After leaving his family’s estate in Rioja in 2004, Rafael Palacios settled in the Val do Bibei, a rugged, weathered and off the beaten path sub-zone of Valdeorras, to begin his own independent project. Bordering Ribera Sacra, the Vil do Bibei is a tortured landscape of granitic, terraced slopes with scattered vineyard plots that are hard to reach and hard to plot. Whereas most of the rest of the DO is at lower elevation with limestone and schist soils, Rafa works exclusively with Godello planted on granitic soils at much higher elevations – so high that the late-spring snow presents a danger to his already low yields. Locally these plots are known as sorte, a word in the local dialect that refers to the practice of drawing lots to determine inheritance. Rafa has assembled 22.5 hectares of vines divided among 26 sorte. The oldest vines – some nearing a century in age – are head pruned, while the younger vines on more gentle slopes are trellised. The farming is minimalist since the sub-zone is graced with draining soils and warm, dry summers, and all of the vineyard work is done by hand, including the harvesting. Rafa makes four cuvees from the sandy, granitic soils of the Val do Bibei – O Bolo, Louro, As Sortes and Sorte O Soro – all of which showcase his talent in creating some of the most exciting white wine in Spain.