First Published in Costa News SL September 2011




Barbara and Antonio Palacio showing me around the Barbarot vineyards

 Last week’s article ( click Cork Talk) dealt with Señor Antonio Palacios, my good fortune in befriending such a warm family and first class wine educators, plus of course his excellent MdeT La Rioja wine. I also alluded to the wine made by the next generation of this, the most famous wine-making family of Spain.

 Was it destiny that shaped Bárbara Palacios’ life? A typically modest shrug of the shoulders accompanied by her charming smile and the statement that she simply loves making wine, was all the answer I needed. With a wealth of family tradition, knowledge and experience behind her, Bárbara went willingly to Bordeaux to study oenology (including working at Chateau Margaux, et al) and thence to Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Chile, Argentina and California seeking out even more wine-making understanding and methodology. The result is almost an encyclopaedic cognition of wine-crafting!


Barbara & Merlot - BARBAROT!

Not that there is anything nurdy about Bárbara – look for example at the name of her super first wine, Barbarot. Then look at the back label (you must also visit – there’s a charming hand-drawn picture of a little girl holding onto a lovely dog, Golden Retriever actually, with whom we walked the vineyards, and whose name is Merlot. Yes, you guessed it – Barbarot is a combination of her name and that of her adoring dog!

 Barbarot is a limited production wine, the small quantities mean that at present it is only sold in the La Rioja region. However, with the acclaim it is receiving it surely cannot be long before distributors are forming an orderly queue (oh no, that’s a British thing!) outside her door asking for pallets of the wine to sell on. Watch this space and then watch your local wine shop!

 The vineyards that supply the grapes for Barbarot are located just about as far north that you can go in the DOCa La Rioja. Behind them the Cantabrian mountains (also drawn on the label) rise to touch the sky and in August the sun beats down (mercilessly, even at 6pm when we visited, causing Merlot to seek the shade of the neatly trimmed vines, uncharacteristically ignoring any possibility of a rabbit chase!). About an hour later, almost every night, relief from the grape-ripening sunshine arrives in the form of cooling breezes, covertly adding a touch of acidity to the finished wine.

 The limestone soil, similar to that of St. Emilion, plays host mostly to Tempranillo, Prince of La Rioja, but also to, you guessed it again, Merlot. Special dispensation has been given to the Palacios family to use a little of this, Consejo Regulador unapproved, variety in their wines. It’s addition is crucial.

 Merlot brings colour, aroma, freshness and finesse but also, from these specific vineyards, it arrives with a lower Ph. and this is significant. Sulphur, used in all wine-making, acts much more powerfully when used with a lower Ph. Therefore, using Merlot in the blend also means that less sulphur is needed, hence an altogether different flavour and nose.

 On the back label you will see (you can order via the website above by the way) that the wine is a DOCa La Rioja Cosecha wine. It’s a touch confusing – this is the prosaic, generic term that indicates that the wine is simply a young Rioja wine. As yet the Consejo Regulador hasn’t approved a more pragmatic and informative suggestion that wines such as Barbarot should be called, for example Cosecha Vino D’Autor.

 For that’s what Barbarot is – a wine containing the oenologist’s fingerprint as well as the terroir in and under which the Barbarot’s vines grow. It is an expression of all that’s good in La Rioja, all the Palacios know-how plus all the passion of its creator.

 12 months in American, Spanish and French oak and a further time in bottle have enabled this intense ruby coloured, well structured and balanced wine to mature into a sensual, silky, fruit driven Rioja with plum and damson jam notes and fresh acidity. It’s drinking perfectly now!