Rafael Palacios, As Sortes 2011 Valdeorras


From €24.59, £29.75, 50 Swiss francs, 375 Swedish krone

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I am crazy about the nobility of the Godello grape, so recently saved from extinction in Galicia, north-west Spain, as you can read in Glamorous Godellos. I recently had the chance to see the full range of Godellos made in Valdeorras by Rafael Palacios, including still-vibrant wines back to 2005, as reported in The man with the Godello gleam.

Palacios, younger brother of Alvaro P of Priorat, was enthusing aboutAs_Sortes the quality of the current, 2011, vintage and they were certainly looking good at this tasting in London in February, even if very embryonic at the top end. Above Bolo and Louro de Bolo, As Sortes is Palacios' top wine – apart from his very limited, recently released, single-vineyard bottling Sorte o Soro. (Sorte is the local name for a lot plucked out of a hat and is apparently a reference to how the tiny vineyards in this corner of the world are shared out among family members.)

Last weekend at Ballymaloe I had a chance to taste Rafael Palacios, As Sortes 2011 Valdeorras again, thanks to the organiser of my tasting there sommelier Colm McCan, and I was even more impressed. It is not cheap but I think it can easily hold its own against white burgundies selling at the same price. It had the structure and precision of a particularly fine Puligny-Montrachet but has its own very distinctive mountainous and, I'm afraid, mineral character. As well it might for it was grown on stone rather than soil, to judge from the pictures, on decomposed granite at 620 to 780 m above sea level. Old Godello vines are very rare since the variety had to be nursed back to proliferation as recently as the 1980s, but Palacios claims that the vines that provide this stunning wine are between 35 and 92 years old.

I don't think this wine is anywhere near its peak. If I wanted to serve it now, I would decant it a couple of hours in advance, but ideally it should be kept at least until the end of this decade when, to judge from that 2005 version, it should be unfurling majestically. At Ballymaloe we tasted it immediately after the exceptionally well-made Hatzidikis Assyrtiko 2012 Santorini, which showed just how refined and tense the Galician wine is.

A total of 22,500 bottles were filled, so only a few thousand cases, but according to wine-searcher.com it is available not just in Spain, the UK, Switzerland and Sweden (where it is relatively expensive) but also in Germany, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands. Buy soon as this truly is an exceptional vintage – and by all accounts decidedly superior to the 2010, the vintage currently available in the US. If you are an American lover of precise dry whites with excellent extract and ageing potential, put your name down for the 2011 vintage this minute.

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