tannins are extremely elegant, abundant but not noticeable. This could be another twist in Pingus. Stay tuned for more news... 2018 delivered a large crop, and there will be some 9,000 bottles of this.”

Should you have any questions on these exciting wines, or would like to take advantage of this offer while supplies last, we are asking that you email orders back to me at, connect with your portfolio manager, or mention receipt of this offer if calling the store. All orders are subject to confirmation.

All my best,