The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting the Second Vintage of Cult Wine Envinate Benje Tinto 2016 Ahead of Its Release…

This is only the second release of the Benje Tinto, made from grapes assembled from 15 growers on the same terroir as the Benje Blanco, in the vineyards of Santiago del Teide. The vineyards have both white and red varieties interplanted, so they are picked separately at optimal ripeness. The red varieties in the vineyards are mostly Listan Prieto (90%) otherwise known as Pais in Chile or Mission in California. The rest of the grapes are Tintilla (aka Maturana de Navarrete in Rioja). 


The grapes from 15 terroirs are vinified separately in concrete tanks and small open top fermenters. The wine is then aged for 8 months in neutral 228 litre barrels and the 2016 was only just bottled in July 2017.



Envinate Benje Tinto 2016, Ycoden-Daute-Isora DO, Tenerife, 12 Abv.

What strikes you instantaneously about this wine is how opulent and expressive it is on both the nose and palate, showing the real generosity of the 2016 vintage. The Taganan 2016 Tinto was also a thoroughly attractive expression, however, the Benje Tinto 2016 is an altogether more serious affair. The nose is rich and opulent with raspberry confit and sweet red cherries personified. Everything about this wine indicates the volume turned up to 10. Such pretty fragrance of violets, sweet cherry blossom and cherry kirsch liquor notes abound. The palate is so noble, elegant, supremely balanced and fresh, with such sour red plum vibrancy, red cranberry and sappy bramble berry red fruit nuances. The wine is both linear, tart, intense and severe, and yet so deliciously attractive and seductive, willing you back constantly for another sip. Probably slightly less crunchy than the 2015, lighter weight but more fleshy and finessed in style, thoroughly ageable and certainly collectable. Drink now to 2030+

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Will be available to the UK trade from Indigo Wines and from selected fine wine stockists. 

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting Envinate’s New Premium Volcanic Benje White…

Earlier this year, I received a hard fought allocation of the “new” Benje Tinto 2015. It was sold out before I could even tell my customers about it. The wine somehow acquired a life and organic PR machine of its very own. 


A year later, the release of the first Benje Blanco is suddenly on the horizon. But as they say, life is all about timing, allowing me to taste the wine one month after bottling while I’m visiting the vineyards of Tenerife. Where ever you may buy your Tenerife and Envinate wines from, request an allocation for this new White wine now and you may get a few bottles and avoid disappointment. It’s sure to be a future unicorn.


Envinate Benje Blanco 2016, Ycoden Daute Isora DO, Tenerife, 12.5% Abv. 

Benje Blanco 2016 is made from vines grown at Santiago del Teide at 1000 metres altitude. Ungrafted and grown in the gobelet system, the vines are sourced from up to 15 different terroirs from 70 to 100 year old vines, 60% of which were fermented and aged in concrete tanks and 40% fermented and aged in neutral barrels of 228 litres. 15% of the grapes were fermented with skin contact. This Benje Blanco 2016 was bottled in July 2017 and judging from the serious aromatics and fruit concentration, will benefit from further time in bottle before showing at its very best. This highly anticipated release is similar but also different to both the Taganan Blanco and the Palo Blanco. They all share elements of intense crushed granite minerality, volcanic basalt notes, rasping salinity, chalky aromatics, and taught linear white citrus tension. The Benje Blanco however seems to have an extra degree of crystalline purity, precision and white citrus fruit intensity, that manifests itself on the palate with greater concentration and a denser, fleshier textural breadth. Picante and pithy, with beguiling dried tangerine peel, the palate has, to use a fellow wine trade colleague’s term, “mesmerising mineral austerity”. A truly beautiful creation, this wine will probably be sold out almost before it’s even released. Drink now to 2030+.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ A Gastronomic Extravaganza at One of Tenerife’s Top Michelin Restaurants…

You could be forgiven for thinking fine gastronomy in Tenerife amounted to the scenic local harbour side fish or tapas restaurant. These are the most prominently situated dining establishments on some of the best real estate. But if it’s true fine dining you are after, you are going to have to dig a little bit deeper. Just as the finest wines of Tenerife are not available in supermarkets or even in many of the more specialist wine shops, the best restaurants are hidden away and are well kept secrets.


So I was thrilled to receive an inspired recommendation from Roberto Santana Envinate for the top restaurant on the island, and a booking at short notice with his assistance. 


I am not a restaurant critic but certainly get to eat at most of the fine dining establishments in London in the name of work, and I can attest that El Rincon de Juan Carlos Restaurante is worth every bit of its 1 star Michelin rating. 


If you ever make it to Tenerife, be sure to ring well ahead and make a booking at this fabulous, innovative restaurant whose dishes are all solidly 1 star in quality, with some even moving closer to the 2 star level. 

As I was driving, I decided to take several wine by the glass recommendations from the restaurant staff to match the courses, with my only request being that they all come from Tenerife producers (as opposed to some of the other Canary Islands) other than the aperitif bubbles.

El Rincon de Juan Carlos – Short Tasting Menu: 

(6 courses and 3 complimentary amuse bouches and we added an extra 10th main course)

1 Oxtail with Miso Mayonnaise, Sesame and Filo Pastry.


2 Canarian Black Pudding with Caramel, Prune Extract and Gold Leaf.


3 Oyster Gillardeau no.3 with Coconut and Galangal (no picture)


4 Celery Noodles, Cream of Comte Cheese, Truffle and Pine Nuts

Extra Course:

5 Fresh Pasta Ravioli with Cheese in a Lentil and Chorizo Reduction


6 Cherne (local Canarian White Fish) with Gazpachuelo Sauce and Spinach


7 Pigeon in Juice with Pumkin Purée and Cous cous


8 Guava and Roses Ice, Mandarin, Prunes, and Cardamom


9 Corn, Yogurt, Icecream and Tamarind


10 Candyfloss Tree with Petit Fours


Coffee.

Wines to Accompany the Courses:

Raventos i Blanc De La Finca 2013, Conca de Riu Anoia, Penedes (Cava style)

Wonderful palate cleanser, fresh, crisp yet rich and complex with dusty lemon brioche autolysis, chalky minerality and a beautifully sophisticated creamy mousse. Very characterful, and oh so fine. One of Spain’s best.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 


Los Loros Blanco 2016, Valle de Giumar, 12 Abv. (Listan Blanco based blend)

Beautifully fresh exotic expressive nose of white peach, tangerine, dusty gravel minerality, and green apple zest. Palate is lush, crisp, vibrant, slightly pithy with subtle muscaty perfumed fruit, linearity, and hints of yellow peach and nectarine on the finish. Lovely food wine. 

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Bodegas Vinatigo Negramoll Tinto 2014, Islas Canarias, 13.5 Abv.

Opulent, bright nose of molasses tinged red and black berry fruits, salted caramel, vanilla spice and sweet black cherry. The palate is rich, liquor like but simultaneously fresh and sweet fruited, with exotic nutty tawny port nuances and a fleshy depth. The finish is sleek and textured with blood orange hints, vermouth spice and sweet cherry and tangerine length. A well made wine, this red tastes riper than the 13.5 Abv suggests. Matched the food well.

(Wine Safari Score: 88/100 Greg Sherwood MW)



To book:

El Rincon de Juan Carlos, Pasaje de Jacaranda 2, Los Gigantes, Tenerife.

Tel: 922 86 80 40

http://www.elrincondejuancarlos.com



The street life resonates with a feel of Cape Town and the scenery with a feel of Camps Bay’s 12 Apostles mountains. A beautiful area on the west coast of the island.

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ The Volcanic Mineral Whites of Envinate…

It was at a tasting in London, 5 or 6 years ago, that I was first introduced to the “new wave” wines of Tenerife. Roberto Santana Envinate was working as head wine maker at one of the other top island wineries, Suertes del Marques, based near La Orotava, and I remember the white wines based around Listan Blanco just blowing me away.


Roll the years forward and Roberto, along with young guns Laura Ramos, Jose Martínez and Alfonso Torrente, are continuing to make some of the most fascinating white wines on the island. Táganan is the old local name for this rugged vineyard area, located on the northeastern side of Tenerife, where vines are planted on primary volcanic rock on cliffs just above the Atlantic.


The white wine is a blend of the many different native varieties, which are vinified separately, with some parcels undergoing skin contact. A truly unique and characterful white wine that is deliciously pithy, saline and smoky with refreshing acidity is the result. Varieties include Marmajuelo, Malvasia, Listán Blanco, Gual y Forastera and Albillo, grown organically at between 100 and 500 metres altitude.


Envinate Táganan Blanco 2016, Vinos Atlanticos, Tenerife, 12.5 Abv.

This Táganan white was only bottled in July  2017 and is already showing nuanced complexity. A pale straw yellow, the nose is vibrant and bristling with notes of pear purée, white peach, and baked apples. As expected, this wine is full of intrigue and possibly asks as many questions as it answers. The salinity again rises to the fore with real maritime notes of oyster shell and sea breeze together with subtle smoky oxidative, briney fino sherry complexity, enhanced by the 30% portion of grapes fermented on their skins. The palate too shows fine mineral detail, pithy pear skins, honied white citrus, lemon biscuits and the most faint wood spice hints. There is plenty of fruit concentration interwoven with the intense crushed granite, volcanic basalt minerality that underpins every sip. Pithy with slightly grippy phenolics, this wine has a long, tart, salty finish. Ready to go now, I would probably give this wine another 3 to 4 months in bottle to find its inner yin and yang. 

(Wine Safari score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Envinate Palo Blanco 2016, Vinos Atlanicos, Tenerife, 11.5 Abv.

Palo Blanco is the new white project Roberto and colleagues have been working on in the La Orotava region in the north east of the Island. Made from Listan Blanco grown on cordon trenzado from ungrafted vines over 100 years old from an area called Palo Blanco. There you can find a terroir with the highly reputed black volcanic soils which Roberto feels give the most interesting characteristics for white wines specifically, with intense minerality and linearity, or vertical wines as Roberto says. Fermented without skins, in concrete tanks, the wine was then moved to 2500 litre oval foudres from Friuli for further aging.

This barrel sample is being readied for bottling towards the end of 2017, along with the Táganan Tinto 2016. What immediately strikes you about the aromatics is the intense, extra lifted dusty minerality, a melange of crunched gravel, wet grey slate and volcanic basalt, laced with tart green apple, crunchy green pears, sour plums, spicy lemon grass notes and smoky wet hay. On the palate is where the majestic old vine concentration elevates this wine to another level. Compact with racy acids, there is ponderous mid palate concentration and depth, all finely tailored together with such harmonious texture and a supremely saline, pithy fruit balance. The finish is fleshy and broad with mouth watering lemon pastille, green peppercorn, oyster shell, lime peel and wet river pebble terroir notes. An absolutely stunning expression, this could end up being one of the highlights of my Tenerife white wine tastings. Drink now to 2030+. 

(Wine Safari Score: 95-96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting the Benchmark Envínate Táganan Tinto 2016 From Barrel…

Envínate is the inspiration of Spanish young guns Laura Ramos, Jose Martínez, Roberto Santana and Alfonso Torrente, four friends who met while studying oenology at the University of Miguel Hernández in Alicante. Their work is currently focused on exploring the ancient, Atlantic-infused terruños (terroirs) of Ribeira Sacra, Canary Islands, Extremadura and Almansa. 

Taganan Tinto 2016 Barrel Sample

Their philosophy is simple: let each single parcel fully express itself through old-fashioned farming and winemaking methods. Currently, there are four different projects under the Envínate umbrella on the go, including the exciting Táganan range made by Roberto Santana and the rest of the Envínate young guns in Tenerife. 

Roberto Santana in London last year

Táganan is the old local name for this rugged vineyard area located on the northeastern side of Tenerife, where vines are planted on primary volcanic rock on cliffs just above the Atlantic and grown organically at between 100 and 500 metres in altitude. 

This wine is a blend of different native varieties, vinified separately in a mix of concrete tanks and small open top containers, resulting in very juicy and utterly drinkable red wines with focused acidities, and plenty of spicy, fresh, red and black berry fruits, at moderate to low alcohol levels, circa 12 to 12.5 Abv on average. 


Envínate Táganan Tinto 2016, Vinos Atlanticos, Tenerife, Spain

A sample taken from one of the 228 litre barrels the wine is currently being aged in, the 2016 Tinto vintage is due to be bottled at the end of 2017. Produced from a blend of mainly Listan Negro and Negramoll, with small amounts of Listan Gacho, Baboso, Mulata, Black Malvasia, and Vijariego Tinto. The nose is reminiscent of a young, earthy, brambly Gevrey Chambertin, showing raisined sweet cranberry, wet grey slate minerality, and a lifted sappy, sweet spice complexity. The palate is sleek, saline and supremely elegant, with subtle hints of crunchy blackberry and cassis berry, but is at no point raw or angular in its youth. Beautifully textured, elegant and incredibly salty, showing the magnificence of both the volcanic terroir and the expression of these indigenous varietals on this coastal peninsula. There are hints of liquorice, black berry, red cherry and sour plum on the long, saline finish that shows so much promise. This tantalising wine might tighten up a little before bottling, but rest assured, this is going to be another superbly accessible, balanced, mouth watering edition of the Táganan Tinto. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Exploring the Island and Its Wines…

It has been said many times… That some of the most beautiful regions in the world to visit are also some of the greatest wine producing areas. As if tasting and drinking fine wine is not enough, you get to do it in aesthetically majestic locations all around the world. 


This summer, the vinous compass was set to the Canary Islands and in particular, Tenerife. The last time I visited this barren, desert-like volcanic island was in the early 80’s on a 2 week family holiday. While I have fond memories of this trip, and in particular the black volcanic sand beaches and the impressive El Teide volcano, in the Parque Nacional de las Canadas del Teide, wine and vineyards certainly did not feature in any way.


About 5 or 6 years ago, the wines from Tenerife started to turn heads in the UK market in a serious way. Stylistically often slightly reductive, crunchy, intensely mineral, saline and fresh, these wines, both reds and whites, are often produced from 80 to 100+ year old vines grown in rugged, exposed volcanic vineyards.


I have it on good authority that the Elizabethans knew more about Tenerife’s wines than current consumers. Indeed the Bard, Shakespeare himself, referenced the wines of the Canary Islands in several of his plays, including a barrel of Canarian Malmsey in one of them. The modern resurgence of interest in wines from Tenerife has gone hand in hand with a massive improvement in quality and there are now over 70 bodegas on the island and several more garagist producers.


These bodegas are spread over five separate areas, each of which has been given a Denomination of Origin to certify the quality of the wine. These are:

Tacoronte Acentejo: The best known and largest of the wine growing areas covers the lush slopes along Tenerife’s north east coast. Vines stretch from near sea level to 1000 metres, producing mainly reds. This is the area that most award winning reds come from.

Valle de Güímar: Again vines are planted from just above sea level, but this time they reach the 1500 metre mark. The sunny Güímar Valley is best for new whites (dry, semi-dry and fruity).

Valle de Orotava: Even though it’s next to the Tacoronte Acentejo area and is also on the north coast, the Orotava Valley is known for its white wines as much as for its reds. The famous Spanish historian and botanist Viero y Clavijo called the valley a ‘great vineyard of malmsey’. But then he was born there.

Ycoden Daute Isora: The vineyards in the north west of Tenerife were originally cultivated by the Portuguese, Flemish and Genoese (some village names around this area give an obvious clue to who settled in the area post conquest). Ycoden Daute Isora is known for its distinctive whites.

Abona: The area that many think of as little more than an arid rock, Tenerife’s southern parts, produces some very good whites, and even the occasional decent red. Vines are planted at two levels, between 200 and 800 metres and then as high as 1700 metres, the highest altitude for vines in the EU.

Because of the diversity of terrain and even climate, vines are planted in a variety of ways. There are five main methods. In some parts the vines are planted in low-lying rows and held up by forks. In others vines are supported by wide frames. Sometimes vines are tied to wires or cut back to form a small bush. Probably the most attractive method is when the vines are plaited together, creating gnarled natural supports up to eight metres long.

Over the next week, I plan to review some of the finest examples of red and white wine on the island, focusing on producers available in the UK market already.

Tasting the Ethereal Le Brunate Cru Barolo from Francesco Rinaldi…

The 2010 releases from Barolo took the fine wine world by storm, just at a time when connoisseurs and collectors were looking to champion a new region after falling out of love with Bordeaux and its pricing misery. The wines were fantastic from all over the Piedmont region, from east to west, combining concentration, power, classism, balance and age ability.


Then 2011 was to Barbaresco, what 2010 was to Barolo, really putting a number of top producers on the map with extremely fine Nebbiolo expressions. Piedmont was on the ascendancy. 2012 was a ripe, fruit forward, opulent, fleshy, earlier drinking vintage across the region, giving consumers wines they could drink before their 2010s or 2011s. Then came the 2013s, thankfully another cracker of a vintage, especially for Barolo, to help satiate the never ending consumer demand.

This week tasted through the whole range of Barolos from one of my favourite producers, Francesco Rinaldi. The wines may not be as famous or as sought after as Giuseppe Rinaldi, but the elegance, perfume, and ethereal purity that Francesco Rinaldi wines display, make them highly prized by Barolo as well as Burgundy lovers.


My absolute favourite has to be their Le Brunate Cru, from a 2 hectare parcel in the communes of Barolo and La Morra. South east facing with clay soils, the vines were planted from 1979 to 1981. Wines are fermented in stainless steel and concrete and then aged in 2000 and 5000 litre Slavonian oak barrels for at least three years.


Francesco Rinaldi & Figli Le Brunate Barolo 2013, 14 Abv.
Brilliant ruby garnet colour, this is certainly a wine with ethereal, perfumed majesty. Youthful and bold, the nose is packed with liquid minerals, wet chalk, and crushed granite nuances that melt into notes of dried rose petals, parma violets, cherry blossoms, crystallised cherries, fresh fennel, and aniseed root earthiness. The palate is seamless, finely textured, and harmonious severe with ripe powdery grippy mineral tannins, balanced by intense maraschino cherry, cranberry, and sour red plum fruits. The Nebbiolo power married with Burgundian style finesse, fragrance, and freshness make for a supremely attractive wine. Lovely tension, taught tannins, and piercing, ethereal purity, this is one hell of a wine. Drink from 2018 to 2040+.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)