Wines Built to Stand the Test of Time – Tasting the Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco 1976…

When ever I drink an old Tondonia white, I feel it’s almost a duty to document these vinous gems and capture their exquisitely complex and exotic nuances for future reference. The occasions and frequency to enjoy these old Rioja bottles becomes fewer and fewer as every year goes by yet many of them are still some years off peak maturity such is the greatness and age ability of these wines.

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Gran Reserva Blanco 1976, 12 Abv.

A delicious, incredibly well proportioned offering revealing beautiful freshness of grated lemon peel, bergamot, peach tea, bees wax and Japanese green tea with threads of caramelised oak and vanilla pod spice. The palate has an alluring tertiary oxidative note of diesel rag, sun dried apricots, creamy honied white peaches, bruised yellow orchard fruits and tart lemon cordial with a complexing lick of salted toffee spice on the finish. A wine that really blossoms with 15-20 minutes in the glass as it slowly unfurls its multi-dimensional offering after over 40 years of ageing. Just another beautifully profound Rioja Blanco from Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Many thanks to Chef Roger Jones for sharing this delicious bottle over lunch.

A Rare and Wonderful Tasting Evening In London With the Owners of Lopez de Heredia…

The scarcity and rarity that now hampers regular drinking of the Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia whites, roses and Gran Reserva reds has been well documented. With such irregular releases due to very specific and long cellar ageing regimes, the wines of Lopez de Heredia usually sell out long before a successor vintage is ready to be released to the market with the only exception perhaps being their Reserva Tinto Rioja.

With Jose Luis scheduled to come over to London for Lopez de Heredia’s UK importer tasting, I managed to steal him away for a precious evening to present a wonderful masterclass centred around a selection of the rare Vina Gravonia white Riojas. But it was a wonderful and most welcomed surprise when at the last moment, Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia decided to join her husband on the flying trip to London.

Maria Jose and husband Jose Luis…

With a special line up of wines, Maria Jose and Jose Luis presented a fascinating and insightful masterclass to a sell out crowd of Rioja-philes. However, the evening was highlighted by Maria Jose as being even more special because of all the wines Lopez de Heredia produce, they never hold back archive stock of their Vina Gravonia, thus making vertical tastings of back vintages of this wine extremely rare and infrequent occurrences!

Vina Gravonia Vertical:

Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Rioja Blanco 2008

Wet rainy year

Delicious freshness and vibrancy, liquid honey on white toast, roasted nuts, grilled herbs and bergamot nuances. Seamless, rich and texturally very harmonious and sleek, there is such fine balance and savoury lemon concentration. Youth, linear, taut.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Rioja Blanco 2004

Cool high quality year

Delicately savoury and earthy bruised lemon and peach tea nose with old honey, nutty spice and subtle wood spice and crushed limestone minerality. Super sleek, relaxed and piquant, wonderfully harmonious texture but a resurgent, piquant, crystalline finish with power and persistence. Very youthful.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Rioja Blanco 2003

Very hot, dry year

Richer and more opulent with peach tea, bees wax, honey, grilled nuts, bergamot and waxy green apples. Fleshy and more texturally honied and exotic with a lower acid mouthfeel but delicious richness and complexity. Delicious, ripe apple pastille finish.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Rioja Blanco 2002

Difficult, wet rainy year with botrytis

Earthy, honied, savoury aromatics with a pronounced peachy, stone fruit character, almonds and crushed gravel. Palate is creamy, mellow, honied and beautifully plush and textural with a seamless satin mouthfeel, peach tea, apple purée and a tart, fresh spicy, crystalline pure finish. Very impressive.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Rioja Blanco 2001

An exceptional year

Super complex nose of wet limestone, old honey on white toast, struck flint, peach stone and vinyl and bees wax. The palate follows with liquid minerality, great tension and power, with a wonderfully mellow, relaxed, supple texture, fantastic focus and persistence and a long, complex, profound finish. Incredible white expression.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Blanco Reserva 2005

Very good year

With a small percentage of Malvasia blended with the Viura, vines are grown on clay and limestone soils and show a more honied, vanilla spice bouquet with cedar spice, roasted nuts, grilled herbs, dried mint leaf and lemon cordial. Palate possesses great gravitas, density and textural depth and breadth, with a creamy glycerol weight, wonderful smokey, nutty, peachy concentration and a soft, fleshy length. Beautiful wine.

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

Red Flight:

Lopez de Heredia Vina Bosconia Rioja Tinto Reserva 2006

Cool, dark, mellow elegant nose of polished mahogany, vanilla pod, savoury plum, black cherry and earthy black berry with a subtle layer of graphite minerality. The palate is super elegant, polished and finely linear with salty liquorice, black cherry, strawberry and a finely poised harmonious mineral finish. A beautiful, expressive, elegant rendition.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Tinto Reserva 2006

Sweetly fruited nose with delicious nuances of salty liquorice, caramelised black cherries, black savoury plums with a complexing note of polished oak in an old library. Beautifully textural, harmonious, suave and fleshy with piquant grip, graphite tannins and a fine, harmonious, minerality focused finish. Concentrated but accessible, very generous and a very smart expression of this iconic wine.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Tinto Gran Reserva 1994

Impressively complex tertiary bouquet of polished mahogany, red apple purée, smokey graphite, charcoal wood embers, savoury root veg and beetroot earthiness with a subtle, salty, maritime, blackberry finish. Super creamy and lactic, plush and fleshy with complex earthy bruised plums and stewed strawberry and winter fruits. Dense and taut, grippy, youthful mineral tannins and a long, profound classical finish. Wow!

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Tinto Gran Reserva 1980

Fabulous tertiary nose of malted chocolate milkshakes, coffee sweets, espresso, grilled nuts, almond spice, caramelised oak spice, creamy earthy stewed winter fruits and savoury bruised plums. Superb seamless intensity, harmony and focus in a mature, generous, intriguingly aged mellow Rioja style.

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

Post dinner drinks starting with some Mullineux white, who’s winemaker, Andrea Mullineux, is a close friend and follower of the wines of Lopez de Heredia.

The Mallorcan Wine Odyssey – Tasting the Wines of Macia Batle…

Spain’s first offshore Denominacion de Origen was granted on 12th February 1991, creating the DO Binssalem. 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 has approximately 612 hectares of vines, 80% of which are red.

Macia Batle are considered one of the island’s best quality mainstream wineries working with 140 hectares of vines, 100 of which they own. Macia Batle did however leave the DO Binssalem a few years ago, instead preferring to use the more flexible DO Vi de la Terra Mallorca for all their wines.

Macia Batle Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Vi de la Terra, 14% Abv.

4th vintage of Sauvignon Blanc. Lift floral exuberant aromas of white peach, honeysuckle, greengage and waxy green apples. Palate is full and fleshy with bold flavours of green melon, spiced apples and pear purée. A powerful rendition in a warm climate style fattened up with a long glycerol finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Margalida Llompart Blanco 2016, Vi de la Terra, 13.5 Abv.

50% Pansell and 50% Chardonnay aged 7 months in French oak. A pronounced, piquant nose delivers a real melange of green fruits, caramelised fig, green apple, nectarine and sweet yellow grapefruit confit with a slick touch of vanilla pod and creamy oak spice. Palate is bold and fresh but also broad and powerful with the personality of a new world style Chardonnay with hints of fig, peach, green melon and spicy, fleshy green apple. Punchy style but also quite distinguished.

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

Margalida Llompart Blanco 2017, Vi de la Terra, 14 Abv.

Can, Manto Negro and Merlot. Made in 100% large amphora. Rich, textured but a overly back palate zip of freshness and red berry pithy spice. Fine dried herbal notes mix with a delicate melange of red berry forest fruits. Plenty of glycerol weight, gravelly minerality and a long round finish.

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

Macia Batle Maceracio Carbonica Negre 2017, Mantonegro, Vi de la Terra Mallorca, 14 Abv.

100% Manto Negro, this is the earliest release wine in the range made to be served chilled. Nose shows a piercing aroma of strawberry confit, raspberry coulis and strawberry pips. Ripe, bright and bursting with opulent fruits with an attractive palate layered with strawberry, red apple and a chalky, gravelly, stony pithy underlay. Unpretentious, this is made for warm weather summer easy drinking.

(Wine Safari Score: 87+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Macia Batle Anada 2017, Vi de la Terra Mallorca, 14 Abv.

A blend of Manto Negro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, the wine is aged for 2 months in barrique. Initially there are earthy red fruits, forest berries and bramble berry spice that also reveals subtle savoury, peppery Syrah notes. Palate is creamy and spicy with oak spice, bramble berry, black plum, raspberry confit and a tart, fresh, juicy finish. A few levels more serious and more structured so perfectly suited to light tapas dining and can still be served nicely chilled without bringing out any tannic bitterness.

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

Macia Batle 1856 2015, Vi de la Terra Mallorca, 14 Abv.

A blend of Manto Negro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Callet aged 12 months in French oak and 12 months in bottle. Palate shows wonderful freshness and purity of fruit with very fine blend integration. Sleek and precise, there is a very polished texture and a finely tuned melange of bright red berries, raspberries, logan berry, red plum and bramble berry sappy spice. Lovely cool balance, creamy spicy tannins and a long harmonious finish. This is an impressive Crianza style wine.

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

Margalida Llompart Tinto 2015, Vi de la Terra, 14 Abv.

A blend of Manto Negro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah aged 18 months in French oak but not in bottle before release. A serious, rich, plush nose of liquorice stick, black cherry, black currant and stewed black plums laced wth a vanilla pod spice dusting, piquant peppery notes and and creamy red berry opulence. A classy, distinguished red that carries its 14 Abv extremely well and shows wonderful balance and harmony. The tannins are mineral and drying with fine powdery grip and cry out for local cuisine to match. Very well made red with plenty of attention to detail.

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

Macia Batle Colleccio Privada 2013, Vi de la Terra Mallorca, 14 Abv.

A blend of 35% Manto Negro, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot aged in 100% new French barriques for 18 months followed by another 18 months ageing in bottle. A piercing nose of cassis, saline black currant, black berry reduction and black salty liquorice. There is a lovely mineral underlay that tempers the fruit concentration and intensity, lending notes of crushed gravel and limestone. The palate shows an impressively supple, sleek, fine boned structure with great elegance, acid freshness, finessed texture and a powdery harmonious tannin finish. This is actually very impressive.

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

Macia Batle Colleccio Privada 2014, Vi de la Terra Mallorca, 14.5 Abv.

A blend of 30% Manto Negro, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 18 months in new French oak and 18 months in bottle. A slightly more subdued nose but shows plenty of saline black currant, hints of black berry reduction, sappy forest fruits and a subtle kiss of salty liquorice. The palate is bright and fresh, energetic and sweet fruited with impressive plummy medley of logan berry, mulberry and creamy raspberry berry fruits. texturally, this has all the elegance and structural finesse you would hope for from a wine aged at least 3 years before release. Very classy, well balance and suitably proportioned.

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

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:

Callet
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.