A man walks alone among ancient stones, vines, fruit trees, and vegetation. Away from the mundane noise, he can hear the symphony of nature in all its splendor. The sound of water, the source of life, reaches his ears. But also the sound of the wind rustling the leaves. One by one, you walk through every corner of an estate where magnificent stone buildings blend with hectares of vineyards. He can feel the weight of history with every step he takes. He is reminded of «memories of thinkers and poets who had been able to listen to the hidden language»1 of places like this: a pazo surrounded by an estate full of secrets.
The man is not just any man. He is César Portela, one of the architects who have thought and designed modern Galicia. The reason why he is in this special place is not either. Condes de Albarei has entrusted him with a mission as complex as it is exciting: to design the integral rehabilitation project of Pazo Baión, to turn this centenary property into an avant-garde winery, and a prestigious wine tourism space. It is 2008 and Portela has to transfer to stone and earth the ambitious and exciting idea of Condes de Albarei: to take Pazo Baión from yesterday to tomorrow.
Condes de Albarei’s bet: The future belongs to the brave ones
The old Casa de Fontán is a historic corner of Galicia. A property that has been an illustrious witness to the passage of time and the transformation of Galician society and economy. Its first centuries of life are linked to the nobility. Important families succeeded one another at the head of the property, as is well illustrated by the four heraldic coats of arms carved in the stone of the pazo.
With the decline of the nobility, the estate and its buildings ended up in the hands of a visionary Indian, Adolfo Fojo, who, on his return from America, decided to turn Pazo Baión into a powerful dairy farm. With his death, the project was passed first to his heirs and then to different companies.
Thus, when the Condes de Albarei winery took over the reins of the property in 2008, it faced a major challenge: to restore the lost luster and take Pazo Baión from yesterday to tomorrow.
From the beginning, this arduous task was conceived as a choral work. The 400 families that form part of Condes de Albarei were committed to making the rehabilitation of all the spaces very special.
The idea was not only to start up a winery focused on the production of single-estate Albariños but also to recover a unique natural and architectural environment for the enjoyment of everyone who comes to the estate.
Today, 14 years later, we can testify that the commitment to take Pazo Baión from yesterday to tomorrow has been a success. But to predict it in 2008 it was necessary to have the vision and be willing to invest a great deal of effort.
César Portela’s project: Functionality and aesthetics for combining uses
Let’s go back to César Portela. We find him sitting under an orange tree, enraptured by the sound of the water and the memories of past thinkers who, in their day, were also conquered by the fascinating power of the pazos. Great writers were able to «transmit to us that deep sense of freedom and beauty» that emanates from magical places like Pazo Baión.
Portela, the winner of the National Architecture Prize in 1999, was clear, from the beginning, that he had to approach the work as a craftsman who recovers and rehabilitates the heritage, but not renounce introducing innovations that optimize the functionality of the spaces.
Based on this mantra, Portela’s project made a clear commitment to integration. Of the spaces linked to winemaking, with those destined for the enjoyment of visitors. Of nature with the buildings. Of functionality with aesthetics. Of recovered heritage with the most cutting-edge technological advances and the most avant-garde architectural ideas. And of the past with the future. Portela and his team thought and used architecture to take Pazo Baión from yesterday to tomorrow.
The result, it is clear to see, is a fascinating place that one might think is unreal if one were not to experience it through all its senses. A property was awarded the title of Best Wine Tourism Corner of Spain in 2016 and that has delighted the thousands of visitors who have gone inside to discover all its secrets.
Architecture and rehabilitation as tools at the service of award-winning winemaking, productivity, and economic efficiency, but also the construction of indelible experiences for the enjoyment and enjoyment of people who tour a historic corner of Galicia as Pazo Baión.
The pazo: Opening the manor house to its surroundings
The renovation of the property integrated the different spaces that make up an immense estate, bringing them into dialogue with each other and giving them a common narrative. As we cross the gate of Pazo Baión, our attention is inevitably drawn to the splendorous towers that emerge from the old manor house. Although the pazo is not the largest building on the property, its beauty is such that it takes over our view.
The rooms that once hosted noblemen, now make up a beautiful and comfortable hotel.
In addition to cleaning and rehabilitating the stone and the different spaces of the pazo, Portela proposed the incorporation of beautiful elements to modernize the building and, at the same time, open it to the outside. New lamps, galleries, gazebos, and skylights have transformed the pazo forever, bathing it with exterior light during the day. And make it shine at night, turning it into a splendorous stone firefly.
Thanks to this work, the pazo has become even more integrated with the natural environment that surrounds it. Both from the outside and the inside. The splendid galleries have embellished the rooms to the maximum, making them an ideal place to photograph the preparation of the bride and groom for a superb wedding in Galicia. And the viewpoints allow us to enjoy from inside some of the best views of the estate in particular and the entire valley of Salnés in general.
An authentic visual delicatessen, which we can enjoy thanks to the journey that Pazo Baión has made from yesterday to tomorrow.
Paths, squares, and sculptures: Humanizing, enhancing, and communicating the estate
As we said before, one of the main objectives of the project was to integrate the multiple corners that make up the property. To this end, it was essential to improve communication throughout the estate. Hence, spaces were humanized, new squares were laid out and paved, and multiple paths were prepared. In such a way that the visitor can move like a fish in water and walk through every inch of the land.
In addition, new walls, ponds, tables, and benches were established to facilitate the enjoyment of every corner and the possibility of relaxing in all of them.
As if this were not enough, the estate was embellished with beautiful gardens, and sculptures were installed to highlight the characteristics and history of the property. Artistic motifs enrich a dream place and blend in with nature to create spectacular landscapes in which to relax with a glass of wine or to celebrate the most romantic wedding in Galicia.
The winery: From the dairy dream to the success of the single-estate albariños
If the pazo is the most iconic space of the property, the winery is the true nerve center of Pazo Baión. The monumental cowshed built by the indiano Adolfo Fojo Silva at the beginning of the 20th century now houses the winery’s innovative facilities, from the tank room to the bottling area. But also other rooms such as meeting rooms, a store and a cafeteria.
In such a way that this superb building combines in its interior the gold work linked to the elaboration of single-estate Albariños, with the commitment to open the estate to all the people who wish to enjoy nature, history, and the best wines.
Rehabilitating the immense cowshed and building multiple spaces inside it and, in the case of the winery facilities, so technically and technologically demanding was a complex and exciting challenge. From Portela’s project to its execution, many people gave their best to combine scrupulous respect for the heritage with the incorporation of modern and highly functional facilities.
Of all the rooms in the old dairy, the tank room stands out for the immensity of its size and height, and for how impressive it is to see huge tanks between beautiful stone pillars. People and technology are at the service of the recovery of history and the production of Albariños made solely and exclusively from grapes harvested on the estate.
The tasting room: Unearthing a treasure
Although it is also part of the old cowshed, we wanted to reserve a special place for the tasting room. This sensational space stands out, above all, for its towering pillars, which endow it with elegance and grandeur that leaves visitors open-mouthed. Its open design takes us back to very important buildings in our history and culture: churches. In such a way we find ourselves in front of an authentic cathedral of wine tasting.
A fully conditioned space to enjoy the tasting of the best Albariño wines, let yourself be rocked by their aromas, and savor their flavors. A place that, until the complete renovation, was a buried treasure.
When the project was launched, the earth that covered the room was emptied and the pillars were freed, leaving them in sight and turning an abandoned room into a corner of dreams.
There are many tasting rooms in the world, but few with the history and beauty of Pazo Baión. A room in which every detail is taken care of to the millimeter and in which the heritage is enhanced by designer furniture and warm and pleasant lighting.
While enjoying a glass of Albariño, it is easy to see how Pazo Baión has leaped from yesterday to tomorrow, making its way as a benchmark in the field of wine tourism.
The inner courtyard: A new life for the heart of the property
The inner courtyard is also part of the old cowshed. What was once a moat where manure was accumulated to ensure that the fruits of nature flourished strong, is now a courtyard of ravishing beauty.
Portela’s design transfers certain characteristics of traditional Andalusian patios to Galician architecture and nature. A place that has a small pond governed by a beautiful sculpture and precious floral elements. A corner of Pazo Baión is also multifunctional.
During the grape harvest, it becomes the epicenter of the activity of the professionals of Pazo Baión. The rest of the year, it hosts events as special as a wedding and serves as the perfect setting for visitors to take a break and enjoy the architecture and nature with a glass of wine in hand.
The event hall and the pond: We are water
If the old cowshed now houses, among other things, the facilities dedicated to winemaking and storage, what was once the winery has been converted into a spacious and elegant hall for events.
Thus, this design space is designed to enhance the ability of Pazo Baión to open to the outside and host events of all kinds.
As if this were not enough, there is a beautiful pond nearby, the umpteenth demonstration of the importance of water on the estate, both for the Baión irrigation, as well as for the mine where the water is born and the beautiful route it takes.
After all, both people and wines are composed, for the most part, of water. A place like Pazo Baión, which celebrates the importance of both, had to give it prominence.
The dovecote: The great is hidden inside
When you go to Rome, the number of monuments you can visit is exorbitant. Some of them are imposing from the outside, others, on the other hand, display all their charms once the visitor enters. This is the case in the Pantheon of Agrippa. From the outside, it is not the most beautiful place in Rome, but inside it is overwhelming. The light that falls from the very sky is very impressive.
The same happens with the dovecote of Pazo Baión, a centenary construction that from the outside looks flirtatious, but inside it is impressive thanks to the light that falls from its roof and its spectacular walls, composed of hundreds of cells that, in its day, housed birds.
After the respectful recovery work carried out since Condes de Albarei has been managing the estate, the dovecote has been transformed into a beautiful tasting room. The color of our single-estate Albariños is even more spectacular in this unique setting. Surrounded by its stones carved centuries ago and with a refreshing Albariño in hand, we can enjoy the best of yesterday and the most exciting of tomorrow.
The hórreo: Reconstructing the puzzle of time
In his long walks around the estate, César Portela was tracing precise cartography of all the pieces of the puzzle of Pazo Baión. He cataloged all its elements and imagined new uses, subtle and effective ways of preserving the heritage, injecting it with modernity and innovation. To take it from yesterday to tomorrow.
If there was an elusive element, it was, of course, the hórreo. Few buildings are more iconic in Galicia than hórreos. However, the task of rehabilitating them becomes more difficult if we have to trace, first of all, each of its parts.
The hórreo of Pazo Baión was not unified but had been scattered throughout the length and breadth of the estate. The rehabilitation project brought back together each of its elements healed the wounds of time and resituated this wonderful traditional building in an enclave where the hórreo could shine in all its splendor.
A hórreo is scattered in the infinity of an estate. A puzzle within a puzzle. A sort of architectural matryoshka.
Pazo Baión: A global idea for a total experience
All these elements and many others, such as the palm grove or the forge, and, of course, the vineyards and landscaped areas make up a whole. An entity that we know as Pazo Baión, a place in the world where nature and history (con)merge. A historic corner of Galicia where we can appreciate all that we have inherited from the past, but also enjoy all the functionalities of the present and appreciate the innovations that lead us into the future. A factory where thousands of bottles of wine are made, which can be toured from end to end and which is designed to be as efficient as it is enjoyable.
Both Condes de Albarei and Portela decided to make the most of every meter of a unique property. Therefore, combining the modernization of winemaking processes with respect for the heritage and the creation of spaces to be experienced, walked through, and enjoyed was and continues to be the leitmotiv of the Pazo Baión project.
All this has enabled the estate to become a benchmark for wine tourism in the Rías Baixas in particular and throughout Spain in general. Through its landscapes and buildings, a person can follow the entire process of elaboration of the winery’s single-estate Albariños. From the water that irrigates the land, to the glass that waters the soul. Passing through the vines, the grapes, and their processing. A total experience, which is magnified by the stories told by the stones of Pazo Baión and by the attention to detail that was put into the design of all the rooms.
Traveling from yesterday to tomorrow
From all that we have been glossing in this article, we can draw a highly accurate conclusion: Pazo Baión is inexhaustible. César Portela, who spent long days touring it, excited and enraptured, admits that even today he has not been able to see the estate from all its perspectives. No matter how many times you go, you will never be able to finish seeing the whole estate. You will always find a new detail.
Part of the fascination that Pazo Baión produces in us comes from an inescapable fact: we are unable to capture with our eyes the totality of the beautiful views it offers us. To smell with our sense of smell, every one of the aromas of its splendorous nature. To listen with our ears, to all the noises produced by birds and leaves. To detect every centiliter of water that moves through the farm. Pazo Baión is infinite.
1 César Portela (2020). Wine, landscape and architecture. In Condes de Albarei: Pazo Baión, Best Wine Tourism Corner of Spain 2016.