Alvaro Palacios is a visionary. He is, therefore, also a dreamer. Dreamers go why others avoid. Dreamers are daring, brave people.
One of nine children born to the owners of Palacio Remondeo, a respected producer of Rioja, Alvaro studied winemaking in Bordeaux, including working under the company Jean-Pierre Moueix.
Alvaro Palacios credits his time there for much of his winemaking philosophy. At the time, Etablissements Jean-Pierre Moueix was responsible for the winemaking of Chateau Petrus. The winemaker of the properties of JP Moueix was Jean-Claude Berrouet who produced Petrus from 1964 until his retirement in 2008 (elder son Olivier assumed his mantle at the Pomerol great).
Instead of returning to the comfort and security of Bodegas Palacio Remondeo, Alvaro chased his own destiny. So it was that in the 1980s, he was drawn to several of the abandoned old vineyards of Priorat. Located only about 120 km south of Barcelona, French monks from Grenoble had arrived in Priorat in the 12thCentury.
Although they led a hermetic, reclusive life, the Carthusians loved wine. They planted vines and soon, the priory they established became a centre of wine production. Grenache is a southern Rhone variety which, in Spanish is called garnacha. As for carinena, that’s carignan, another southern Rhone standard. Priorat, the name refers to the prior (the Priorat appellation is entirely surrounded by the larger appellation of Montsant).
Priorat had been an important pre-phylloxera wine region. The vineyards are steep and the best are located at elevations reaching 700 metres above sea level. Most of the region’s vineyard is planted to a dark slate soil which also contains some iron. The slate is not unlike that found in the Mosel. The remaining 5% is high altitude vineyards on limestone and clay.
Summers are hot and dry while winter, although cold, is also dry. Rainfall, 400 to 450 mm a year, is low. Girona, just 150 km north of Priorat, enjoys twice as much precipitation.
Alvaro Palacios acquired his first Priorat vineyard, Finca Dofí, in 1990. In 1993, he located what is now regarded as the crown jewel in viticultural Priorat, a steep northeast-facing garnacha vineyard on that had been planted between 1900 and 1940. Alvaro Palacios named it L’Ermita for a small chapel, or hermitage, that is on top the hill. Les Terrasses is a more humble offering and is made from up to 80 vineyards of the Priorat appellation.
Life is a journey.
Alvaro Palacios returned to his family-owned Bodegas Palacio Remondeo in the Rioja Baja. He reduced production drastically by half. The top offering is Propiedad. Made almost entirely to granacha it has to be tasted to be believed. Palates used to classical Rioja would be entirely blindsided. Propiedad challenges pre-conceived ideas. It is, to be sure, a great wine.
Wines of the Day
Alvaro Palacios Priorat Les Terrasses 2017
The backbone of this Priorat was still prominent after being decanted for 2 hours. So too the dark deep blue fruit. Very vivacious. First window should be between 2023 and 2025. You should still decant between 1 ½ and 2 hours. Ageing potential to 2040. The 2017 vintage is 55% garnacha or grenache and 45% carinena or carignan.
Bodegas Palacio Remondeo Propiedad 2015
The wine reminds more of a top Chateauneuf-du-Pape, with a hint of Burgundy. Floral, ripe red fruit including strawberries, hint of figs and autumn leaves. Elegant, feminine, delicate succulence, and length. A revelation of a wine which all wine lovers and students must taste. The blend is 92% garnacha, and the balanced 12% to other Spanish varieties.