Top Spanish winemaker embraces direct-to-consumer selling

Is the pandemic pushing Spanish wineries in new directions? James Lawrence looks at the new initiative from Spanish icon winemaker Alvaro Palacios.

Alvaro Palacios has launched a new sales site
Alvaro Palacios has launched a new sales site

Spanish winemaker Alvaro Palacios has launched an online sales platform, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The website contains links to a range of Palacios’ wines, in addition to information on the winemaker’s viticultural enterprises in Rioja, Priorat and Bierzo.

Aficionados of Palacios can now purchase directly the 2018 vintage of Pétalos, the white Rioja Placet 2018, and his red Rioja La Montesa 2017 vintage. Wines from Priorat, including Camins 2018, are also available. 

“We created the website to enable collaboration with the medical research organisation #YoMeCorono. We felt a great admiration for Dr Bonaventura Clotet, one of the world leaders in HIV research. He is now leading research into finding an effective treatment for Covid-19,” explained Alvaro Palacios. “We wanted to donate some funds to help the project.”

The website pledges to donate 35% of the bottle sale price to the organisation #YoMeCorono. However, Palacios has not made his most prestigious labels available, from the very expensive L’Ermita, which is made in tiny quantities, to the Finca Dofi, made in Priorat. Delivery is currently only available within Spain.

Historically, direct sales from wine producers to consumers have accounted for a tiny percentage of the overall Spanish wine market. The tourism sector also remains underdeveloped, when compared to the US, and cellar door sales mostly negligible. 

Yet even before Covid-19 struck, a growing firmament of Spanish wineries had started to embrace cellar door and DtC sales.

“A few years ago, we created an online portal,” said Carmen Bielsa, global digital & retail director, Ramon Bilbao Rioja. “During this period, sales grew by 1,700% versus last year in April 2019. Obviously these are modest figures in total sales, but it shows how important online sales are now in Spain.”

Covid-19 is likely to encourage more Spanish producers to follow Palacios’ example. Although the Spanish hospitality sector has partially reopened, many business owners fear that social distancing restrictions will spell higher prices and commercial failure. 

The pandemic may inadvertently spark a revolution in how the Spanish purchase wine. 

James Lawrence


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