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Rafael Palacios, As Sortes 2019
This is Rafael Palacios' top white from the Bibei Valley in Valdeorras. It's 100% Godello from parcels of older vines, some as much as 90 years old and many at very high altitude on decomposed granite soils. Fermentation takes place in large French oak casks. The wine has a lovely balance of freshness, complex flavours of apple, honeysuckle and herbs and creamy texture followed by a long mineral finish.
As Sortes takes the selection process one step further by employing grapes from vines between 35 and 92 years old, fermenting them with indigenous yeasts and aging them in 500 liter French oak barrels. For many years this was the benchmark wine of Valdeorras (and arguably Spain's premiere white wine) until it was unseated by Rafa's newest cuvee, Sorte O Soro.
Rafael Palacios is the brother of one of Spain's leading winemakers, Alvaro Palacios. It should come as no surprise that the family genius, enthusiasm and attention to detail is also evidenced in Rafael's wines. Whereas the Palacios family made its name Rioja, and Alvaro has subsequently achieved world-wide recognition for his vineyards in the appellation of Priorat and (latterly) Bierzo, Rafael has headed to the green north-west Atlantic-influenced vines of the DO of Valdeorras, which is located windward of Rueda, not too far to the north of the Portuguese border and the River Mino. The jewel here is the white variety Godello, which is now achieving recognition similar to that latterly afforded to Albarino and Verdejo. Sandy soils with granite substratum allied to historical terraced vineyards add up to hard work, small yields and a concomitant high level of quality. Rafa works with over 20 tiny parcels scattered around the region, with vines ranging up to almost 100 years in age. He currently makes two wines: Louro do Bolo, his lighter, entry-level expression, and As Sortes, which offers a step up in quality. Both are blindingly delicious, textural whites.
Wine Advocate 94pts (2017) - This 2017 seems to have plenty of power without loosing its freshness. The élevage in 500-liter barrels with fine lees was a little longer, up to eight months. Most of the grapes used for this 2017 were from the second harvest of the second sprouting of the grapes that were burned by frost, which means a short cycle (even if the finish was slow) and grapes with vibrant acidity. I say this because the year was warm, and there is no heat in this wine at all. In fact, it's very fresh, with crystalline purity, poised, elegant and nuanced. I am truly impressed by this 2017, which feels very young and undeveloped but with great potential. Truly impressive. Quantities were reduced because of the severe spring frosts.18,900 bottles produced.
JancisRobinson.com 18+pts (2017) - Dense and very concentrated indeed. So long and captivating! Already very appealing – unusually so for such a youthful As Sortes. Creamy.