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Rafael Palacios, the elegance finds its place in Valdeorras

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

Valdeorras is one of the Spanish regions that has grown the most qualitatively in recent years thanks to the uniqueness of its white wines with the Godello variety as a protagonist. Valdeorras is the most continental denomination in Galicia (still under an Atlantic influence), being entirely in the province of Ourense, following the course of the river Sil.

There is a couple of reasons if this region is the cradle of iconic wines. First of all, the excessive homogenisation of commercial wines caused that a small part of the white wine drinkers have become supremely bored with the so called "a thousand wines and one flavor" effect. This homogenisation has pushed those drinkers into looking for wines with a bit more of identity, authenticity & character, thus falling into the arms of the Godellos from Valdeorras.

Second reason? The uniqueness of its landscape. Valdeorras is geographically embedded and also the orography of its vineyards its quite complex, which makes it very difficult for winemakers to grow its vineyard area. The vine growers who understand this factors do not sacrifice quality in order to overproduce their crops. Good winemakers do not seek to make wines that need to be consumed on the same year. Instead, they save a good part of their production to age it, holding into it a little more time in the bottle, achieving therefore much more personal and expressive Godellos. Let me remind you that Galician wines have the gift of improving in the bottle, something that does not happen in all the wine growing regions of Spain.

Valdeorras is an impressive and magical place. The best example of what we were writing about here is found in one of the most notorious white wine producers in Spain, Rafael Palacios. The surname Palacios is undoubtedly an institution in terms of crafting unique wines.

Rafael Palacios arrived in Valdeorras more than 20 years ago, very few if one takes into account that in the world of wine it takes a long time to turn a project into a myth. However he succeeded, beginning to be taken into consideration quite quickly, consequently helping to place this small appellation of origin in the world wine map.

Rafael masterfully interprets the essence of each vineyard, in order to bottle unique, elegant and representative wines. This path has led him to work in biodynamics as it is the path that bring you closer to understanding the identity of each vineyard.

Rafael also emphasises that it is important to understand that the varietal (now on everyone's lips) lived almost cornered in an area where its varietal identity was clearly nor understood, neither defined. Godello coexisted with many other varietals and, in fact, winegrowers were starting to replant with more manageable varieties, with faster maturation which gave bigger crops. Thanks to the work that many small winegrowers did since at end of the 20th century, putting emphasis on recovering the variety, Godello has been able to acquire some of the most impressive plots in the area. Although the most mature vineyards in the area tend to be of an average of 40 years, there are some almost anecdotal examples of around 100 years old, such as Rafael's Sorte Antiga vineyard.

Rafael understands that the white wine drinker experiments a sort of liquid pilgrimage which is a kind of sequence or natural evolution. At the beginning the fruit character of the white wines is sought after and enjoyed much more. A second phase would involve looking for a white with a bigger mouthfeel, a bit fatty and textural. Finally, those consumers who would continue in this evolutive path will end up looking for the terroir, the tension and precision of the most angular exponents (always speaking from balance and elegance). Rafael Palacios' Godellos move on that playing field.

Louro do Bolo 2020 already offers the frankness of smooth whites, with good acidity but with a certain volume. A Godello with identity, more in the fruit, it's blended with a 5% of another local variety: Treixadura. This is a sensational quality-price value wine, perfect to have on your cellar as a daily consumption option. Louro do Bolo is made from small parcels of Godello with an average age of 25 years, grown at over 600 metres above sea level. The must is fermented in 35 hectolitre French oak foudres, after which the wine is aged on lees for four months before bottling.

In the case of As Sortes 2019, it is confirmed as one of the great white wines within the Spanish wine scene. This is a mixture of 6 small "sortes" (over 40 y/o plots that were inherited by winegrowers in the past by ruffle, "sorte" in Galician), resulting in that duality that Rafael always seeks between fruit and freshness, between acidity and structure, shaped by the usage of an absolutely precise and elegant wood. Not in vain all their wines either ferment in 500L oak barrels, in a controlled way, obtaining wines designed to grow in the bottle, but recognisable from minute 1. Aged for 8 months prior bottling.

Why don't you try keeping some bottles in your cellar for a while to see what will happen?

Miguel Crunia

Director at Fìon


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