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 ~ 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)