The host of innovative winemakers operating within Spain has been a significant factor in the country’s success in recent years, hardy individuals unafraid to challenge centuries-old tradition, or preserve it where there is benefit in doing so.
Leading the pack has been the charismatic and talented Alvaro Palacios, a perfectionist with a boundless energy for forging new vinous pathways and inserting fingers into a variety of pies. He replanted old vineyards and got working with Garnacha, a grape he considers "the only variety that transforms heat and aridity into a beautiful, refreshing liquid."
Alvaro Palacios, Decanter's Man of the Year 2015 and the recipient of the 2016 Winemakers' Winemaker Award by the Institute of Masters of Wine and The Drinks Business; an award bestowed upon someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of winemaking. The winner is chosen by a panel of winemaking peers including all winemaking Masters of Wine as well as past winners of the prestigious award. Previous winners include Peter Sisseck of Dominio de Pingus (2011), Peter Gago of Penfolds (2012), Paul Draper of Ridge (2013), the late Anne-Claude Leflaive of Domaine Leflaive (2014) and Egon Müller from Egon Müller Scharzhof (2015).
Palacios, one of nine children (his parents were the owners of Palacios Remondo in Rioja), studied oenology in Bordeaux, while working at Chateau Petrus under Jean-Pierre Moueix. He could have returned to work for the family business in Rioja, but he chose instead to apply his winemaking knowledge to revive the largely abandoned, ancient vineyards of Priorat. He bought his first vineyard, Finca Dofi, in 1990 and in 1993 he identified a Garnacha vineyard on well-drained schist (planted between 1900 and 1940). Palacios named it L'Ermita and it's now regarded as the "crown jewel" of the Priorat property. In 1998, Palacios expanded to Bierzo, founding Descendientes de J. Palacios (named after Palacios' father) with his nephew.
His Finca Dofi and L'Ermita vineyards are farmed biodynamically, and all of the wines are bottled without filtration. While the family winery in Rioja and his interests in Bierzo demand his attention, his weekly excursion to Priorat to address the range marketed under his own name is clearly a homecoming.