Palacios to make Spain’s ‘best’ white

Rafael Palacios is on a mission to make the “best” white wine in Spain that will change perceptions in the country about the potential of its whites.

Speaking to the drinks business during a recent visit to his estate in Valdeorras (the valley of gold), in the province of Ourense in northwest Spain, Palacios said:

“My aim is to make the best white wines in Spain. Anne-Claude Leflaive once told me my single vineyard Godello tasted like her Puligny-Montrachet, but I haven’t set out to make Burgundy, I want to make distinctly Spanish wines.

“I want my wines to earn their place on the table at special occasions like Christmas. It should be a top white for top moments.

“I’m striving to make the best expression possible of Godello. Unfortunately, a lot of Spanish people don’t believe in the potential of our country’s white wines.”

Born to a winemaking family in Rioja Baja, Palacios is the youngest of nine children. His older brother is Priorat pioneer Alvaro Palacios.

“I’ve always been passionate about white wines. I started working for my family winery in Rioja in 1994 with the aim of making a great white from Viura. After a few years I realised I wasn’t succeeding and would have to make it elsewhere.

“I tried a Godello in 1998 and realised my future lay with the variety so I started making it in Valdeorras in 2004. At the time I had big expectations on my shoulders.

“I’m not a flying winemaker. I have no interest in making red wine or making a white back home in Rioja,” he said.

Top drop Sorte o Soro

Top drop, the single vineyard Sorte o Soro

Palacios chose to make Godello in Valdeorras over Albariño in Rías Baixas as he believes Godello has the greater potential to produce fine wines.

Godello isn’t an aromatic grape but it has high acidity giving it a longer life in the bottle. Godello from Valdeorras has an Atlantic elegance about it, along with character and depth,” he told db.

“We grow Godello high and dry on pure granite soils on the limit of maturation, which leads to wines with a mineral character and salty element,” he added.

Palacios, who owns 48 plots across 23 hectares in Valdeorras drew comparisons of the region’s geography with Burgundy as it is made up of hundreds of tiny plots owned by different people.

Working with Indigo Wines in the UK, Palacios sells out his 250,000-bottle annual production within six months of going on sale.

The jewel in his crown is the 0.5-hectare Sorte o Soro single vineyard planted with 47-year-old Godello vines on quartz-rich soil – his first acquisition in the region. Just under 3,000 bottles of Sorte o Soro are made each year.

“When I sealed the deal on the vineyard in 2004 I cried with joy,” he said. Palacios makes four Godellos that offer notes of fennel, stone fruit, white fruit and citrus: Bolo, Louro, As Sortes and the single vineyard Sorte o Soro.

“As you progress through the collection you lose a bit of the identity of the place due to the oak, but you gain in texture, depth and expression,” he explained.

He recently bought a parcel of old vine Palomino in Valdeorras and is working with Sherry experts Equipo Navazos on a non-fortified Palomino aged under flor.

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