He has been credited with putting Spain on the fine wine map, transforming the fortunes of Priorat and Bierzo, and is now directing his focus on Rioja Baja, which is why Decanter has awarded Alvaro Palacios the Man of the Year title for 2015.
Alvaro Palacios. Credit: David Ramos
Alvaro Palacios follows on from the Rhone-based Perrin brothers, of Chateau Beaucastel, who won last year.
Now in its 31st year, the Decanter Man of the Year prize has been awarded to some of the wine world’s best-known figures, including Angelo Gaja, Robert Mondavi and the late Serge Hochar, who was the first to claim the award.
It is down to his extreme focus and quest for perfection that Palacios plays such a significant role in the Spanish wine scene, writes Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW in the newly released April issue of Decanter magazine – where the prize was announced. ‘His pioneering nature helped to rescue both Priorat and Bierzo from oblivion,’ writes Ballesteros.
Born the seventh of nine children, Palacios was part of the fifth generation of his family in the wine business, his father having founded Bodegas Palacios Remondo in 1948. Whilst studying oenology at the University of Bordeaux, he had stints of working at both Petrus in Bordeaux and Stags Leap in California, where he said the attention to detail changed his vision of wine forever.
Palacios used his instinct in buying abandoned plots of land in which he spotted great potential, selling barrels in his spare time to make a living, and in 1993 bought the old-wine L’Ermita vineyard – which fetched top scores and impressive prices from that year.
After the success in Priorat, his nephew Ricardo encouraged him to turn his attention to the vines at Bierzo, where they set up business in 1999 and the wines gained international acclaim. Now Palacios is altering the viticultural landscape in his Rioja Baja vineyards, and creating a new, distinctive style – but the release date and price for the new wine is yet to be announced.