According to Alvaro Palacios “wine remains an amazing, even captivating mystery as it distils the aromas of the site where it was grown into liquid”.
Given all the hymns of praise in the international media, it is quite a challenge to do justice to Alvaro Palacios, a man exploding with energy, spirit and warmth. He is without doubt one of Spain’s most prominent winemakers and, with L’Ermita, has created one of the few truly iconic wines from the country.
Since his start some thirty years ago, he has done pioneering work in Priorat, has driven his parents’ winery in Rioja to the peak of an elite group of estates there and repeated with his nephew Ricardo the same feat in Bierzo. He has rediscovered other forgotten wine regions, saved historic vineyards and continues to rave about autochthonous varieties like Garnacha in Priorat and Mencia in Bierzo.
“All that we need can be found in the vineyard itself,” he claims. “Our primary goal should always be to preserve the unique aromas and natural fruitiness of the grapes in the wine”. For him, vineyards are living creatures, full of spirit, power and myths. Moreover, he maintains that “the quality in the vineyard is more important than the cellar or even the vintner himself”. These words are more than worn platitudes. His humility is convincing.
After having spent several years in France in the late 1980s, he returned to Spain with lots of new ideas: the search for uncompromising quality; respect for tradition, grapes and soils; extreme reduction of yields; fermentation with natural yeasts in large vats; use of barriques only for maturation; adoption of the French classification in regional, village and single vineyard wines; biodynamic farming; ploughing the soil with the help of horses and mules. The list is long.
The Italian novelist Alberto Moravia once wrote that “if passion is missing, all is missing. Without passion we cannot achieve anything at all.” Being a man of pure passion, Alvaro Palacios has achieved many of his goals. Not surprisingly, the international wine magazine Decanter designated him their Man of the Year in 2015.