A Spanish winemaker follows his heart

Christopher Waters is the editor of VINES and author of the weekly wine column, Waters & Wine, which is syndicated in Sun Media publications across Canada and online via the Canoe network. In addition to wine writing, Christopher
is a WSET-certified instructor and Wine Appreciation Co-ordinator at the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, Brock University where he teaches tasting classes about the history of the Ontario wine, classic wine styles and regions.

By Christopher Waters, Special to Postmedia Network

Alvaro Palacios, who ignited global interest in Spanish wine regions like Priorat and Bierzo, says great wines come from places with superior soil and climate as well as culture, tradition and history.

While that's the sort of European sentiment that incenses winemakers in new regions, the dynamic Palacios isn't interested in marketing. He simply is stating what drives him to create remarkable wines.

When Palacios came to Priorat, the southwestern region located 60 miles north of Barcelona, it was a forgotten place, he explains. “Rioja was the only region that anyone knew.”

But grape growing in Priorat dates back to the 12th Century when the Carthusian monks introduced winemaking to the region. Palacios says he felt a tug when he set eyes on the steep hills, dotted with abandoned terraces that were once home to grape vines.

“I fell in love with the place and I fell in love with a glass of wine,” says Palacios, who broke ranks with this family in 1989, which had been making wine for 350 years in the Rioja region.

Priorat became his calling. Ten years later, he established vineyards in Bierzo, located in the northwest, following the advice of a nephew who had his own spiritual awakening when he stopped in the region on his way home from a wedding.

When his father died in 2000, Palacios was summoned to take over the family winery. Today he controls three wineries in three distinct regions, which are all considered to be at the forefront of new Spanish wine.

Palacios believes that wine regions with monastic origins, such as is the case in Priorat and Bierzo as well as many other parts of Europe, have a noble past that elevates them.

That religious background is an important condition for making fine wine, he says. “The monks brought viticulture to a higher estate — they gave spirituality to winemaking.”

He and others, including winemaker René Barbier who worked for Palacios’ father in Rioja, purchased land and planted grapes. They quickly resurrected the reputation of the place with their early red wines, based on Grenache, Cabernet and Syrah.

Over the years, he has lost interest in international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The native Spanish grapes are the best fit for the landscape, he says. They yield the best wine. The monks proved that.

Wines of the Week:


Descendientes de J. Palacios 2010 Petalos

Bierzo, Spain

BC $29.99 (879221) | AB $29 | MB $28 | ON $22.95 (675207)

It’s only fitting that a wine with the name Petalos suggests a floral aroma akin to violets. That fragrance adds real charm to the juicy dark fruit and creamy texture of this flavourful, ripe wine.


Bodegas Palacios Remondo 2010 La Vendimia

Rioja, Spain

ON $14.95 (674564)

This juicy and refreshing wine shows the typical berry fruit aroma and flavour that define reds from Rioja. Its vibrant character makes it a great all-purpose wine that works well with most foods and settings.

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