One Family – Three Wineries
The Palacios family are one of the most famous producers of wine across Spain, which is no mean feat when you think that around 70%-80% of wineries there are family owned and operated. The three wineries under the Palacio’s umbrella are:
Bodegas Palacios Remondo – Rioja Baja
Alvaro Palacios – Priorat
Descendientes de J. Palacios – Bierzo
D José Palacios Remondo was the patriarch of the family, and the head of the winery he created in 1945, Palacios Remondo in Alfaro, Rioja Baja. He had nine children of whom four are or were connected with wine: Antonio the second-born, Chelo (Consuelo, a girl) the third, Álvaro the seventh and Rafa (Rafael) the youngest. Antonio, Chelo and Álvaro started working for the family winery but Álvaro left in 1989 to start his own winery – Alvaro Palacios in Priorat. Rafa, the youngest, joined the family business, where he developed the white Placet, one of the icons of the new white riojas. Eventually Rafa left to focus on white wine, and created his own project in Valdeorras with the Godello grape (As Sortes, Louro do Bolo) from the 2004 vintage.
One of Chelo’s sons, Ricardo Perez Palacios was interested in wine and after stints and studying in France (as they all did), he teamed up with his uncle Álvaro to create the Bierzo winery – Descendientes De J. Palacios, named in honour of Álvaro’s dad and Ricardo’s granddad, who passed away in 2000 shortly after they started (the first vintage for Corullón and Bierzo wines was 1999). Antonio left Palacios Remondo (I believe he is now a teacher) and his daughter is showing signs of being interested in winemaking. Álvaro returned to Palacios Remondo to take over.
The current situation:
Alvaro is in Priorat, in Palacios Remondo in Rioja and in Bierzo with his nephew Ricardo
Ricardo is only in Bierzo
Rafael is only in Valdeorras
Whilst there were tensions during the 80’s and early 90’s, the passing of Jose Palacios in 2000 was a catalyst for peace within the family with Alvaro returning home from his highly successful project in Priorat, where he now acts as the head of the overall family business.
There isn’t a single philosophy that binds the style of the Palacios family together, with a strong philosophy that is based on working on small plots of lands or even single vineyards, with a heavy focus on Garnacha for red wine production.
Palacios Remondo – DOC Rioja
This is where it all started for the family when Jose Palacios decided to look to the future, and built his winery back in 1945 in Alfaro, Rioja Baja. By the 1980s the winery was thriving and Jose made the bold decision to only focus on the production of quality, bottled wines, something completely unheard of at the time for a producer located in Rioja Baja, considered to be an inferior location to the cooler Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa to the north. Over thirty years later, Jose was proved right but in the interim, there was a great deal of work to be done and it wasn’t an overnight success.
The winery itself is now in the capable hands of Alvaro Palacios who returned home from Priorat in 2000 after the passing of his father. In total, the area under vines is around 150 hectares with by far the most important plot of land being the Montesa vineyard, which is around 110 hectares by itself and provides the grapes for the La Montesa cuvee, the wineries benchmark product. This has been reinforced in recent years by the introduction of another Garnacha led blend, La Vendimia. Both are fresh, fruity styles of wine best enjoyed young and neither will break the bank.
The character of wines produced by Palacios Remondo is a complex, singular sum of attributes, built over time on a wine-growing tradition dating back more
than 2,000 years.
Eastern La Rioja: land of exchange
Over the centuries, merchants, pilgrims and settlers have passed through Alfaro. Nearby, on Yerga Mountain, the Cistercian order founded its first monastery
in Spain. Since days long past, these legacies have joined together in the development of wine culture.
Nature and wisdom
The vineyards that make up the grape-producing lands of La Montesa extend from the slopes of Yerga to Valtomelloso, Valviejo and Valfrío. Other areas
nearby such as Las Mugas and Valmira represent the estate’s most ancient and traditional viticulture with their rugged soil, scarce rainfall and aromas of Holm oak and thyme, pine and rosemary. These elements accompany an agriculture which is difficult but wise.
The Palacios history, intimately linked to the vine for some 150 years, reaches its culmination in José Palacios Remondo, who worked the vineyards with decisive vision and prepared today’s generation in the most prestigious schools of oenology and viticulture.
Today, the character of Palacios Remondo is indebted to this spirit. The estate’s wines, made from the best varieties of local grapes, launch themselves into the future with renewed passion.
The newest vines and an age-old alliance with three other families that contribute their product combine to create this young red wine which reclaims an old Rioja tradition.
“Second-year wine” is a classic concept used to explain that if the young wine is good, the following year it will be even better. This is what La Vendimia offers: a full-bodied, refreshing red wine, lively and versatile; stimulating, profound and with a certain tannic strength.
Its personality lies in its origins. Grenache and Tempranillo in equal parts give it that special scope, which is both flighty and well defined at the same time. Meanwhile, its brief stay inoak vats and casks assembles its body and
The La Montesa vineyard extends over 90 hectares of almost martial formation. This is an image of balance and purity, a classicist picture. A splendid fruit rises from this idea. La Montesa, the wine that restores the pride and the passion of the cellar and which reflects all the ingredients of a harmonious countryside: the chalky clay soil, the sediment of Yerga Mountain, the light and the surrounding vegetation.
And, of course, the Grenache. Planted in 1989, it is capable of expressing the journey of history, the traditional taste. Along with its allies, the Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo, it creates a Crianza made to touch the soul.
Some 8 hectares of the middle zone of the La Montesa vineyard are planted with Viura vines, the estate’s characteristic white variety. The fruit of its grapes is made in the winery following ancestral processes:
a nine-month fermentation in oak vats and casks which allows the development of the richness and refinement of an unctuous wine that is the pure expression of its place of origin.
Plácet reclaims the taste and tradition of the Rioja white: its dynamism, its volatile maturity and its class, perhaps its mystery too, and certainly its hint of fruits and white flowers. It is in short an intimate mirror of the high hills
of eastern Rioja.
Alvaro Palacios – DOQ Priorat
The first major project for the family outside of Rioja was created by Alvaro Palacios in 1989, one of the 5 visionaries now credited for the huge success of Priorat over the subsequent two decades. Alvaro met Rene Barbier (Clos Mogador), another son of a wine-making family, who was also looking to create something new and together with Daphne Glorian (Clos Erasmus), Jose Luiz Perez (Clos Martinet) and Carles Pastrana (Clos de l’Obac) they invested in land in Priorat. What happened next was nothing short of a meteoric rise for the region, spear-headed by this 5 producers and with a huge demand for the wines being produced, particularly within the US.
Alvaro’s philosophy of single-vineyard expressions, the vineyards themselves often very steep and inhospitable, combined with his marketing nous proved to be a huge success.
The spiritual tradition of the Priorat
The monks of the Carthusian Monastery of Escaladei, in the heart of the Priorat, developed the cultivation of vines over six centuries. Their presence remains
visible in the countryside to this day. Their legacy lives on in the strong wine-growing identity of this small mountainous region.
Gratallops, slate slopes
The steep vineyards of L’Ermita, Finca Dofí and other segments of the estate extend around the village of Gratallops. Their broken, open soils, made up of
a type of slate named llicorella, bring outstanding clarity to the wines.
The old Grenache and Samsó (Carignan) vines receive more than 3,000 hours of sun a year, less than 380 mm annual rainfall, an inland wind and the influence of the nearby sea. The sobriety of the Mediterranean climate leaves a decisive mark on the character of its wines.
The mountainous topography of the area has ensured cultivation methods have remained unchanged throughout time. We seek to reflect the elements
of nature and history with our horses, our own strength and a profound respect for the physical context and the most deeply-rooted agricultural practices.
The result is wines with a rounded structure and fresh mineral quality.
Velvety and mineral, voluptuous and concentrated, juice and fiber. A union of the extremes that is only possible in our most pure Mediterranean land, in the abrupt vineyards of Priort located on the verge of the ancient foot paths
once travelled by muleteers.
Camins del Priorat links these contrasts in a purple dress of poetic aromas and tastes of sensual humility. Made from grapes that hail from small vineyard blocks within the five most emblematic municipalities of the comarca; it is charming, caressing and dream-like.
There was a time when the steep vineyards of the Priorat combined austerity and delicacy. Today, Les Terrasses revives and brings this ancient flavour right up to date. Made from Samsó (Carignan) and Grenache grapes, many of them proceeding from old vines, this is a wine that recovers the traditional ways and gives birth to the quiet distinction of yesteryear, giving a privileged insight into the region’s complexity.
In Les Terrasses the produce of hundreds of small vineyards in seven different municipalities is brought together: small estates committed to presenting a faithful reflection of the historic Priorat.
The smaller the sector, the more finite the place and more singular the tradition of a territory, the better the identity of a wine. Over the past centuries, in every wine region in the world, the interaction of nature and tradition has continued to select vineyards that offer unique, mythological wines from our collective patrimony. They are inimitable jewels that combine the virtues of original character, penetrating roots, and tradition traversed by
valiance. Historically they have spoken about a wine from every village, and every village came to be known and praised for the quality of its wines.
Gratallops, the first of the new Spanish wines to be demarcated by its municipality, comes from a profound call: it is the will to rediscover the blend of sensations that the traditional Garnacha and Samsó viticulture produces at various sites located within this village. We emphasize the impression of the location and we call the wine by its name, by the place where it comes from, recommencing the most authentic and true values.
Descendientes De J Palacios – DO Bierzo
Bierzo is now a relatively well known region in Spain, but in 1999 it was flying well below the radar. Ricardo, the son of Chelo, visited the area and was taken with both the natural beauty and the potential to produce wine here from the native grape; Mencia. He approached his Uncle, Alvaro, who it turns out had spent time in the region in the 80’s trying to generate money for his upcoming winery in Priorat and had also noticed the potential of the vineyards. The joint venture was formed and Ricardo runs the day to day operations as well as being the head wine-maker.
The winery was named a year later, in honour of Jose Palacios on the year of his passing. It is focused around the village of Corullon and the vineyards are run on biodynamic principles, although it is worth noting that they are not certified with any organisation.
El Bierzo, cosmopolitan and mystical
Following the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, from the 11th century religious orders from all over Europe were established in the region. They brought
with them a new type of vine of Atlantic stock, which some time later would be known as Mencía.
Corullón, slate slopes
The estate’s vineyards are located in the municipality of Corullón, in the mountains to the west of Bierzo: some 30 hectares covering a constellation of minute
plots of old vines on steep, rocky slate soils.
Viticulture and nature
The wine-growing discipline pursues to combine two dimensions, organic and immaterial, in a search that constantly seeks definition and purity. This process
engages different actors: the soil, the plant, the agriculture and the environment ecosystem.
Fragrant, fresh, lively wines
The mineral factor and a climate with certain continental and Atlantic influences are reflected in the freshness, fragrance and liveliness of the wines, a mirror
image of the deep, historical wine-growing personality of the Corullón hills.
Central Bierzo is a sinuous basin of worn-down hills full of ferns and honeysuckle, blue lavender, bright yellow prickled broom and the riverside crops. Profuse vegetation cover that grows in young Tertiary soils, with a chalky-clay composition dotted with quartzite. Higher up, the surrounding
mountains stand out for their far more remote geology. On their hillocks and slopes the scattered oaks provide shelter to fields of rockrose, heather and oregano.
The sum of the Bierzo landscapes, their vegetation and diverse soils are condensed and asserted in Pétalos. Made entirely from old vines in Corullón and other municipalities, this is a young, fragrant wine which is able to express all the hues and shades of the region.
Alvaro Palacios – One of the Most Important Winemakers in Spain
Alvaro Palacios is one of Spain’s absolutely best winemakers and the producer of one of the most famous wines in Europe, the legendary L’Ermita wine, a wine that is now one of the most prized possession of Spain. With bodegas in Rioja, Priorat and Bierzo, Palacios is one of the defining personalities in Spanish wine today. In just 20 years, he has established a formidable reputation as a dynamic pioneer, generating global praise for his wines – in particular, those from the forgotten regions of Spain he has been so active in promoting.
Now in its 31st year, the Decanter Man of the Year prize has been awarded to some of the wine world’s best-known figures, including Angelo Gaja, Robert Mondavi and the late Serge Hochar, who was the first to claim the award.
It is down to his extreme focus and quest for perfection that Palacios plays such a significant role in the Spanish wine scene, writes Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW in the April issue of Decanter magazine – where the prize was announced. ‘His pioneering nature helped to rescue both Priorat and Bierzo from oblivion,’ writes Ballesteros.