A Summer of Island Wines and Mineral Whites – Tasting the New Release Envinate Benje Blanco 2017…

The white 2017 Envinate Benje Blanco is produced from Listán Blanco (Palomino) grapes from the Santiago del Teide region in the northwest of the island, with old vines grown on the burnt volcanic slopes of Mount 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 with a portion of the grapes fermented with skin contact. Production is small and demand high, so you’ll need to act quickly to secure a few bottles.

Envinate Benje Blanco 2017, DO Ycoden Daute Isora, Santiago del Teide, Tenerife, 12 Abv.

An expressive mineral wine, these old vine grapes are grown on black volcanic soils around Mount Teide which produce pronounced aromatics dominated by crushed gravel, dusty basalt, bruised apples, pear skins and maritime oyster shell salinity. The palate is pinpoint and focused with a very fine textural mouthfeel, crisp pithy white pear, dry white citrus, and freshly sliced Granny Smith apple fruits. The acidity is super bright and mouth watering and reinforces the steely character of this wine. In many ways a wine that challenges the senses and finishes with the sensation of sucking wet river pebbles with metallic pur sang bloody nuances. Perhaps not for novices, but this wine certainly ranks very highly among the world’s most intriguing mineral whites. Drink now till 2024+

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

The Mallorcan Wine Odyssey – Tasting the Spectacular Island Wines of 4 Kilos Vinicola…

The summer of 2018 was officially confirmed as the warmest on record and what better way to enjoy all this sunshine than wining and dining outdoors drinking plenty of fine wine. This was also the year of island wines and in August I chose to focus on the delights from the island of Mallorca. One of my most exciting visits was to the 4 Kilos Vinicola winery on the south eastern side of the island near the town of Felanitx.

Francesc Grimalt founded the Ánima Negra winery in 1994 making the wine there as a partner until 2006 before leaving to start afresh, setting up the 4 Kilos Vinicola winery. At Ánima Negra, Francesc was one of the first winemakers to focus on crafting serious wines from the indigenous red Callet grape and this interest has continued at his new winery.

In the Vineyards with Francesc Grimalt

The name 4 Kilos refers to the 4 million pesetas (€24,000) that Francesc and his partner Sergio Caballero invested in their new winery (in Spanish, one kilo is a coloquial expression to say one million). According to Francesc and Sergio, there’s no need to be a millionaire to make wine; more importantly you need plenty of passion and be prepared to put in the hard work.

The converted barn that is now their winery

Their first vintage was made in the garage of a friend using stainless steel milk tanks and then in an old sheep barn that was later converted into a winery. This was part of a property owned by Francesc’s parents on the outskirts of Felanitx in the south east of the island. They currently own around 30 hectares of vineyards and also source fruit from growers all over the Island explaining their use of the Vi de la Terra Mallorca designation for all their wines.

Some of the vineyards around the winery with vines planted on varying patches red ferrous clay, gravelly sand and clay limestone.

Varieties currently used include local grapes Callet, Manto Negro, Monastrell and Fogoneu together with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The trend is to gradually move more towards using predominantly indigenous varieties. Indeed the fact that their 15,000 bottle flagship red 4 Kilos production is now produced from single-varietal Callet sourced from old vines grown on the red ferrous-clay soils locally known as call vermell (in Catalan vermell means red) is testament to their commitment to indigenous varieties.

Red ferrous-clay soils around the winery

Their 12 Volts (around 45,000 bottles) label is a blend of normally 60% Callet with a percentage of international grapes including 20% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. Despite the fact that indigenous grapes produce lighter wines, the wines are nevertheless more expressive and accentuate the true Mediterranean terroir characteristics of the island. Oak is limited to foudres and large barrels of up to 600 litres with only the occasional 225 litre barrique used.

Two new wines have been launched in recent years. The Motor Callet brand is used for alternative, experimental batches vinified in terra cotta and stainless steel tanks from grapes sourced around the island with the wine changing slightly every vintage.

A Premium wine called Grimalt Caballero (1,000 bottles) combines the surnames of the two founders and exhibits a rather particular coat of arms on the label. It is also their most delicate expression of Callet with purity and an authentic Mediterranean character.

Tasting Notes:

4 Kilos Gallinas Y Focas Sa Cussa Antonia Blanco 2017, Vi de la Terra Mallorca, 12 Abv.

Grapes for this wine come from a callaboration between Amadip.Esment and 4 Kilos Vinicola and the wine is made by Francesc Grimalt. A blend 60% Prensal and 40% Macabeu, this organic certified white has a charming nose of waxy orange peel accentuated by 24 hours skin contact maceration for the Macabeu. The aromatics are beautifully complex showing peach stone, beer hops, bruised apples. crushed limestone and savoury leesy notes. The palate is finely balanced with a creamy soft yellow orchard fruit glycerol richness, soft clean acids, crushed gravel minerality and a delicately pithy finish with orange peel and green pear nuances. A minimal intervention wine with wonderful harmony and balance achieved through thoughtful, accomplished winemaking. Drink now to 2022.

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

4 Kilos 12 Volts 2017, 12.5 Abv.

60% Syrah Carbonic & 25% Callet, Cabernet and Merlot. Bottled in June 2018, this shows a bright lifted vibrant nose of strawberries, bramble berries, loganberry and a pithy graphite spice. Lovely density and plush texture, finely balancing mineral grip, fresh strawberry pip notes and dry powdery grip. Wonderful earthy note, plummy spice and bramble berry length.

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

4 Kilos Motor Callet 2017 Blend, 11 Abv.

Mostly Callet grown clay soils then aged in terra cotta and concrete then blended in stainless. Red plum, raspberry, strawberry purée. No stems used but shows a delicious sappy spice and complex earthy note from the Amphora. Lovely juicy, easy drinking style with layers of red apple, stewed strawberries, redcurrant and a resinous long finish. Really delicious.

(Wine Safari Score: 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

4 Kilos Vinicola 2017 Blend Components Tasted From Barrel:

A) 4 Kilos Components 2017

Callet from red ferrous soils, to be bottled in Feb 2019. 12.5 Abv. Rich ripe and deeply fruited with black and red fruits, earthy strawberry and sappy bramble berry. Vibrant and fresh, plenty of crystalline purity and sleek textural elegance. Wonderful harmony.

(Wine Safari Score: 91-93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

B) 4 Kilos Components 2017

Callet from red ferrous soils but with more sand Component from 60 to 80 year old vines. Lovely strawberry pith, dusty minerality, slate, mint leaf and dried herbs. Palate full of strawberry, red cherry, graphite and pithy and gravelly mineral finish. A very precise wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

C) 4 Kilos Components 2017

Callet from red soils and gravel picked 3 weeks later than previous two components. Darker more earthy raspberry, bramble berry and strawberry fruits. Wonderful sappy depth, dusty gravelly minerality and focused red fruit core and more linearity. A perfect blending partner but perhaps a bit serious on its own.

(Wine Safari Score: 90-92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

D) 4 Kilos Components 2017

Callet plot on deep gravels from very old vine single vineyard. Darker black berry fruits, hints of mulberry and bramble berry but also more saline, reductive notes. Dusty, mineral, sappy and leafy with piquant spicy notes, peppery black berry and a direct, linear delivery on the taut, mineral finish. Has it’s merits but more appealing in a blend.

(Wine Safari Score: 89-90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

4 Kilos Vinicola 2016 Tinto, 12.5 Abv.

Callet based blend that shows lovely deep strawberry and mulberry fruits, plenty of opulence and mouth watering sappy, plummy black berry fruits with superb harmony, balance and raspberry confit finish. Just the most subtle notes of dried herbs, graphite and crushed gravel minerality. Super focus and streamline tannins on a long, delicious finish.

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

Tanuki Bob (3,000 bottles) is the second wine of their joint project. Launched with the 2014 vintage, this 90% Manto Negro is partly fermented with stems to get some carbonic maceration and results in a fresh, fragrant, very drinkable expression.

4 Kilos Tanuki Bob Manto Negro Negre 2014, 13 Abv

Blend of 90% Manto Negro with a splash of 10% Syrah. Wonderfully perfumed nose of roses, violets, cassis, black berry and slightly dusty, leafy reductive notes. Palate is light footed, sleek, but deliciously concentrated with a caramelised black berry depth, sugared nuts, and an impressive, vibrant sappy depth.

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

4 Kilos Gallines Y Foques 2015 (in Catalan)

4 Kilos Gallinas Y Focas 2015, 14 Abv.

Made from 40-50 year old Manto Negro grown on red ferrous soils but with a lot of Gallet / pudding stones from 3 different vineyards. Such purity and vibrancy on the aromatics that show dried herbs, roses, violets, peppercorn, and crunchy strawberry complexity. Uniquely distinguished, there is plushness and power, balance and harmony, but also electric vibrancy and intensity of red berry fruits laced with stony minerality. 20,000 bottles. (1st vintage 2009). Definitely a wine to track down!

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

Innovation never stops at 4 Kilos. Francesc is an obsessive fan of Amphora wines and inspired by the Sicilian wines of Cos Pithos white and red, he has used a number of Amphora for his reds but is current building an unlined “clay brick” fermentation tank made from clay-limestone bricks quarried at the 4 Kilos winery and fired by a friend, to mimic the characteristics of Amphora fermented wines. Promises to be a fascinating project.

Visits by appointment only.

4 Kilos Vinícola s.l.
1a.Volta, 168/Puigverd
07200 Felanitx
Mallorca, Spain

UK Importer is Indigo Wines

A Summer of Indulgent Island Wines – Tasting One of the Best… Suertes del Marques El Esquilon 2016

I visited the Suertes del Marques winery in August 2017 and tasted the 2016 reds in barrel just a few months before many were due to be bottled. The finished results are very impressive indeed and are definitely worth tracking down. But be warned, volumes of the Vino de Parcela wines are very small and highly sought after. So you will need to be quick!

The 2016 reds of Suertes del Marques signalled the dawning of a new(ish) era, being vinified by their new Portuguese rock star  winemaker Luis Seabra (ex-Niepoort) together with Tenerife local, Loles Pérez (ex-Cráter), after the departure of Roberto Santana (Envínate).

Despite the warmth of the 2016 vintage, the reds display impressive freshness after owner Jonatan Garcia Lima adjusted the picking dates and the vinifications to counterbalance the effects of the warmth and remove any chance of over ripeness in the fruit.

Loles and owner Jonatan at the winery processing the 2017 vintage grapes.

Suertes del Marques El Esquilon Vino de Parcela Listan Negro 2016, DO Valle de La Orotava, Tenerife, 12.5 Abv.

Another fantastic single parcel release from this top Tenerife winery. Made from pure 80+ year old vine Listan Negro grapes grown in the traditional “Cordon Trenzado” training system on volcanic soils at 450 to 550 meters altitude with a Northeast and East – West aspect. The grapes were fermented in concrete tanks with natural yeasts and wines were bottled unfiltered after 11 months ageing in 500 litre neutral French oak barrels. The colour is a wonderfully light translucent cherry red with almost no graduation in colour. Initially quite tight with restrained, stony, with slightly reductive aromatics, the wine slowly loosens its grip and releases wonderful perfumed notes of lilac, cherry blossom, red plum, spicy red apple and a pronounced sappy, stalk spice, basalt minerality. The palate is impressively elegant and decidedly polished but all the while boasting multiple layers of gravel, volcanic rock and graphite with suave sweet cranberry and pithy red cherry complexity. There is plenty of elegance, pinpoint textural focus, plenty of tension in a young Pinot Noir’esque Burgundian style. The wine finishes with an enchantingly fresh, piercing salty twang, yet more stony volcanic basalt minerality and a most delicious kiss of salty red liquorice. Probably a bit young to drink now despite its elegance and finesse, I would tuck these away for 2 to 3 years and drink over 5 to 8+ years.

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

The Mallorcan Wine Odyssey – A Brief Introduction to the Wines of the Island…

Spain’s first offshore Denominació d’Origen was granted on 12th February 1991, creating the DO Binssalem according to the Mallorcan spelling. In 1996 there were 4 major wineries operating on the island, the biggest of which was primarily responsible for all the lobbying to create the DO to assist with selling to international export markets. There are now two official DO’s on the island, the other ‘Denominació d’Origen’ being Pla i Llevant which is situated in central and eastern Mallorca around the towns of Manacor and Felanitx.

Situated north of Palma on a gently rolling plain east of the centre of the island’s central plateau at between 250 and 300 metres, DO Binssalem with 612 hectares of vines 80% of which are red, tends to have lightweight soils low in nutrients with plenty of limestone over clay, providing good water retention in the warm summer months and pretty much ideal vine growing conditions in this Mediterranean-maritime climate. Summers are hot and winters are mild with the altitude helping to lower temperatures slightly during ripening when summer temperatures can hit 30 to 35 degrees C with an all year round average of around 16 degrees C with 2,800 hours of sunshine and 500-600mm of rainfall per year which falls mainly in the Autumn.

Soils commonly seen in vineyards include red ferrous rich soils like these at 4 Kilos Vinicola near Felanitx, with high proportions of clay and limestone rocks.

There are a number of recommended grape varieties with one of the principle ones being Manto Negro, for which DO Binssalem red wines have to include at least 30%. It has partially been this legal rigidity combined with the fact that many of the top boutique wineries are now sourcing high quality old vine fruit from all over the island (and thus outside the DOs), that has led many producers to classify their wines to Vi de la Terra Mallorca instead allowing more ‘creative flexibility’ according to several winemakers I chatted to.

In reality, vines are grown all over inland Mallorca and most of the wines that fall outside the ‘Denominaciós d’Origen’ are grouped around three ‘Vi de la Terra’ labels. The largest one is ‘Vi de la Terra Mallorca’, followed by ‘Vi de la Terra Serra de Tramuntana-Costa Nord’ and ‘Vi de la Terra Illes Balears’.

Popular Wine Areas & Vineyards in Mallorca:

DO Binissalem

Bodegas Antonio Nadal, Bodegas José L. Ferrer, Celler Albaflor Vins Nadal, Celler Can Ramis, Vinya Taujana, Celler Sebastiá Pastor, Bodega Biniagual

DO Pla i Llevant     

Finca Es Fangar, Bodegas Bordoy, Butxet Viticultors, Pere Seda Vinyes i Bodegues, Vi d’Auba, Miquel Oliver Vinyes i Bodegues, Armero i Adrover Vinicultors

Vi de la Terra Mallorca    

Bodegas Angel, Bodega Ribas, Bodegues Macià Batle, Bodega Son Campaner, Castell Miquel, Jaume Mesquida, Celler Son Prim, Ca’n Vidalet, Es Verger, Anima Negra, 4 Kilos Vinicola and Bodegas Conde de Suyrot.

Indigenous red grape Callet often used for Rose, like this example from Bodegas Ribas.

Other commonly used permitted red varieties include Callet, Gorgollassa, Tempranillo and Monastrell while many reds classified as Vi de la Terra Mallorca utilise large proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah in conjunction with Manto Negro and Callet. For whites, commonly utilised permitted varieties include Moll (or Prensal), Giro ros, Moscatel, Parellada and Macabeo (Viura) aswell as non-traditional varieties including Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

From my recent travels around the island, the three most important native grape varieties in Mallorca are:

This black variety has a vigorous vine with long branches and thick leaves. It has low tannins and so tends to be low in alcohol. Traditionally, Callet was used to create young red and rosé wine but, recently, grapes from older vines have been used to blend with Cabernet or Manto Negro as it adds both complexity and spice, allowing the wine to be aged.

Manto Negro
Manto Negro is the most widely produced vine on Mallorca, especially around the Binissalem area. A black grape, it is medium-bodied and has aromas of cherry, caramel and lilac. It is used to produce light red wines on its own but is more often blended with other varietals such as Callet. It is rich in sugars and therefore alcohol content.

Moll (Prensal Blanc)
This white grape produces a light, floral white wine, pale yellow in colour. The wines are light and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer’s day. It’s fairly simple on its own and is often blended with Chardonnay to produce a more complex blend. It is also used to make sparkling wine.

So many people visit Mallorca every year and sadly rarely venture past the sun loungers around their swimming pools. But going out exploring and tasting Mallorca’s local wines is one of the best ways to experience the local Mallorcan culture, cuisine and scenery.

Authentic Mallorcan Tapas in Arta, on the east of the Island.

The Unicorn Whisperer at Work – Tasting the López de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco 2004…

It’s always an exciting moment when one gets to drink a new release of Vina Tondonia and even more so when the colour is white! While the 2004 Reserva Blanco was released back in 2017, this was my first opportunity to leisurely drink a bottle of this delicious unicorn nectar.

Tondonia is of course the hottest topic at the moment with the long awaited new release Vina Tondonia Reserva Rosado 2008 finally released into the UK in April 2018. Very little Rosado will be made available but at least there should be around 35,000 bottles of the Reserva Blanco 2004 produced. Buy it while you can!

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco 2004, 12.5 Abv.

The delicious 2004 Reserva Blanco seemed to creep onto the market in 2017 under the radar of thirsty buyers probably due to its impossible rarity. Differentiated with the Gravonia Crianza Blanco by 10% of very old Malvasía Riojana, the Reserva 2004 is a complex, intense, sophisticated expression that was fermented in 140 year old oak vats with natural yeasts, where it also underwent malolactic fermentation. The aromatics are packed with dried peaches, herbal peach tea, earl grey bergamot notes and melted honey on warm white toast. Few wines are as evocative and beguiling as white Rioja from Vina Tondonia. The palate is rich and nuanced but at no point does it show overt oak characters. Instead, it just unleashes wave upon wave of honied yellow orchard fruits, tea leaves, lemon cordial, dried guava roll, lemon grass and pungent ginger spice notes framed by vibrantly fresh acids. This is another incredibly strong performance by a Tondonia blanco reinforcing its status as one of the ultimate unicorn white wines.

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

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting the Suertes del Marques Trenzado 2016 Blanco: The Wine That Put Tenerife On the Wine Map…

There is always a moment that you remember as the pivotal point that changed your attitudes, perceptions or understanding of a specific wine or region. For me, and most of the UK fine wine trade, that moment came when we tasted the Suertes Del Marques Trenzado 2011 blanco. Nothing would ever be the same again in regards to perceptions surrounding Tenerife wines.

A blend of Listan Blanco and Vidueno as well as native varieties Marmajuelo, Gual, Vijariego Blanco, Verdello, Pedro Ximenez and Baboso Blanco, you could not conceive of a more indigenous styled Tenerife white blend than that of the Trenzado. The Listan Blanco vines are of course trained in the Cordon Trenzado method with the Vidueno on the Double Royat Cordon.

The old vines in the Cordon Trenzado trellising method.

Vines are ungrafted and come from multiple plots on volcanic soils, and are fermented using only indigenous wild yeasts. Aging is in concrete tanks, large foudre and some 500 litres used oak barrels. The wine is bottled unfiltered.

Suertes del Marques Trenzado Blanco 2016, Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife, 13 Abv.

An attractively rich, fleshy, yellow fruited nose that is abundantly opulent and open, allowing the aromatics to spill out of the glass, showing white peach, yellow citrus, lime cordial, yellow grapefruit zest and dusty, granitic minerality. The palate is richly textured, revealing impressive depth and subtle tropical fruit nuances. There are layers of tart pineapple, yellow grapefruit, yellow orchard fruits and pristine vibrant acids. The wine has a fleshy breadth and some phenolic grip, but is so characterful and fresh, energetic and crystalline, that this might well be one of the best expressions of the Trenzado white that I have tasted to date. Fantastically delicious, I can’t wait to get my hands on this new release! Drink now to 2024+

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

The New CVNE Monopole Clásico 2015 Released – Reinventing the Past For a Future Generation of Wine Drinkers…

The world of wine is a big place with countless grapes, wine styles and production techniques. Indeed, wine has never been more mainstream and more popular than it is now. However, with this populism has come a growing tendency towards homogenisation, taking the safe option and producers not pushing boundaries any longer. A comment from UK wine journalist Jamie Goode recently sticks in my head… “just because most consumers drink boring commercial rubbish a lot of the time, doesn’t mean they don’t actually want to drink exciting, edgy, innovative wines too.” That’s where wonderful wines like the CVNE Monopole Clásico come into their own.

This Monopole Clásico white was produced from a blend of white varieties, hand harvested in 20kg cases at optimum ripeness. Softy pressed, as in the 1960s, the must went into concrete tanks for their debourbage / settling, then into stainless steel tanks for the alcoholic fermentation. Once completed, the wine was transferred with its fine lees into wooden vats and botas of 300 litres and 500 litres that had previously been used two or three times. The wine was then aged for around 8 months.

The uniqueness of this wine lies in the contribution of a small quantity of Manzanilla sherry, developed by the traditional method of crianza under “velo de flor”. The wines’ ageing contributes to its peculiar organoleptic characteristics, adding aromas of chamomile tea, dried fruits and nuts, and a long and salty aftertaste with a marked acidity.

The 2015 vintage proved to be one of the best in recent years, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Starting slightly early and proceeding at pace, throughout the vegetative cycle the weather conditions displayed classical textbook seasonality. A rainy autumn, a dry winter with heavy frosts, a rainy spring and a summer with large diurnal temperature shifts between day and night. Weather during the harvest was exceptional and allowed for a harvest with great quality, superb ripening and very healthy fruit.

CVNE Monopole Clásico Blanco Seco 2015, Rioja, 13.5 Abv.

A wonderfully tangy saline nose full of crunchy pear, sea breeze, oyster shell, almond skins, nutty Manzanilla flor spice and caramelised orange peel. Plenty of tension and coiled spring energy, this wine is known to flesh out further with an extra 6 to 8 months in bottle. The palate revels in its nutty, saline Intensity with oxidative Manzanilla sherry nuances whispering in the background, all the while tempered by pithy gooseberry and white stone fruits, chamomile and a dusty, chalky texture. So characterful and deliciously mouth watering, this is an admirably unique wine style that everyone should experience. Drink now to 2035+

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