Mallorca has some of the best wines you've never tasted.
Article by Polly Gibson.
Greatly overlooked outside of the classic regions such as Rioja, Spain is literally a treasure trove of discovery for the inquisitive wine lover. The Spanish islands, however, offer an even richer scope for lost-and-recovered grape varieties, and wines from territories outside the ebbs and flows of the international wine scene.
Having previously travelled to Tenerife and La Gomera in search of Spanish ‘island wines,’ it was on a trip to Mallorca last October that I realised we’d found something rather special. There have been family wineries here for centuries, since Roman times in fact, quietly making wines from indigenous grapes and more recently some of international varieties introduced to the island in the last century. There are a handful of varieties here that are found nowhere else in the world – this is truly unique winemaking (and tasting!)
The oldest winery on the island is Bodegues Ribas, who have making wine here since 1711. They were one of the few who survived the ravages of Phylloxera in the 19th century and have been under family ownership since the beginning. Their (still-serving) 90 year old vineyard manager started working the vines at the age of 6. When Ribas were certified organic 5 years ago his reply was simple - he’d always done it that way anyway. Besides their heritage and their highly regarded wines, the Ribas family is also famously responsible for bringing back from the brink a variety native to Mallorca that was thought to be all but lost. The Gorgolassa grape now grows widely throughout the island, repopulated from a few vines found in a private garden, heralding a wonderful revival. Ribas now make a range of wines marrying the best of both worlds – beautifully showcasing the character of their indigenous grapes whilst not afraid to incorporate a little ‘international’ influence into the blends here and there. Their style and quality have been centuries in the making and it shows in their wines. True class and vision shines through.
Thinking I’d already found the best the island had to offer, I visited C’an Majoral; another organic producer (the first certified on the island in fact, and the second in all of Europe). Since its inception in the 1970’s, the vineyards of C’an Majoral have been tended and nurtured as part of the land. Their position on the island allows for cooling ocean breezes to temper the summer heat, whilst being protected from the cold northerly winds that come down off the mountains. There’s even a touch of salinity in the air, bringing freshness and clarity to the wines. The local community come together at harvest time to help pick and sort the grapes - repaid with a fiesta of wine, food and music. I couldn’t help but like everything I tried here - wines that spoke of the place and the people; authentic, cared for, respected, and chock-full of personality. Although C’an Majoral also proudly grow some international varieties, they are devoting more and more land back to their natives. This is where their identity lies, and as the world increasingly wakes up to the idea of ‘terroir’ wines, being able to offer something totally unique to Mallorca is a great asset.
We will be bringing a selection of these wines EXCLUSIVELY to GrapeSmith this summer. Watch this space for updates!