Ban Lifted on Gorgollassa, Giró and Viognier Grapes

The 2012 wine harvest has started. It is always the white grape that gets harvested first, from August 15th onwards, roughly speaking. That is grapes of the Chardonnay, Macabeu, Malvasia and Giró varieties, amongst others. Some vintners swear by the moon and may have started harvesting this year’s grapes on August 17th, the August New Moon. Others consider that a lot of humbug and call it an unproven folk tale with no background in science.

Be that as it may, the Conselleria d’Agricultura, Medi Ambient i Territori recently authorized the use of three indigenous Mallorcan grape varieties for wine making under the label Vi de la Terra de Mallorca: Gorgollassa, Giró Ros and Viognier. The island’s wine makers have campaigned for legalization of these grape varieties for quite some time, up to ten years if I am not mistaken. Approval had to first be gained from the European Commission in Brussels, then from the Spanish Government bodies in Madrid, then from Industria, the Mallorcan regulatory body, until finally, six weeks ago, the Island Council Agricultural Department approved the amendment, recognizing and regulating the geographical criteria for wines made in Mallorca.

Wine had been produced from these grape varieties in recent years, but its sale was so far prohibited. Now, any supposed illegality has been lifted. You should try some wine made from Gorgollassa or Giró grapes; they are quite impressive. The Viognier variety I do not know myself; I can not vouch for this one.

The grape shown in today’s photo is probably a Manto Negro. This variety is distinctive, but is hard to grow and it oxidizes easily.

Manto Negro is difficult. It takes to the character of the land very well, but it’s like a wild animal, savage, and you have to educate it.” (Maria Antonía Oliver, Bodegues Ribas).

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 26th, 2012. The time was 19:58:41.

Ban Lifted on Gorgollassa, Giró and Viognier Grapes

Pla i Llevant Delights

Pla i Llevant is a relatively recent wine region denomination, or, as it is called here in Mallorca, Denominació d’Origen. The denomination covers the region to the East of the island, incorporating Manacor, Felanitx, Porreres, Petra, Algaïda, Muro and Capdepera. There are 12 recognised Bodegas under the Pla i Llevant Denominació d’Origen umbrella, but I know of at least another nine Bodegas that produce wine in this Llevant region that are not acknowledged by the Consell Regulator (the industry regulatory body), four of which are in Felanitx (ANegre and 4 Kilos being the two best known ones).

For the last two nights I have had the pleasure of being able to attend a Cata de Vins, a wine tasting gathering the Associació de Veinats de Son Valls had organised for the benefit of three dozen people from the region of Felanitx, yours truly being one of them. On Monday, we were given six white wines to try, including one with an interesting Macabeu grape. Last night, we tried four rosé wines plus three young red wines. Tonight, there will be an evening of ten more mature red wines, including one with the local Callet grape from three distinct vintage years, 2007, 2010 and 2011. I am looking forward to tonight’s offerings.

What can I tell you about this fascinating and compelling, albeit challenging exercise? For one, I like Mallorcan wines. I am not a great friend of white wines but, there were two Vins Blancs that I thought interesting, both from the Bodega Vins Miquel Gelabert in Manacor, one a blend of Macabeu and Premsal Blanc grapes (Vinya Son Caules Blanc 2010) and the other a mono-varietal Chardonnay (Chardonnay Roure 2010). Very good, if not excellent.

I don’t fancy rosé wines, much to the consternation of some of our friends. I can’t help it. I simply believe that rosé wines suffer from a fashionability and voguishness that I don’t seem to be able to get into. It’s a bit like the expression to chill out. I never chill out; I am quite happy to let all the chill-out people have all the rosé wine there is. Mind you, there was an exception last night, and I must tell you about it (there is always an exception to the rule, isn’t there?). Anyway, the wine I was surprised to like even though it was of a pale rosé colour is called Flor de Cerezo 2011 – Viña Querel. If ever you have a chance to try this surprisingly rich and subtly fragrant concoction of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, you must. They serve it at the Vall d’Or Golf Club, where they sell it at 19.50 € per bottle. The wine is elaborated and bottled under commission by Armero i Adrover in Felanitx.

My passion, however, is for Mallorcan Vins Negres (Vinos Tintos, red wines). Tonight will be the night, and if I survive this tour-de-force, I might tell you all about it unless you get bored with all this wine talk.

If you want to try wines from the Pla i Llevant region for yourself, there will be an opportunity this Friday night in Manacor. The town is currently celebrating its Fires i Festes de Primavera. Friday, June 1st, 20h30, at the Claustre de Sant Vicenç Ferrer, a Tast de Vins Pla i Llevant will be held under the motto Connegum els Nostre Vins. Admission charge will be 10 €. Participating Bodegas will be Toni Gelabert, Miquel Gelabert, Pere Seda, Armero i Adrover, Miquel Oliver, Jaume Mesquida, Butxet, Can Majoral, Vi d’Auba, Bordoy, Galmés i Ferrer, Cas Beato, Es Fangar and Son Artigues. I might see you there.

The photos were taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 29th, 2012. The time was 22:13:08 and 21:22:56, respectively.

Pla i Llevant Delights

The Malvasia Grape

The Malvasia grape variety has historically only grown in the Mediterranean region, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and the island of Madeira, but is now tended to in many other wine-making regions of the world as well, such as Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Corsica, the Iberian Peninsula, California, Arizona, Australia and Brazil. In the past, Malvasia wine was predominantly consumed as a sweet dessert wine similar to Malmsey wine from Madeira. The white Malvasia grape is more common but, a red Malvasia grape also exists.

In the old days, wine generally only had about 7 per cent of alcohol. It was then quite difficult to sufficiently cool the wine and as a consequence, much of the wine turned sour and could not be stored for any length of time. In contrast, the Malvasia wine even at that time had an alcohol content of about 14 per cent, making it considerably easier to store. Its low degree of acidity was regarded as delicious. Soon, the sweet Malvasia dessert wine was very popular at the European courts.

Here in Mallorca, the Malvasia vine was only rediscovered in the 1980s. The Malvasia grape only grows in the Tramuntana area, in Estellencs, Banyalbufar, Deià and Pollença, with Banyalbufar being the main producer. Of all the wine grown in this municipality, Malvasia is the only grape variety there. During the 16th century, a total of 25,000 litres of Malvasia dessert wine were produced by the Cooperativa de Banyalbufar alone, with most of that astounding amount being sent to the Court of Aragón. You might want to go to Banyalbufar one day; all vines are cultivated on terraces there, first built by the Moors some 1,000 years ago.

The consumption of dessert wines has decreased enormously in recent years. Mallorcan Malvasia grapes are now primarily used to produce white table wines. There is a young white wine from 2010 with a deliciously fruity aroma, selling at around 15 € and a slightly older, oak-barrel stored white wine with a heavier, round body selling for around 25 €. The first would be drunk to accompany a meal, whereas the latter would stand up as a wine drunk on its own, full of character. Mallorcan Malvasia dessert wine sells in half-litre bottles at around 12 €.

The photos were taken in Banyalbufar, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 18th, 2012. The time was 16:33:40 and 18:25:38, respectively.

The Malvasia Grape

The Salt of the Earth

I have decided to give up on alcohol, well, almost. There will be no more spirits from now on, no more Cava, no more cocktails, no spritzers, no highballs, no beer, no cider. There will be one exception though, red wine. One cannot live in Mallorca and offer a daily photo blog and not be involved with wine, wine making, wine festivals or wine tasting. So it is going to be Vino Tinto in, everything else out, from now on.

That makes me sound a serious alcoholic when I don’t think I am (that’s what alcoholics tend to say, don’t they). I think I may have ten units during a one month period, when that may be the intake of many people in a night out or two.

I make mention of this because yesterday, I participated in an activity that the Els Amics dels Closos put on in and around Felanitx, a six weeks long Cicle del Vi a Felanitx (Felanitx wine series). It started off three weeks go with a round-table colloquium on the recent changes in vinicultural production, here in Mallorca. Then, last week we could visit the Bodega of Ànima Negra to test their offerings. Yesterday, a group of some 35 interested folks were invited to visit the Celler of 4 Kilos where we heard Francesc Grimalt talk about the most important component of wine making, the soil. We also tasted two different red wines in five different states of evolution (see photo above), albeit not their latest creation, Gallinas & Focas.

Next week, we will visit the Bodega of Vi d’Auba and a week later, that of Armero i Adrover. The wine tasting Bodega visits are open to the public but places are limited. You can put your name down in person at Paperería Ramon Llull in Felanitx; attendance fee is a modest 2 €.

The wine series will conclude in June with a colloquium on the different processes involved in the making and cultivation of wine. I think that one will be offered free of charge. You can check for details on the Amics blog should you want to do so. Salut.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 5th, 2012. The time was 11:19:59.

The Salt of the Earth

Pruning the Vines

Out there in Mallorca’s vineyards, this year’s first young shoots have appeared. The grapes will start to form in May and will grow and ripen over the Summer, before the Vendimia (wine harvest) starts in September.

The care for a field of vines is one of the hardest and most labour intense physical work I have ever come across. The vines have to be pruned and cleaned of last year’s shoots as early as January, before the earth between the rows of vines is ploughed and cultivated in February and possibly once more in March. The vines have to be pruned again in April and perhaps once more, in June. The varieties of grapes will then be evaluated, combined, married, macerated and fermented in the tank, for a maturation period of several months in the barrel, before the wine is bottled. The vino resulting from the shoot in today’s photo will not be ready for consumption for at least one year from now, and in some cases not for another eighteen months or even two years.

Saying this, the first Mallorcan wines of 2011 have just been presented, earlier this week. Last year was a good one for wine here in Mallorca, or so one hears.

One of the more important annual Mallorcan wine gatherings will be held in Pollença tomorrow and Sunday, the Fira del Vi (Pollença Wine Fair), presenting a hundred plus wines from 36 bodegas from the Balearic Islands. This event will take place at the Claustro de Santo Domingo (Convent), a historic venue opposite the Joan March gardens in Pollença, where cultural activities are organized throughout the year such as the Festival de Pollença. This will be an opportunity to try the first wines from last year and more mature wines from 2008, 2009 and 2010 (Saturday, 10h00-20h30, Sunday 10h00-14h00). Don’t drink when you drive, though.

¡Salut!

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 6th, 2012. The time was 17:30:18.

Pruning the Vines

The Art of Grafting

I am continually amazed about the cleverness and competence of Mallorcan farmers. Agriculture on the island may be on a historic low and in continuous decline but, the few pagesos still around and active can outwit any old stockbroker or computer whiz kid any time.

Take the fine art of grafting as an example. There would be no olive oil in Mallorca, or anywhere else for that matter, if olive trees would not have been cultivated by the art of grafting, at some time in their existence. Or wine. Or tomatoes. Or potatoes. Vines have to be grafted according to the variety wished for, just as fruit trees have to be grafted if a particular species of fruit is wanted, like in the photo here. In Mallorca, it is not uncommon to graft plums or peaches on to an almond tree. The almond tree is particularly prone to act as a mother host for any variety of fruit and sometimes you can find three different fruit varieties on one single almond tree. As long as you know what you are doing, of course.

February is the best time for vine grafting. For tree fruit, March and April are the perfect grafting season.

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 6th, 2012. The time was 17:30:18.

The Art of Grafting

The Wine Warriors

Just before the end of last year, I went back to the old Felanitx wine cooperative, the Sindicat, long since closed for good. The place reminds me of an archeological site to be discovered and unearthed. Es Sindicat also reminds me a bit of the tombs of Xian in China with the soldiers of the Emperor’s army. Ok, that may be stretching the imagination a bit but, believe me, the rows and rows of concrete vessels and tanks have a bit of a mighty army troop about them, an air of warriors of wine-making so to speak.

Luckily, in the Mallorca of today, wine production has gone much smaller-sized and is now more of a craft rather than an industry, give or take the odd exception. And that is how it should be. Today’s bodegas may produce only between 10,000 and 35,000 bottles of their nectar per year, an amount that would have been held in just three of the containers in today’s photo. But, here comes the but, the quality of today’s wine is much better than it has been at the time of the Celler Cooperatíu de Felanitx, or so I was told by friends who worked there for the odd 20 years or so until it was closed for good and they were dismissed and made unemployed.

Cheers, or better still, Salut.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 29th, 2011. The time was 13:06:29.

The Wine Warriors