Alvaro Palacios is the ambitious, forward-thinking winemaker behind the success of Palacios Remondo. Here, we look at how he breathed new life into the family estate
Back in the 1980s, when Spain was still redefining itself after the long Franco years, a handful of ambitious winemakers were turning their attention to its viticultural history, and to reversing the effects of post-war, chemical-based farming.
Alvaro Palacios had taken his leave from his family bodega in Rioja, Palacios Remondo, to complete the wine-makers’ grand tour. He studied at Bordeaux University, and earned his spurs with such luminaries as Christian Moueix. When he returned to Spain, Alvaro wanted to cut his own path rather than going straight into the family business. He was looking for something special, the sort of vineyard you stand in and can feel its energy around you. In Priorat – a rugged region of Catalunya – he found the answer: neglected Garnacha vines with extraordinary potential.
Unlocking Priorat's potential
Alvaro’s approach to unlocking the potential of these vines was extremely sensitive, and it started with the soil. Over time, he began to recover the vineyard’s health, and restore balance in the ecosystem. The wines he was producing were a sensation, and his reputation began to grow.
In 1999, Alvaro and his nephew Ricardo embarked on another revolutionary project in the north-western region of Bierzo. It was another huge success, and Ricardo has since gone on to become one of Spain’s most respected authorities on biodynamic viticulture.
Alvaro's return home
Alvaro made his return to the family estate, Palacios Remondo, when his father José passed away in 2000. Having built his reputation making the finest Garnachas in the world, he could see the potential of the family’s 100ha vineyard “La Montesa”.
The vineyard was in need of restoration following years of damaging chemical-based practices. In the post-war period, spraying to control everything had been the norm (in fact, it was accepted as best practice). At Palacios Remondo, decades of spraying had damaged the microbial life in the soil. Alvaro needed to restore the balance of bacteria, funghi and fauna which are so essential for aerating the soil, creating nutrients and locking away CO2. For him, this was the baseline for a holistic ecosystem; the very building blocks of success.
The start of organics
Alvaro began to turn the vineyards around, and embarked on a programme to convert to organic viticulture. He also put an end to irrigation, saving scarce water and dramatically reducing yields. Today all 100ha of the La Montesa vineyard are certified organic, and the wine is regarded as one of the best examples of Rioja’s modern expression.
Garnacha makes up 90-95% of the blend, depending on the year, resulting in a wine that’s full of abundant, silky fruit, with Alvaro’s trademark balance of power and finesse.
In taking great care of the earth, and the ecosystem, Alvaro and his team have brought harmony back to the vineyard and the wines. His influence in Spain has soared in the three decades since he arrived in Priorat, and yet there remains the sense that the best is still to come.
Palacios Remondo’s wines are a part of our Spotlight on sustainability offer