The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting Suertes del Marques Blanco Dulce Solera NV (Nov 2014 Edition)…

Since circa 2011, Suertes del Marques has produced a tiny amount of dessert wine from primarily Listan Blanco. The must is drawn off the other white cuvées and fermented to around 8 or 9 Abv before being fortified with spirit to 15% Abv. Only around 100 x 50cl bottles are produced each year and are marked with the date they were drawn from the Solera. They did not have an accurate spec sheet for the wine when I visited, but based on taste, this wine must have an RS of between 80 and 120 g/l residual sugar(?)


Suertes del Marques Blanco Dulce Solera NV (Nov 2014 Edition), Listan Blanco / Malvasia Aromatica, Valle de la Orotava DO, Tenerife, 15 Abv.

The colour is striking, being a wonderfully translucent shade of old gold and dark straw. On the nose, the senses are assaulted with notes of caramelised nuts, toffee apples, butterscotch, Madagascan vanilla pod, caramelised white peaches and the most vivid Sauternes like notes of dried apricots and bruleed oranges. But this is neither a late harvested wine nor a botrytis wine, and so the fruit aromatics remain pure and intense. The palate reveals great harmony and elegance, superb integration of sweet fruit and vanilla oak spice notes with seamless fresh acids and a long, honied, nutty finish. There are no clawing sugary notes or any tiring jammy fruits. Everything is superbly well proportioned and eminently drinkable. I expressed my dismay that Suertes del Marques don’t commercialise this wine further. It’s so delicious and food friendly (we enjoyed a bottle with Tenerife goats cheese and walnuts) that it would certainly find an instant cult following on the dinner party tables of London. In the past, only a handful of bottles were exported, but hopefully we will see a little more of this wine in London.

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


The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting the Suertes del Marques Parcela El Ciruelo…

Suertes del Marques is one of the most successful wineries on the Island of Tenerife, not only because of the sizeable production of excellent wines like their Listan Negro blend 7 Fuentes, but primarily because the of the overall high quality of their entire range. But it’s when you start tasting the single parcel or single vineyard wines, that you realise that these are truly world class fine wines in any context.


The Suertes del Marques Vino de Parcela El Ciruelo Listan Negro 2015 at 13.5 Abv, was 100% whole bunch fermented, being foot trodden for one day and then gentle pump overs employed there after. The 2015 is a fantastic vintage and shows a rich expressive nose of liquorice, black berries, black cherry and sappy sweet leafy spice notes. This is an intense, vibrant wine with wonderful complexity, a sappy, saline cassis and bramble berry laden palate, crunchy acids, a deep concentration, and ripe lush fruit notes on a long finish. Incredible intensity and depth make this a very serious offering and one of the best benchmark quality reds on the island. Drink this now with a little decanting and over the next 10 to 15+ years.

(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 Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Exploring the Wines of Suertes del Marques…

So my week of exploring Tenerife wines and vineyards was almost at an end and I managed to visit much of the island and tasted a good handful of the top wines. So it seemed fitting that my final winery visit was with Jonatan Garcia Lima at Bodegas Suertes del Marques in the north east of the island, the winery who can honestly claim to have put premium Tenerife wines on the UK and global fine wine map in the late 2000s. 


Suertes del Marques was founded in 2006 and has played a pivotal role in developing the reputation of Tenerife’s wines on the world wine scene. Based in the Valle de la Orotova, Suertes del Marques is also home to the oldest vines on the island. The volcanic soils here were formed relatively recently with the last large scale eruption from Mt Teide occurring only 1000 years ago, and with its satellite crater erupting as recently as 1798. 

Mt Teide volcano that dominates the landscape

The estate currently owns around 11 hectares over a multitude of different parcels, focusing exclusively on old vines, but also buy in numerous parcels of old vine fruit from 17 hectares managed by growers. 

Looking north down the vineyards towards the coast.
 
Looking south up to the top of the estate where vineyards reach 700 metres in altitude.
 

Tenerife has a long and fascinating wine history and a wealth of indigenous grape varieties such as Listán Tinto, Tintilla and Baboso Negro, most of which are over 100 years old and are pie franco vines, meaning they are ungrafted and grown on their own rootstock. The estate has over 40 varieties, many used for experimentation but focuses production on 8 main varietals.

Classic old vine Listan Negro.
 
Newly planted Malvasia Rosado, using the traditional Cordon Trenzado
 

Suertes del Marques is widely acknowledged by other bodegas on the island as Tenerife’s best producer, and owner Jonatan Garcia Lima is part of this growing breed of intensely passionate young Spanish producers who endlessly strive to drive the quality of their wines upwards. 

With Jonatan Garcia Lima on the terrace of the winery.

In 2011, the whites and reds underwent a massive overhaul in packaging and label updating. The 2011 vintages were the first wines to make their mark on the UK trade, and demand has continued to rise continuously ever since.


Since the departure of winemaker Roberto Santana Envinate at the end of the 2015 vintage, Suertes del Marques has started working with the talented young winemakers Luis Seabra (ex-Niepoort) and Loles Perez (who is also one of the 15 growers supplying fruit to the Envinate Benje range of wines).

Loles Perez with Jonatan in the winery at the time of blending the 2016 Vidonia parcels.

When I arrived to taste the barrel samples and new bottlings, the estate was already preparing to begin the 2017 harvest, where vineyards stretch from 350 metres up to 700 metres in altitude. 

Listan Negro grapes from El Chibirique, harvested on the 22nd of August.

In the cellar, they were preparing the final parcel blends of their Vidonia 2016 white which is made primarily from old vine Listan Blanco (aka Palomino Fino) that is aged for 11 months in 500 litres barrels. While the estate has over 13 labels, their village red wine 7 Fuentes now forms up to 55% of their total production.

Loles blending the Vidonia 2016.

The Suertes del Marques Wine Range:

Trenzado 2016

Trenzado is a blend of mainly Listán blanco blended with a “vidueño”, or field blend, where native grapes such as Gual, Marmajuelo, Baboso Blanco, Albillo Criollo, Vijariego Blanco and Verdello populate the vineyard. This captivating white takes its name from the trellis system unique to the Canary Islands: “el cordon trenzado” (the braided cord), a multiple cordon with a number of the vine’s branches braided together. 

200 year old Listan Blanco grown in the Cordon Trenzado training method.



Vidonia 2015 

From old-vine Listán Blanco, this unique white is wonderfully mineral, with a matchstick nose and pleasantly reductive notes alongside citrus, peach and nuts. It’s also fresh, textured and incredibly complex, and quite versatile with food. A truly singular wine.


7 Fuentes 2016

Suertes del Marques refers to this as their “village wine” and it’s a good introduction to their reds.  It comes from a blend of several plots, all on volcanic soils, and its main component is the wildly aromatic Listán Negro, followed by  a small amount of Tintilla (aka Trousseau). A juicy and refreshing wine that showcases the vivid aromas and flavours of Listán Negro.


La Solana 2015

Made from a single vineyard of old-vine, high altitude Listán Negro which is vatted into small, open concrete tanks for a cold soak before fermenting in French oak.



The resulting wine is very aromatic and perfumed, juicy and smoky. Intriguing and ever-changing, it’s the kind of wine that makes you smell it twice.


Candio 2015, El Esquilon 2015, El Ciruelo 2015 and El Chibirique 2015 are produced from single parcels of Listán Negro, and are sometimes interplanted with a small amount of Listán Blanco, like in El Chibirique, which is named after a centenary plum tree that grows alongside the vines. Very fine, fresh, peppery and aromatic, and extremely elegant on the palate. Burgundy-esque yet with a personality all of its own.



Los Pasitos 2015 is a wine that comes from a tiny 0.25-hectare plot planted with Baboso Negro grapes on volcanic and clay soils. The wine processes amazing aromatics and lovely bright cherry fruit on the palate, with an intensely mineral finish.


The main whites and reds of Suertes del Marques will be reviewed on this blog individually, including their uber rare Blanco Dolce.

Such a wonderful way to end my trip by visiting and tasting all the wines of Suertes del Marques, where the Tenerife wine revolution began. I highly recommend visiting the island and tasting their amazing volcanic wines.

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.