Five centuries of life go a long way. The Pazo Baión history is, in a way, also the history of Galicia. A fascinating journey with milestones that define the dimension of the project
Some stories deserve to be told. For what they tell about us. For how well they explain how we got here. The history of Pazo Baión is, in a way, also the story of Galicia. A story that speaks of privileges and nobles, but also of collective efforts and enduring legacies.
In our case, a very valuable one, which has survived to the present day and has become a way of understanding viticulture that transcends borders.
But in every good story, there are milestones. Moments mark a turning point and deserve a pause because, in their way, they help us to understand the present. Who knows if they will also help us understand the future.
In the history of Pazo Baión, so long, so intense, there is a multitude of dates that would be worth pausing over. But we have chosen four of them. Because of their imprint in tracing the past, because of their importance in explaining the present.
The book Pazo Baión, The Best Wine Tourism Spot in Spain 2016, is a gem that has served as the basis for this article.
A marvelous documentary in which the work of the historian Xosé Fortes has allowed us to trace a detailed and meticulous journey through the history of the property. More than 30 hectares of surface transformed today into one of the great wineries of Rías Baixas and a temple of wine tourism in the North of Spain.
So let’s take a look at these four essential dates…
1580 – The noble roots of Pazo Baión
The Pazo Baión that we know today is the heir to the Casa de Fontán, a powerful estate that was finally established around 1580. At that time, under the ownership of Don Alonso Sarmiento.
It was this noble family that built the pazo, «adorned with painted coats of arms with the coats of arms of the Sarmiento, Figueroa, Valladares, Caamaño and other lineages», Fortes points out.
They were also the ones who planted white grape vineyards, a singularity at the time since in the 15th and 16th centuries red grape plantations were more common in O Salnés.
There are, however, documentary traces that accredit a winemaking tradition in the House of Fontán that predates its charter of nobility. Devotion to the world of wine that has survived to the present day and has become Pazo Baión’s hallmark.
Be that as it may, the importance of this lineage in the history of Pazo Baión also speaks of time. And this is so because for more than 3 centuries there was a member of the Sarmiento family linked to the property of the entailed estate.
Some Sarmiento nobleman piloting the destiny of a pazo that, over the centuries, would become a sort of mecca for wine tourism in the Rías Baixas.
1800 – The last nobles of the House of Fontán
Xosé Fortes‘ exhaustive research dates a period from 1800 onwards that would mark a change of direction. It was with the marriage between Pastora Varela Sarmiento Santiso and Juan Nepomuceno Ozores Silva Sequeiros: the Counts of Priegue.
Nepomuceno, a career military man who would become a general in the War of Independence, and his descendants took control of the House of Fontán during the 19th century and until the first two decades of the 20th century.
It was, in a way, the decline of an era. Centuries of history in which what we know today as Pazo Baión was under the ownership of the Galician noble families.
The Counts of Priegue maintained until the beginning of the last century the farm that for centuries had been one of the driving forces of the parish’s economy.
In a document recovered by Fortes, it is described as follows: «The farm called Fontán is annexed to this house [the manor house]. It is used for farming, vineyards with vines, grass, stubble, oak, and chestnut trees […]».
1915 – The resurgence under the command of Adolfo Fojo Silva
122,000 pesetas. That is the price Adolfo Fojo Silva paid in 1915 for the House of Fontán and eleven other estates. Namely, the more than 30 hectares of land that today make up this marvel called Pazo Baión.
Fojo Silva was an indiano born in Caldas de Reis in 1867 who made his fortune in emigration. In his case, in Argentina.
He is a singular figure. Not only because of his success as a businessman in the textile industry of the time on the other side of the Atlantic but above all because of his humanistic training.
As a young man, he had entered the seminary, where he forged a personality with intellectual concerns that would mark his destiny. He renounced the cloth and emigrated to make his fortune and return to his homeland with a great fortune and many ideas.
In 1917 he settled in the House of Fontán and set his plans in motion. One of them was to create a large dairy farm that would give a great boost to the Drop of Milk programs, initiatives that aimed to introduce milk into the poor children’s diet of the time.
Under his government, Pazo Baión saw the birth of a huge building (nowadays converted into a wine cellar) to store feed and house the stabled cattle. So large was the farm that Adolfo Fojo set up that Fortes calculates that it could have fed Vilagarcía or even Pontevedra.
What is certain is that after his death in 1933, his widow and his descendants lost interest in a farm that would remain under his tutelage for several more decades.
Mr. Adolfo Fojo‘s dreams had only materialized in a small part.
2008 – The golden age
Not everything is light in the five centuries of Pazo Baión’s history. Time is always capricious with some things, isn’t it? But the year 2008 marks a turning point that opened a golden era for the property. A resurgence that is, in reality, the story of a flowering.
That year, Condes de Albarei won Pazo Baión at auction, beating some of the biggest wineries in Spain. The nature of his project was evocative.
And he had an ace up his sleeve. The implementation of a project to rehabilitate the property that would restore all its splendor to an estate that is the living history of Galicia.
César Portela‘s work has been widely recognized since then. The respect for tradition, the incorporation of avant-garde elements that connect naturally with the classical architecture of the buildings, the care of the exteriors…
Portela is one of the names of this period of Pazo Baion’s history. As are those of the more than 300 families that make up Condes de Albarei, who at the time decided to embark on a fascinating project.
Time has proved them right.
Pazo Baión is an indispensable benchmark of quality viticulture in the Rías Baixas DO. Its three wines (Pazo Baión, Vides de Fontán, and Gran a Gran) receive year after year the warmth of critics and the public alike.
But goodness does not end there. The commitment to architecture, culture, and nature, added to the power of the wine discourse, has turned the property into one of the great wine tourism centers in Spain.
A visit is highly recommended for anyone who wants to discover a different universe. As fascinating as it is peculiar.
Access our wine-shop to buy the best albariño wine.
If you want to do wine tourism in the Rías Baixas, visit our winery.