Tenerife Wine Odyssey – Jetting Off to Tenerife For the Bodegas Suertes del Marques New Cellar Opening Celebration…

When I last visited this island winery in August 2017, owner Jonatan Garcia Lima elucidated his grand plans for a new winery. Then when I caught up with him at subsequent tastings in London in early 2018, he asked me to put Monday 4th of March 2019 in my diary to make sure I did not miss his grand cellar opening celebration at the El Esquilon winery in La Orotava.

 

Roll on another year and before I knew it, it was time to jet off to Tenerife. I was accompanied on the same flight by Tenerife aficionado Daniel Primack, the UK Zalto glasses distributor, as well as jet setting wine journalist extraordinaire, Jamie Goode from www.wineanorak.com.

 

With Daniel Primack, Jonatan and Jamie Goode.

After a very quick hotel check in, we were whisked straight off for a comprehensive barrel tasting of all the 2018 red and white cuvees in the grand new cellar. Suertes del Marques produces around 55 different cuvees which are then blended into around 17 different wines. However, their Vino de Parcela (single vineyard) wines are easily the most important component of their range.

 

The lower vineyards at Suertes del Marques planted on clay loamy soils.

Vidonia 2018 was still completing malolactic fermentation when we tasted it but all the wines, almost without exception, showed an attractive accessible purity and opulence akin to the excellent quality 2017 vintage, another warm year with plenty of moisture. Almost all the wines produced are from the La Orotava Valley, however, there are of course a couple of interesting experimental barrels lurking in the cellar like the excellent Sortevera Amogoje 2018 white blend from the Taganana area and also the Taganana Margalagua red 2018. Both show excellent potential.

 

The 200 to 250 year old Listan Blanco vines on the property trained in the Cordon Trenzado method.

I wrote an extensive description of the vineyards and winery in 2017 which you can read here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/08/22/the-tenerife-wine-odyssey-exploring-the-wines-of-suertes-del-marques/

 

The Stockinger barrels in the new cellar.

The basic terroir of the La Orotava Valley on the North coast of the island revolves around the Listan Negro red wines from vines grown on the more Easterly aspects, with their heavier clay / sandy soil components. In the West, vineyards are dominated by sandy stony basaltic soils which have proved more suitable for white varieties, primarily Listan Blanco, otherwise known as Palomino Fino.

 

As the El Esquilon Estate of Suertes del Marques sits in the middle of the La Orotava Valley, approximately 80% of the vineyards are planted to red varieties and 20% to white, with lower slopes dominated by loamy clay and the higher slopes basaltic sandy loam. Their main grape Listan Negro is a cross between Listan Blanco (Palomino fino) and Tinta Negro Mole, a variety better know in Madeira.

 

Tasting 2018s from barrel with owner Jonatan in the new cellar.

New 2017 Vintage Tasting:

Suertes del Marques La Floridita 2018, 12.5 Abv.

Pale cherry red, this wine is still very reductive but shows delicious strawberry pith and raspberry fruit underneath with a smokey basaltic mineral core.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Suertes Cool 2018, 11.5 Abv. (NatCool presented in the 1 Litre bottle)

Listan Negro from 450m mid-slope vineyards. This new addition to the NatCool international offering shows a lovely fresh nose balancing crushed red berries, basalt minerality and bramble berry notes. Palate is sleek, ripe but noticeably lithe and elegant. Not challenging at all but retains wonderful complexity. A really pleasurable glassful best served slightly chilled.

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

 

Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes 2017, 13 Abv.

A fine Listan Negro parcel blend with the majority aged in concrete tanks. Jammed packed full of smokey volcanic minerality, strawberry and crushed raspberry fragrance, illustrating the plush elegance and accessible balance of the vintage. Sappy and fleshy, this red is already showing very well.

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

 

Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes El Lance 2017, 12.5 Abv.

Fine sappy nose with hints of whole bunch and resinous black berry crunch. Quite finely textured, harmonious balance and a chalky, mineral powder tannin finish. Very friendly wine with impressive mid-palate depth.

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

 

Suertes del Marques La Solana Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13 Abv.

Fresh sappy nose packed full of leafy bramble berry fruits, subtle hint of reduction and a basaltic mineral undertone. Finely embroidered texture, chalky dry tannins and a smokey graphite finish. Pop this in the cellar for 5 years.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Candio 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13.5 Abv.

Very attractive nose of red bramble berry fruits, lavender and crushed rose petals. Super elegant with a creamy texture embellished by a lick of classy oak spice. Really harmonious and balanced, this is a class act. Crack into these on release!

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

 

Suertes del Marques El Chibirique 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcel, 13 Abv.

Dark and broody nose, this shows railway yard reduction, coal smoke, blackberry confit and a sappy leafy complexing aromatic edge. Medium bodied, suave and elegant but noticeably more restrained and mineral in style with a graphite, stony bite on the finish. Still very youthful, this is one for the cellar.

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

 

Suertes del Marques El Esquilon 2016 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 12.5 Abv.

Rich opulent forward vintage showing plenty of verve and vigour. Displays a lovely melange of chalky, stony, basaltic mineral tannins and dense, concentrated black berry fruits. Lovely accessibility, classy balance but real drive and intensity. Very impressive cuvee.

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

 

Suertes del Marques El Ciruelo 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13 Abv.

100% Whole Bunch and foot trodden in concrete. This has a fabulously complex nose with just the right amount of complexing reduction, struck match and smokey, sappy black bramble berry fruit. Very youthful at the moment but this shows as much potential as the epic 2016 I reviewed recently. Such balance and class. Shows everything that’s great about premium Tenerife Listan Negro.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Los Pasitos 2017 Vino de Parcela, Baboso Negro. 12.5 Abv.

Lovely nose full of gun powder smoke, graphite and crushed bramble berries, wet leaves and sap. Crunchy and fresh with taut glassy acids and a tightly wound finish with fabulously polished tannins. Very serious.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Cruz Santa 2017 Vino de Parcela, Vijariego Negro, 12.5 Abv.

Grown on clay soils. Soft sweet sappy and cool with plenty of base and treble. Pure black chalky fruits, fine minerailty, sweet and sour black plum hints and finely polished, tight grained tannins. Wow! Not a wine / cuvee I know very well but this is very impressive indeed.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Vidonia 2017 Listan Blanco Vino de Parcela, 12.5 Abv.

Alluring aromatics of white citrus, wet chalk, crushed green apples and pear purée. Lovely pure smokey note balanced by sweet quince, white peach and a spicy, lemon and herb complexity. Creamy and cool on the palate, this Listan Blanco parcela wine shows a lot of similarities to a fine slightly reductive white Burgundy. Really delicious but also quite a serious glassful!

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

Tasting Vidonia Parcela Listan Blanco 2018 from barrel.

 

Suertes del Marques Trenzado Listan Blanco, 12.5 Abv.

This Listan Blanco 6 parcel blend reveals a more lifted, exotic, fragrant nose than Vidonia brimming with yellow citrus pastille, waxy lemon peel, struck match reduction, maritime salinity and a wet chalk mineral note. Lovely fleshy concentration and depth with real class and complexity. Not quite the same textural delineation as Vidonia but wow, this wine packs a punch for a super price!

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

 

Looking South up the hill behind the winery.

Looking north down past La Orotava to Puerto de la Cruz.

The Suertes del Marques wines are imported into the UK by Indigo Wines.

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 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 Unicorn Slayer Came to Town Today ~ The Tenerife Odyssey Resurrected Tasting Vidueno 2016…

I make no secret that I enjoy drinking (slaying) unicorn wines! Some people get annoyed by even the mention of the term but I just love how evocative the word is. Of all Roberto Envinate and his team’s wines, this has got to be the rarest. Only 3 barrels of 228l were produced, all of which went to the USA and Mexico. The fruit all came from one unique terroir and is a blend of all the varieties (vidueno) that are planted in that vineyard, which is how wine was traditionally made.

This is a superb blend of 50% Listan Blanco, 45% Listan Prieto, and 5% Tintilla from vines of over 100 years old. This was bottled in July 2017 with no Sulphur additions.

Vidueno de Santiago del Teide 2016, A Chingao Vineyards & Envinate, DO Ycoden Daute Isora, Tenerife, 12 Abv.

When you know you are drinking a rarity, a wine does perhaps taste even better, or does the anticipation just awaken your taste buds a little? This beautiful blend is an alluring crushed cherry red with a smokey ruby depth. The nose is fairly reserved and restrained at first, even reductive, as you’d expect on an old vine 2016 wine from Tenerife. You do catch glimpses of the volcanic terroir with a dusty sweet cherry nose, crushed basalt and subtle peppery bramble berry spice. The palate is tantalisingly fresh and energetic, like a young tea total yoga instructor ready to put you through your paces at 6.30am in the morning. The texture is sleek, taught, vibrant and slightly lean, but all the better for it. Lovely layers of basalt and crushed gravel minerality melt into a complex pithy cranberry fruit medley with yet more red cherry and sour red plum fruit notes. This wine tastes like summer, even in the depths of winter. It’s so delicious, mouth watering and cool fruited, finishing with a lovely dry powdery chalky tannin grip. Long last since I tasted a wine that excited me this much, not because of its grandeur and flamboyance, but perhaps because of the lack there of. This wine challenges you, asks you questions… and the answers are all positive. Really, really lovely Roberto!

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

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 ~ 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)