The red wines of the relatively small Bierzo region in northwest Spain are among the lesser known and more interesting that the country has to offer.
Here, the main red grape is the indigenous Mencia, grown on steep hillside vineyards that give the wines density, depth, and mineral-driven character.
Palacios, which is famous for its reds from the Priorat region, began to produce wine in Bierzo two decades ago and is credited with transforming the area into an important player on the Spanish wine map.
The reds from Bierzo are not light, easy-drinking wines; nor are they overpowering in their intensity. They are somewhere in between, which makes them excellent food wines.
And that’s certainly the case with Palacios’ 2016 “Pétalos.” Made from 100 percent Mencia, this $19 wine should dispel any doubt about the notion of minerality in wine. A subtle “stony” quality infuses the black cherry and blackberry fruit, which is accented as well by herb, baking spice, and mocha notes.
This is a highly versatile food wine (alcohol is a moderate 13.5 percent), to pair with all kinds of meats and full-flavored fare. On its own, it may seem rather austere, partly because of its youth. But it came into own when paired with a thick, grilled steak, its hefty tannic structure providing a solid backbone for the onslaught of the meat.
Wine is all about finding what you enjoy and, in doing so, getting out of your comfort zone to discover interesting new possibilities. The Palacios “Pétalos” will seem unfamiliar to some, but this sophisticated, nuanced wine will give you a chance to expand your horizons and, perhaps, to think about wine in general in a slightly different way.