ALVARO PALACIOS 1998 FINCA DOFÍ ($60)
Alvaro Palacios is one of the guiding lights of Priorat. His father, José Palacios, was a winemaker in Rioja (another Spanish region that's
undergoing a dramatic renaissance) and his nephew Ricardo Perez is also an oenologist. In the early 1990s, after studying in Bordeaux, Palacios decided that Spain's greatest red wine could be created in Priorat. His L'Ermita, a $200-per-bottle cult wine, is definitely a contender for Spain's best red. The Finca Dofí, at less than a third the price, doesn't fall far behind and is a better value.

Palacios is one of a new generation of Spanish winemakers with an international outlook. He likes to compare his wines not so much to other Spanish wines, but to the best wines from around the globe. In keeping with this philosophy, Finca Dofí is very modern in style. It has juicy, explosive blackberry fruit and gorgeous depth, length, and balance. It is one of the best wines I've tasted this year.

CIMS DE PORRERA 1998 ($75)
Like many other Priorat wines, Cims de Porrera is a relatively new creation, resulting from the association between the cooperative cellar at Porrera, winemaker Jose Luis Perez (of Mas Martinet winery), and Louis Llach, a famous Catalan singer whose roots are in Porrera. The first vintage was in 1996. A special space is set aside in the Porrera co-op for the vinification and cellaring of Cims.

The word cims means “summit” in Catalan, and indicates the steep vineyard location where the grapes for this wine originate. This very age-worthy wine relies more heavily on the hearty Cariñena grape than on Grenache, with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon added to the blend. All the grapes are hand-harvested and given a long maceration. The resulting wine is aged for 17 months in new French barrels. It has fresh, lively texture and smooth blueberry fruit. The long, rich finish is loaded with sweet oak.


BUYER’S GUIDE


MORLANDA 1998 CRIANÇA, $46
Luscious and Spicy
Fantastic with roasted lamb

ALVARO PALACIOS 1998 FINCA DOFÍ, $60
Modern and Explosive
Great with game preparations

CIMS DE PORRERA 1998, $75
Plummy and Oaky
Match it with braised rabbit