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 ~ 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 ~ 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)

Attending the London Launch of Bodegas Noemia’s New Releases with Owner ~ Winemaker Hans Vinding-Diers…

I have been buying the impressively individual Patagonian Malbecs from Bodegas Noemia for several years. But unlike the swathes of other Argentinian Malbecs on the market, however well made and enjoyable to drink they may be, many lack that extra individuality, tension, freshness, finesse and complexity. These are all the characteristics that for me, typify the wines made by Hans Vinding-Diers.


Listening to Hans speak is such a privilege as he conveys so animatedly, his passion and determination to make the very best wines possible, very much in the same vein that other winemaking greats do such as Dirk Niepoort in Portugal or indeed his cousin, Peter Sisseck of Dominio de Pingus in Spain.


The new releases for Bodegas Noemia included the new, never before tasted, 2016 A Lisa in its new style Burgundy bottle, the J.Alberto Malbec 2015, and lastly the hotly anticipated Noemia 2015 old vine Malbec.


Bodegas Noemia A Lisa Malbec 2016, Patagonia, 13 Abv.

The new bottle shape seems to be in recognition that this wine is pulling in a different direction to most Malbecs. Pie Franco vines from selection massale, grown on sandy soils from multiple selected vineyards, yearns to be more Burgundy than Bordeaux. Still in a very youthful posture, the nose is rich and spicy with layers of cedar and sappy spice, stem ginger, clove and boxwood. In its Burgundian guise, the wine is impressively elegant and fragrant, showing violets, incense and waxy red berry fruit lift. The palate possess a wonderful, delineated texture, being formed of a 75% stainless steel portion and a 25% portion aged in 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels for 9 months. This new release is superbly suave, elegantly fleshy, and true to its feminine form. A great buy for the price point. 

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


J.Alberto Malbec 2015, Patagonia, 13.5 Abv.

This stalwart of the range is a 95% Malbec and 5% Merlot blend from a 4 hectare vineyard that has been farmed organically and biodynamically since 2006. 30% was aged in cement tank and 70% in second fill French oak. Vines were planted in 1955 on gravel and clay, with alluvial riverbed soils. At 1.8 meters depth, the vines hit the slightly saline water table, anecdotally adding a slight salty twang to the musts. The 2015 is voluptuously rich, dark and broody with notes of incense, spice, bramble berry, cassis and sweet Victoria plum. There is such a dense texture, an opulent fleshy mocha tinged mulberry depth and a beautifully complex breadth. This is a seriously impressive wine with focus, balance and length. 

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


Bodegas Noemia 2015, Patagonia, 14.5 Abv.

I recently reviewed the amazing 2012 from Hans and the wine still lingers in the back of my mind. Again, this is another 100% Malbec from the designated 1.5 hectare old vine Malbec vineyard planted in 1932. Cropped at only 30 hectolitres per hectare, this premium wine displays a rich, intense broody nose of black plum, cassis, and strawberry confit, with a really dense core and intensity. The nose draws you in and holds you transfixed. 33% new French oak in 600 litre barrels is used making the palate seamless, harmonious and creamy but also with such impressive balance and finesse. The wine has a start but no defined finish, with complex, opulent flavours that just linger on, and on, and on! Such subtlety, this wine really shows a happy vineyard made by a happy winemaker. A real beauty. (Bottled December 2016)

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