After tasting his way through the Wines From Spain event, Justin Keay was surprised to find a number of his favourite Iberian wines missing from the event. Here he talks about the wines he keeps returning to from Spain’s ‘holiday islands’ of Majorca, Lanzarote and Tenerife that he feels have one foot in ‘new Spain’ as well as another foot firmly rooted in Spain’s older viticultural traditions.
Prenatal Blanc, Manto Negro, Malvasia Volcanico, Listan Blanco, Marmajuelo and Negramoll are just some of the indigenous grapes that all help make up these exciting wines.
Some of the most exciting new wines from Spain are coming from its holiday islands, Majorca and the Canary Islands, with the latter’s volcanic soil adding extra complexity and interest to wines made from rare indigenous grapes unique to the islands. Until recently, small production volumes meant that these wines could only be found locally, but that now is thankfully changing, with all the wines mentioned below recently available to the UK on-trade.
Bodega Biniagual, a family producer in the heart of Majorca’s main winemaking region Binissalem, make a delicious white and red, respectively Memories Blanc 2017 and Memories Negre 2013. The former, comprising local variety Prensal Blanc (60%) blended with Chardonnay and Moscatel, is fresh and approachable with peach and honey notes; the latter, made with Majorcan grape Manto Negro (40%) and in equal proportions Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, is a nuanced, medium weight wine with plenty of vibrant red fruit and a long, memorable finish.
For something really different, look west to the Canary Islands, which escaped phylloxera and where ambitious young winemakers are seeking to revive the island’s indigenous varieties.
From volcanic Lanzarote and its rocky soil, the remarkably fresh, almost verdant white made from the local Malvasia Volcanico grape by the Bodegas El Grifo, at almost 250 years old by far the oldest producer in the islands, is quite unexpected. Definitively Malvasia, but with a saline, volcanic twist which makes this very moreish indeed. Truly summer in a glass. And on an island.
From Tenerife, and Bodegas Viñátigo, something different again. Listan Blanco, and red grapes Marmajuelo and Negramoll, were varieties almost consigned to history until this winery started growing them again in earnest, using un-grafted vines to boost soil contact and make the most of the island’s famous volcanic soil. The Listan Blanco 2017 white is remarkably crisp and fresh, with delicate herbal notes and a light citrussy finish. Its Marmajuelo 2017 feels like a throwback to a gentler era, medium-bodied but almost intensely aromatic with hints of fennel and sage. Meanwhile the more substantial Negramoll 2016, whilst still on the light side, feels rounder and more fruit-driven, with red berry predominant.
These wines are distinctive – as is the bottle design showing the El Teide volcano poking its head above the clouds – and a triumph for winemakers Jaun Jesus Mendez Silverio and Elena Batista Herrera who, as pioneers of ‘the new Spain’, have drawn on traditions and styles from old Spain.
Which is surely as it should be.
All the above wines are available from Hallgarten Wines, at trade prices varying between £17-20.