A pioneer of this region, Alvaro Palacios arrived in Gratallops in 1989, invited by a group of local producers and intent on extracting the very best from its unique schist and slate soils. The first wine made was the 1989 Finca Dofi and L’Ermita, one of Spain’s finest wines, followed in 1993. Cabernet and Syrah vines are planted in the richer soils of the valleys whilst old Garnacha and Samso (Carignan) are rooted in the free draining slate soils on the hillsides. These old vines receive more than 3,000 hours of sun a year, less than 380 mm annual rainfall, are cooled by an inland wind and the influence of the nearby sea. The sobriety of the Mediterranean climate leaves a decisive mark on the character of its wines. The mountainous topography of the area has ensured cultivation methods have remained largely unchanged and horses are still employed in the steep vineyards. The result is wines with a rounded structure and fresh mineral quality. The flagship wine, L’Ermita, comes from a small 1.6 ha vineyard with a north-east exposure and is farmed organically. The vines here are very old, some reaching up to 100 years.