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Álvaro Palacios | Priorat, Spain

Vineyards of Gratallops in the Priorat Wine Region of Spain

Álvaro Palacios, whose family owns the prestigious Rioja Bodega, Palacios Remondo, spent 2 years working under Château Pétrus winemaker Jean-Pierre Moueix before setting up on his own in the Priorat wine region of Spain in 1989. Invited by a group of local producers, when he arrived in Gratallops, he set out to produce world-class wines by using fruit from extremely low-yielding old vines and by applying ultra-modern winemaking techniques.

The first wine he made was the 1989 Finca Dofi and then L’Ermita, one of Spain’s finest wines (and certainly most expensive), followed in 1993. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah vines are planted in the richer soils of the valleys whilst old Garnacha and Samsó (Carignan) are rooted in the free draining slate soils on the hillsides. These old vines receive more than 3,000 hours of sun a year, less than 380 mm annual rainfall, are cooled by 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 largely unchanged and horses are still employed in the steep vineyards. The result is wines with a rounded structure and fresh mineral quality. The flagship wine, L’Ermita, comes from a small 1.6 ha vineyard with a north-east exposure and is farmed organically. The vines here are very old, some reaching up to 100 years.

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