In early 2022 a friend of mine who is quite enthusiastic about Spanish wines arranged a tasting on Spanish island wines, ie. wines from the Canary Islands and Mallorca. When it comes to Spanish wines, neither Canary nor Mallorcan wines are particularly well-known and, apart from a few producers, aren’t quite easy to come by - at least around here. I guess it goes without saying that there is no way I’d want to miss an opportunity like this to taste so many interesting wines at one go.
After the tasting proper most of us stayed behind and pulled out a bottle or two (one of the benefits of arranging tastings at offsites with proper tasting rooms). In the end the amount of extra bottles turned out to be so big that it was as if we had two tastings at one go! One with a very specific focus - and one with no focus whatsoever!
The introductory blinds:
2020 Sorelle Bronca Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Rive di Rua Particella 181 - Italy, Veneto, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG (29.1.2022)
100% Glera from a 35-yo vineyard in Rua di Feletto. Fermented and aged for 8 months on the lees in pressurized stainless steel tanks. 11% alcohol, 6 g/l residual sugar, 6,5 g/l acidity. Tasted blind.
Pale, youthful whitish-green color. The nose feels very true to Prosecco with its aromas of fresh pear, some floral notes of apple blossom, light leesy nuances, a little bit of bitter almond oil and a subtle autolytic hint of custard pastry. The wine is dry-to-dry-ish on the palate with a very soft and silky mousse and clean flavors of ripe golden apples, some fresh pear, a little bit of apple peel bitterness, light leesy notes of cream and brioche and a tangy hint of saline minerality. Moderately high acidity. The finish is clean, nuanced and medium in length with flavors of ripe Granny Smith apple, some apple peel bitterness, light leesy notes of yeast, a little bit of fresh pear, floral hints of apple blossom and a touch of saline minerality.
When sniffing and tasting the wine for the first time, I immediately said out loud that this feels like Prosecco! I just never thought that anyone would bring Prosecco to a blind tasting, so I started to wonder what could be a sparkling wine that would feel so Prosecco-like. I do have to admit that the wine was more nuanced than your run-of-the-mill Prosecco with a little bit of autolytic complexity and much less emphasis on the dosage sweetness than is typical of the style. However, the wine is still undeniably very Prosecco with its soft, easy carbonation (thanks to the Charmat method) and the fruity pear notes that are quite ubiquitous in so many Proseccos. While a very nice, commendable and thoroughly enjoyable effort for a Prosecco, this still doesn't represent a style I'd choose over Champagne, Franciacorta or high-quality Cava. Feels a tad pricey for the quality at 20,80€.
2004 Morgadío Albariño Rías Baixas Torre Fornelos - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas (29.1.2022)
12% alcohol. Tasted blind.
Quite deep golden yellow color with a colorless rim. Very developed and somewhat tertiary nose with complex aromas of browned butter, some burnt sugar, a little bit of bruised apple, light nutty notes of chopped walnuts, a hint of honeyed richness, a touch of smoke and a whiff of roasted chestnuts. The wine is dry, evolved and concentrated by the age with a medium body and intense, rather tertiary flavors of chalky phenolic bitterness, some wet stone minerality, a little bit of pithy grapefruit, light developed notes of cooked cream and browned butter, a nutty hint of roasted chestnuts and a touch of caramel. The overall impression is rather similar to a 30-40 yo Riesling, if it weren't for the surprisingly modest medium-plus acidity and phenolic bitter nuances that feel a bit out of place for a Riesling. The finish is long, dry and complex with quite tertiary flavors of stony minerality, some nutty notes, light pithy notes of pomelo and pink grapefruit, light notes of cooked cream and browned butter, a hint of smoke and a touch of honeyed richness.
With its evolved, complex and moderately creamy notes this wine reminded me a lot of aged Riesling - many old German Rieslings I've tasted from the 1970's to 1990's have had a very similar aroma profile. Only the surprisingly soft acidity made me think this wasn't a Riesling, but I still had to guess so, just to get it out from my head. When I was told this was not Riesling, it didn't take me much longer to arrive in Albariño and Rías Baixas - this wouldn't be the first time I was fooled to think an Albariño was Riesling (after all, its name "White Rhine" is quite suggestive of Riesling!), but this was certainly the first time I was fooled by an aged Albariño to think it was an aged Riesling. Apparently these Albariños evolve pretty much into the same direction as Riesling, but at a seemingly faster pace, seeing how this 18-yo Albariño felt like a Riesling twice as old. Many people thought this was way past its peak and long gone, whereas I thought the wine was just developed, but still very enjoyable, not showing that much oxidation and still retaining some fruity nuances next to the more tertiary characteristics. All in all, an enjoyable old Albariño!
The island whites:
2019 Bodegas Viñátigo Vijariego Blanco - Spain, Canary Islands, Tenerife (29.1.2022)
100% Vijariego from ungrafted, volcanic vineyards in the northwestern parts of Tenerife. Vijariego is the most high-acid variety in Canary Islands, normally used in blends to boost acidity and to moderate alcohol levels. Aged for 5 months in once, twice and thrice used French oak barriques. 13% alcohol. Bottle #1017 of total 3520 bottles.
Pale, youthful neon-green color. Fresh, fruity nose with bright aromas of ripe white currants, some fresh apple tones, light notes of earthy spices like turmeric or mustard, a little bit of chopped aromatic herbs and a vague hint of flint-smoky character typical of volcanic wines. The wine is surprisingly broad and even slightly oily on the palate, yet wonderfully fresh, bright and light-to-medium-bodied at the same time. Harmonious flavors of fresh red apple, sappy herbal spice, some saline mineral tones, a little bit of smoky volcanic character, light crunchy notes of passion fruit, a hint of incisive steely character and a reductive touch of something vaguely sulfurous. There's a concentrated feel of dry extract to the wine, but the rather high acidity lends great sense of balance to the wine. The finish is quite long with bright flavors of ripe white fruits, some tangy saline notes, a little bit of passion fruit, light sappy herbal tones, a smoky hint of volcanic character and a touch of earthy spices.
A balanced and still very youthful white with a nice volcanic overall character that complements both the ripe fruit flavors and more sappy herbal nuances. The wine is curiously both ripe and even somewhat concentrated yet fresh with high acidity, quite light body and pleasantly sappy. It's certainly possible that the wine is still just too young and awkward, needing a few more years to get its game a bit better together. Nevertheless, this is pretty drinkable and enjoyable already now, even if there seems to be some potential for future development. Good value at 16€.
2019 Tierra Fundida Blanco Cercado del Pino - Spain, Vino de Mesa (29.1.2022)
A blend of Albillo Criollo, Listán Blanco and Verdello from Tenerife, labeled as "Lote 01", Viño de España. Fermented spontaneously, vinified without SO2. 12,5% alcohol.
Pale-to-medium-deep lemon-yellow color. Surprisingly vegetal, borderline unripe nose with aromas of grassy greenness, some reductive notes of hard-boiled eggs, a little bit of apple peel and a hint of grapey fruit. The wine is very firm, dry and crunchy on the palate with a light body and fresh flavors of grassy and almost vegetal greenness along with flavors of steely minerality, some Granny Smith apple, a little bit of stony minerality, light pithy notes of grapefruit, a hint of fresh greencurrant and a volcanic touch of smoky character. The racy acidity lends great freshness and almost electric feel to the wine. The finish is dry, crisp and acid-driven with bright flavors of tart green apples, some citrus fruit notes of lemon or grapefruit, light leesy tones, a little bit of tangy salinity, a hint of grassy vegetal character and a touch of wet stone minerality.
An enjoyably fresh, crisp and zippy white that feels a tad too thin and green for my palate. There's also a bit of reduction that's further accentuated by the volcanic character of the wine, but that's something that will blow off with enough age / air. However, I doubt any amount of aging will help with the slightly underwhelming body and green qualities that veer more towards unripeness rather than towards enjoyable herbal character. It is as if the grapes had struggled to achieve required ripeness, resulting in a wine that is a bit too light and green for its own good. There are some nice characteristics here, but as a whole, the wine feels a bit underwhelming - and also rather pricey for the quality at 20€.
2016 Suertes del Marqués Valle de la Orotava Trenzado - Spain, Canary Islands, Tenerife, Valle de la Orotava (29.1.2022)
A blend of organically farmed old-vine Listán Blanco (98-99%) with a tiny amount of other local varieties Albillo Criollo, Gual, Malvasía, Marmajuelo, Pedro Ximénez or Torrontés (1-2%) blended in. The vineyards are located in the western reaches of the Orotava valley and can be anything from 10 to 150 years old. Fermented spontaneously in foudres ranging from 2000 to 4500 liters. Partial MLF carried out spontaneously. Aged for 9 months in foudres. 13% alcohol.
Very slightly hazy yellow-green color. Very recognizably volcanic nose with smoky aromas of gunpowder smoke and flatulent reduction, followed by aromas of golden currants, some leesy creaminess, a little bit of zesty lemon character, light crunchy notes of fresh golden apples and a hint of sea breeze. The initial impression is a bit stuffy, but the nose slowly opens up to become more aromatic. The wine feels silky, ripe and slightly concentrated on the palate with a medium body and dry, lively flavors of tangy salinity, some smoky notes of reduction, a little bit of leesy creaminess, light tart notes of Granny Smith apple and lemony citrus fruits, a hint of golden currants and a touch of stony minerality. The bright acidity lends good sense of balance and structure to the wine. The finish is dry, bright and moderately acid-driven with crisp flavors of tangy salinity and stony minerality, some leesy notes, a little bit of volcanic smoky character, light crisp notes of Granny Smith apple and a pithy hint of grapefruit.
A tasty, crisp and slightly reduced Canarian white that shows how remarkably well Palomino (aka. Listán Blanco) - a variety known to be neutral in taste and low in acidity - can perform in volcanic vineyards. This wine shows great fruit intensity, structured acidity and even some sense of concentration without any of the dullness, neutrality or softness normally associated with Palomino. The only thing that might be a bit of a problem is the reduction - very typical of Suertes del Marqués wines - that really needs some air to blow off. This wine was opened and slow-oxed for an hour or two beforehand and it still didn't do much, so I heartily recommend decanting the wine for a few hours or just letting it age for a handful of years more - the wine really can take some serious aging, as it is still fresh as a daisy at the age of 5 years, showing no sense of age whatsoever! Stylish and immensely enjoyable stuff, if you don't mind the reduction. Great value at 15€.
2016 Vina Bodega Matias i Torres Albillo Criollo La Palma Blanco - Spain, Canary Islands, La Palma (29.1.2022)
100% Albillo Criollo (unrelated to other Albillos) from an ungrafted 30-50 yo Briesta vineyard in La Palma. Fermented spontaneously in stainless steel but racked into glass demijohns before the fermentation is finished. Aged for 11 months on the lees in demijohns. 13% alcohol.
Pale and slightly hazy straw-yellow color. Somewhat wild and funky nose with aromas of ripe yellow fruits, some waxy tones, a little bit of leathery funk, light smoky volcanic notes, a hint of beeswax, a touch of resinous character and a herby whiff of vegetal greenness. The wine is ripe, broad and even somewhat chewy on the palate with a supple medium body and rather concentrated flavors of waxy funk, some sweet yellow fruits, a little bit of honeydew melon, light apricot nuances, a hint of bretty leather and a touch of beeswax. The moderately high acidity keeps the wine nicely in balance. The finish is dry, rather concentrated and a bit sauvage with flavors of beeswax, some leathery funk, a little bit of sweet nectarine-driven stone fruit character, light appley nuances, a hint of stony minerality and a touch of gunpowder smoke.
A very distinctive white that is somewhat funky and surprisingly concentrated, yet at the same time wonderfully fresh, bright and light on its feet. Although funky, the wine isn't particularly natty, but instead immensely drinkable and full of character. Superb stuff, really. It's hard to assess whether this wine will continue to improve, or if it is best drunk in its youth, but at least it offers tons of pleasure right now. Terrific value at 18€, highly recommended.
2019 Miquel Oliver Pla i Llevant Orig - Spain, Balearic Islands, Pla i Llevant (29.1.2022)
100% Girò Roz (a pink-skinned mutation of Giró Blanco). 14% alcohol.
Luminous and quite intensely-colored, youthful yellow-green appearance. The nose is sweet, very tropical and noticeably fruit-driven with heady aromas of passion fruit and papaya, some peach candies, a little bit of honeyed richness, light notes of cantaloupe and almost Northern Rhône-like floral hints of floral chamomile character and a herbal of noble hops. The wine is rich, round and rather fat on the palate with a full body and quite intense flavors of ripe apricots and mango, some pineapple-driven notes of fruit cocktail, light candied nuances of gummi bears, a little bit of banana, a hint of herby character and a touch of perhaps woody spice. The medium-plus acidity doesn't feel high enough to lend the wine necessary freshness and sense of structure, whereas the rather high alcohol shows through a little. The finish is ripe, round and juicy with tropical medium-long flavors of peach and some apricot, a little bit of banana, light candied notes of gummi bears, a hint of apple jam and a touch of papaya.
A very rich, round and supple that suffers from the same problem as so many Mallorcan wines: too much ripeness, too much alcohol and too little acidity. The wine is full of gras and while the fruit packs quite a bit of intensity, it really doesn't have enough structure to back it all up, so the wine ends up tasting flabby and lacking energy. I really can't see the wine having much upside, so most likely it won't benefit from further aging. Drink now. Starting to feel a bit pricey for the quality at 13€.
The island reds:
2020 Aguirre, Sánchez y González Listan Negro 40 Días y 40 Noches - Spain, Canary Islands, Tenerife, Tacoronte-Acentejo (29.1.2022)
100% Listán Negro from Tacoronte, northeastern Tenerife. Fermented spontaneously in concrete, aged in French oak barrels. 13,5% alcohol.
Youthful, somewhat translucent and very slightly hazy pomegranate color. The nose is very heady and ridiculously candied with cloying aromas of strawberry candies and raspberry marmalade, some perfumed floral notes, a little bit of lavender, light blueberry jam tones and a hint of blackberry juice. The nose feels just ridiculously over-the-top with its explosive aromas - and not particularly attractive at it. Contrasting the voluptuous aromas, the wine is quite crunchy and acid-driven on the palate with a light-to-medium body. However, the flavors follow the nose with quite concentrated flavors of raspberry marmalades and strawberry candies, some bubblegum tones, a little bit of blueberry juice, light gravelly mineral tones, a floral hint of lavender and a touch of acetic VA. At least the overall feel is pretty structured, thanks both to the high acidity and ripe and soft yet surprisingly ample tannins that slowly pile up on the gums. The finish is long, acid-driven and gently grippy with candied flavors of strawberry drops and raspberry marmalades, some floral notes of lavender, a little bit of blackberry juice and a sharp, acetic hint of VA.
Ugh, nope. This was just way too sweet, heady and candied for my taste. Taste-wise the wine was bone-dry with no obvious sugary sweetness, but the cloying candy tones were just too much for me. Although the wine is supposed to be made in a very hands-off approach (and based on its subtly acetic undertones, it most likely is), its lush, candied aromas and flavors remind me a lot of very commercial wines where selected yeasts produce these kinds of candied aromas to support the thin, underwhelming fruit. However, based on the structure and flavor intensity, there was no problems with the fruit quality here. The style is just odd and, in my opinion, rather unpleasant and quite atypical for Listán Negro. I really don't know what was going on here, but hopefully the wine was just way too primary at the moment and opened too soon for its own good. Hopefully the wine will drop its over-the-top candied qualities with age, as in its current condition it really wasn't worth the 16€.
2017 Tierra Fundida Tinto 1/1 - Spain, Vino de Mesa (29.1.2022)
AFAIK, this is the first vintage of Tierra Fundida. A blend of Negramoll, Castellana Negra and Verdello. Fermented spontaneously in concrete. Aged on the lees in old oak casks for 7 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 12,5% alcohol.
Pale, translucent and very slightly hazy ruby color with a youthful crimson hue. The nose feels dull, dusty and musty with TCA aromas of mildew and cardboard. The wine is dull and musty on the palate with moderately high acidity and light tannins.
2018 4 Kilos Vi de La Tierra Mallorca Motor SCRS - Spain, Balearic Islands, Vi de La Tierra Mallorca (29.1.2022)
100% Escursac, a Mallorcan variety recently saved from extinction, from the comune of Felanitx. As the variety is not approved in the appellation laws of Mallorca, it's not allowed to mention the name of the grape in the label - hence "SCRS". Lot 1, 11% alcohol.
Pale, translucent and wonderfully luminous ruby red color. The nose feels restrained, yet seductively nuanced with sweetish aromas of wild strawberries and red cherries, some blueberries, light boysenberry tones and perfumed hints of wild flowers. The wine is fresh, clean and lively on the palate with ripe flavors of dark forest fruits, some wild strawberry, light cherry tones, a little bit of blueberry, light earthy tones and a hint of floral character. Bright, high acidity with gentle, easy tannins. The finish is dry, fresh and clean with gentle tannic grip and quite persistent flavors of blueberries, some wild strawberries, a little bit of brambly raspberry, light earthy tones and a hint of garrigue.
A fresh, clean and poised little Mallorcan red that doesn't suffer from the typical pitfalls of modern Mallorcan reds - ie. too high alcohol, too much oak and too little acidity. On the contrary, this succeeds in all these three characteristics, being quite high in acidity, remarkably low in alcohol and not showing any obvious oak character. An eminently drinkable and very sophisticated effort, solid value at 15€.
2020 Ve d'Avior (Cati Ribot) Escursac Ve d'Avior - Spain, Balearic Islands (29.1.2022)
100% organically farmed Escursac. Made in a non-interventionist fashion by Cati Ribot, fermented in ceramic vessels, bottled at Bodegas Galmés i Ribot. The label doesn't mention the vintage, only "Lot-Esc20". 11,5% alcohol.
Hazy, even slightly murky, purplish-red color. Very sauvage and somewhat unclean nose with aromas of burnt hair, some ripe blueberry, light acetic notes of VA and a hint of gamey meat. The wine is wild, mellow and somewhat unclean on the palate with a medium body and rather off flavors of canned corn and corn taco shells, some metallic notes of brett, a little bit of something grainy, light juicy notes of ripe dark berries and a hint of animale. The medium acidity and modest tannins make the wine appear soft and lacking in energy. The finish is wild, dull and gently grippy with unclean flavors of earth, some ripe cranberry, a little bit of stale bread, light unclean animalistic tones and finally a sesame seed-like hint of mousiness that starts to emerge towards the end of the aftertaste.
Ugh. A very natural and rather unclean red. I don't know if the wine is supposed to be like this or if it has turned out to be like this with air / temperature / something, but it was very disagreeable already upon opening - and turned only worse the longer it breathed. With its modest acidity, overwhelmingly funky notes of brett, mousiness and what else, it really doesn't paint a flattering picture of Escursac. Feels very overpriced for the quality at 18€.
2019 Sistema Vinari Vi de La Tierra Mallorca Fato - Spain, Balearic Islands, Vi de La Tierra Mallorca (29.1.2022)
A naturalist blend of Callet (65%), Manto Negro (20%) Escursac (15%) by 4 Kilos's winemaker Eloi Cedó Perelló. Vinified at Bodegas Galmés. Fermented spontaneously, 25% of Callet fermented in whole bunches, Escursac entirely by carbonic maceration. Macerated with the skins for 15-30 days, depending on the variety. Aged for 6 months in old foudres. Bottled unfined, unfiltered and without any sulfites. Lot F19. 12,5% alcohol.
Rather hazy and slightly murky violet color. Moderately fruity but also rather wild nose of ripe cranberries and darker forest fruits, some sweet strawberry tones, a little bit of blackberry, light stuffy notes of stale bread, a hint of funk and acetic character suggesting mousiness and a touch of fresh dark plum. The wine is dry, moderately wild and slightly earthy on the palate with flavors of ripe dark berries, some nutty notes of mousiness, a little bit of crunchy crowberry, light brambly notes of raspberry, a hint of humus and a touch of acetic character. The wine is moderately high in acidity with medium tannins. The medium-long finish is ripe and juicy with rather unclean flavors of mousy THP, some earthy tones, a little bit of brambly black raspberry and a hint of tart cranberry.
Ugh, nope. Although not intensively mousy, the wine was still mousy enough that this dreaded, nutty-grainy flavor emerged in the mouth already before the aftertaste, even though this characteristic should normally become evident only after the wine has left your mouth. Well, not in this case. The overall style is overtly natty and while the wine is enjoyably dry and crunchy, the funky, murky, unclean flavors strip all the enjoyment from this wine. I'm not impressed. Feels expensive for the quality at 20€.