2010 L'Ermita

Alvaro Palacios

99Average Score
flagPriorat / Spain

The 2010 L’Ermita is approximately 90% Garnacha, 8% Carinena and 2% white grapes, mainly Garnacha Blanca, since that is the mix found in the vineyard, and it has been like this since the 2006 harvest. Every year the grapes are hand-picked and then the 45-odd people that take part in the harvest sit down and go through each and every bunch removing the grapes that are not pristine. So even if the harvest is late, there is no over ripeness in the wine, as all the raisined fruit is removed. The bunches, which are very small and loose, go through a sorting table and the selection is stricter. Nothing less than perfect makes it into the fermentation vats. I saw a beautiful video of the 2013 harvest, which happened later than ever, on November 5, which was breathtaking. Going back to the 2010, the grapes were picked on October 29, and the final yield was a tiny 7.8 hectoliters per hectare, which resulted in 1,254 bottles and a bunch of magnums (and bigger-sized bottles) from the 1.40 hectares of vines. The grapes fermented in oak vats and then aged for 16 months in new French oak barrels. The wine presents itself with an incredible freshness, the nose full of citric notes of blood orange (Alvaro talks about grapefruit), Mediterranean herbs, licorice, violets and aniseed, pure elegance and subtly, with electric, lively acidity (according to the technical data, it has a pH of 3.3, a figure far more common in whites than in reds), pungent flavors, and very good grip. Graceful, elegant, vibrant. The oak is imperceptible, fully integrated into the wine, both in the nose and the palate, as only the very best grapes in the world can do: this is a truly world-class wine, and one of the best (if not the best) L’Ermita ever produced. It’s approachable now, but it should age and improve slowly and for a very long time. Drink 2014-2025+. ||I’ve known Alvaro Palacios for a long time, and I’ve been drinking and following his wines since the beginning. He is, of course, one of the main culprits for the revival of Priorat (among other things). He, and I’d say the whole region, has been defining the identity of his wines and I believe he’s finally there. I remember in the old times, he used to tell me, “Priorat really starts in 1994.” Then a couple of years later I’d bump into him somewhere, and he’d tell me, “the story of Priorat REALLY starts in 1996,” and so on and so forth. He was looking for the true character of his wines and the region. And I believe he found it much later, when he realized he should focus on the local grape varieties to produce his wines, especially Garnacha. Since 2006 he hasn’t used any Cabernet Sauvignon for L’Ermita and he started re-grafting the Cabernet vines to Garnacha. He did the same in the family vineyards of Palacios Remondo in Rioja, really focusing on Garnacha. And finally in 2011 all his wines, except the entry level Camins del Priorat, a young, fresh, modern and more international style of wine, are produced exclusively with Garnacha and Carinena, with local grapes. They are re-grafting Cabernet to Garnacha in Priorat and in Alfaro, La Rioja, in the family vineyards of Palacios Remondo, they are also re-grafting Tempranillo to Garnacha. “But not because I am a Garnacha fan, it’s simply because it is the most appropriate variety for the warm climate of Alfaro, where the Tempranillo gets cooked,” Palacios said. “I’m just going back to what my father did when he started there, planting Garnacha. It’s similar in Priorat: Porrera and Poboleda are good for Carinena, but I think Garnacha does better in Gratallops.” He just finished harvesting when I met with him to taste the wines. 2013 is the latest harvest ever, they harvested L’Ermita on November 5, and they removed all the raisin by hand from the tiny bunches before the grapes were ready for fermentation. In 2013, this magical north-facing vineyard yielded one fifth of its average production. In 1996, he planted 1.5 additional hectares of L’Ermita (which will make a total of three hectares) so in the future there might be a little more wine from the vineyard but 2013 will be a very short vintage. The young vines are blended into Gratallops for now. I’m also looking forward to tasting the 2012s when bottled, as Alvaro is already talking about the best vintage in his 24 years in Priorat. It’s a bit of a paradox, and I’ve already seen it in other regions in Spain: the year was extremely dry and warm, but it got to a point where the plants got blocked and didn’t produce any more sugar or consumed acidity. Wine Advocate.February, 2014

Luis Gutiérrez, Wine Advocate    Score: 99/100

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