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 ~ 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 Benchmark Envínate Táganan Tinto 2016 From Barrel…

Envínate is the inspiration of Spanish young guns Laura Ramos, Jose Martínez, Roberto Santana and Alfonso Torrente, four friends who met while studying oenology at the University of Miguel Hernández in Alicante. Their work is currently focused on exploring the ancient, Atlantic-infused terruños (terroirs) of Ribeira Sacra, Canary Islands, Extremadura and Almansa. 

Taganan Tinto 2016 Barrel Sample

Their philosophy is simple: let each single parcel fully express itself through old-fashioned farming and winemaking methods. Currently, there are four different projects under the Envínate umbrella on the go, including the exciting Táganan range made by Roberto Santana and the rest of the Envínate young guns in Tenerife. 

Roberto Santana in London last year

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 and grown organically at between 100 and 500 metres in altitude. 

This wine is a blend of different native varieties, vinified separately in a mix of concrete tanks and small open top containers, resulting in very juicy and utterly drinkable red wines with focused acidities, and plenty of spicy, fresh, red and black berry fruits, at moderate to low alcohol levels, circa 12 to 12.5 Abv on average. 


Envínate Táganan Tinto 2016, Vinos Atlanticos, Tenerife, Spain

A sample taken from one of the 228 litre barrels the wine is currently being aged in, the 2016 Tinto vintage is due to be bottled at the end of 2017. Produced from a blend of mainly Listan Negro and Negramoll, with small amounts of Listan Gacho, Baboso, Mulata, Black Malvasia, and Vijariego Tinto. The nose is reminiscent of a young, earthy, brambly Gevrey Chambertin, showing raisined sweet cranberry, wet grey slate minerality, and a lifted sappy, sweet spice complexity. The palate is sleek, saline and supremely elegant, with subtle hints of crunchy blackberry and cassis berry, but is at no point raw or angular in its youth. Beautifully textured, elegant and incredibly salty, showing the magnificence of both the volcanic terroir and the expression of these indigenous varietals on this coastal peninsula. There are hints of liquorice, black berry, red cherry and sour plum on the long, saline finish that shows so much promise. This tantalising wine might tighten up a little before bottling, but rest assured, this is going to be another superbly accessible, balanced, mouth watering edition of the Táganan Tinto. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Exploring the Island and Its Wines…

It has been said many times… That some of the most beautiful regions in the world to visit are also some of the greatest wine producing areas. As if tasting and drinking fine wine is not enough, you get to do it in aesthetically majestic locations all around the world. 


This summer, the vinous compass was set to the Canary Islands and in particular, Tenerife. The last time I visited this barren, desert-like volcanic island was in the early 80’s on a 2 week family holiday. While I have fond memories of this trip, and in particular the black volcanic sand beaches and the impressive El Teide volcano, in the Parque Nacional de las Canadas del Teide, wine and vineyards certainly did not feature in any way.


About 5 or 6 years ago, the wines from Tenerife started to turn heads in the UK market in a serious way. Stylistically often slightly reductive, crunchy, intensely mineral, saline and fresh, these wines, both reds and whites, are often produced from 80 to 100+ year old vines grown in rugged, exposed volcanic vineyards.


I have it on good authority that the Elizabethans knew more about Tenerife’s wines than current consumers. Indeed the Bard, Shakespeare himself, referenced the wines of the Canary Islands in several of his plays, including a barrel of Canarian Malmsey in one of them. The modern resurgence of interest in wines from Tenerife has gone hand in hand with a massive improvement in quality and there are now over 70 bodegas on the island and several more garagist producers.


These bodegas are spread over five separate areas, each of which has been given a Denomination of Origin to certify the quality of the wine. These are:

Tacoronte Acentejo: The best known and largest of the wine growing areas covers the lush slopes along Tenerife’s north east coast. Vines stretch from near sea level to 1000 metres, producing mainly reds. This is the area that most award winning reds come from.

Valle de Güímar: Again vines are planted from just above sea level, but this time they reach the 1500 metre mark. The sunny Güímar Valley is best for new whites (dry, semi-dry and fruity).

Valle de Orotava: Even though it’s next to the Tacoronte Acentejo area and is also on the north coast, the Orotava Valley is known for its white wines as much as for its reds. The famous Spanish historian and botanist Viero y Clavijo called the valley a ‘great vineyard of malmsey’. But then he was born there.

Ycoden Daute Isora: The vineyards in the north west of Tenerife were originally cultivated by the Portuguese, Flemish and Genoese (some village names around this area give an obvious clue to who settled in the area post conquest). Ycoden Daute Isora is known for its distinctive whites.

Abona: The area that many think of as little more than an arid rock, Tenerife’s southern parts, produces some very good whites, and even the occasional decent red. Vines are planted at two levels, between 200 and 800 metres and then as high as 1700 metres, the highest altitude for vines in the EU.

Because of the diversity of terrain and even climate, vines are planted in a variety of ways. There are five main methods. In some parts the vines are planted in low-lying rows and held up by forks. In others vines are supported by wide frames. Sometimes vines are tied to wires or cut back to form a small bush. Probably the most attractive method is when the vines are plaited together, creating gnarled natural supports up to eight metres long.

Over the next week, I plan to review some of the finest examples of red and white wine on the island, focusing on producers available in the UK market already.