"If anyone embodies the promise and spirit of “The New Spain,” it’s Alvaro Palacios. His L’Ermita is widely considered—along with Peter Sisseck’s Dominio de Pingus—to be the most important Spanish wine of the modern era."
One of nine children born to the owners of Rioja’s respected Palacios Remondo, Alvaro studied enology in Bordeaux, while working under Jean-Pierre Moueix at Ch. Pétrus. He credits his tenure at Pétrus for much of his winemaking philosophy and for showing him “the importance of great wines.”
Alvaro could have returned to the security of his family’s domaine. But in the 1980s, he was drawn to the largely abandoned, ancient vineyards of Priorat. Located 60 miles from Barcelona, Priorat had been one of Spain’s important pre-Phylloxera wine regions. And with its unique terroir of steep hills and terraces, Alvaro believed he could make wines that rivaled the best of Europe.
He acquired his first vineyard, Finca Dofí, in 1990. Then, in 1993, he located what is now regarded as the crown jewel property in Priorat, a precipitous, northeast-facing Garnacha vineyard on well-drained schist that had been planted between 1900 and 1940. Alvaro named it L’Ermita for a small chapel, or hermitage, that sits atop the hill.
In 1995, the flow of critical praise for Alvaro’s L’Ermita began, and it hasn’t stopped. But Alvaro remained haunted by another remote area of great potential: Bierzo, in far Northwestern Spain. Bierzo, too, had all the ingredients to make great wine: incredibly steep hillside vineyards; distinctive terroirs; and, most importantly, ancient vineyards of Mencía, a unique red grape believed brought by French pilgrims during the Middle Ages.
So in 1998, Alvaro and his nephew, Ricardo Perez, created a tiny jewel of a domaine in the town of Corullón, on Bierzo’s western border. Descendientes de J. Palacios—named for Alvaro’s father—produces as many as seven different wines, depending on the year. And since the first vintage in 1999, Descendientes has proven that it is Spain’s closest kin to the great domaines of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or.