If anyone embodies the promise and spirit of “The New Spain,” it is Alvaro Palacios. His L’Ermita is widely considered—along with Peter Sisseck’s Dominio de Pingus— to be the most important Spanish wine in a generation.
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. Instead, he was drawn to remote and wildly beautiful Priorat, 60 miles from Barcelona, which had been one of Spain’s important pre-Phylloxera wine regions. With its unique terroir of steep hills and terraces Alvaro believed that here he could make a wine that was like a cross between Pétrus and Grange.
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 for a small chapel, or hermitage, that sits atop the hill - L'Ermita.
Alvaro Palacios comes from a prestigious wine family, from La Rioja. He could have secured a prime position in the family winery, the world famous Palacios Remondo. However, being the dynamic visionary that he is, he decided to go out in the wine world and make his own way. He studied enology in Bordeaux and had the enviable job of working under Pomerol superstar Châteaus Pétrus winemaker Jean Pierre Moueix. When he returned to Spain, he founded his own winery in 1989 in the Mediterranean wine region of Priorat, south of Barcelona in Tarragona. Together with respected winemaker René Barbier and a few others, they ventured on what has been called the “Gratallops Project”, named after the scenic Priorat village where the wines are made. The group bought the vineyards together and shared vinification facilities until they each set up their own estates. His aim, it is widely said, was to make a wine somewhere in between Ch. Pétrus and Grange. That is a tough order to fill, but he has achieved phenomenal praise for his three wines, Finca Dofí, L’Ermita, and Les Terrasses. Alvaro, along with Peter Sisseck at Pingus in Ribera del Duero and Telmo Rodriguez in Toro wines, is considered to be the “new generation” of Spanish winemakers. His wines have won him cult status, and are absolutely salivated about in the wine mags. John Radford, the Spanish wine specialist, says: “To sum up: Les Terrasses is excellent, Finca Dofí is outstanding and L’Ermita is unbelievable”.