Wines of Mallorca
The wines of Mallorca were a status symbol and presented wealth for a
big part of the population in 1865 to 1890. The wines, some 50 million
liters at the time, more quantity than quality, were exported to
mainland Spain, France and Italy.
France, when phylloxera arrived in 1862, tried to satisfy its demand for wines by importing Mallorcan wines. But phylloxera spread to Mallorca in 1891, and many vineyards disappeared. Orchards and agriculture took over. It took till the mid twentieth century to cultivate a total area of 8500 hectares, this time in search for quality.
Mallorca has a size of 3642 square kilometers and a population of 869000 people. The island belongs to the Balearic Islands, a province of Spain. Palma is the capital city. Mallorca is a holiday destination like no other and the tourism business has become the main source of revenue. It is said that the airport moves 80000 people a day. In 2011 some 21 million visitors came to Mallorca. It is the hot and bright summers, mild winters and some 2763 mean sunshine hours over the year that make this island a Mediterranean dream for the many northern European countries.
With this increase in tourism the island has evolved into a paradise for the holidaymaker on a budget, as well as a gourmet center for the high-end consumers. Michelin starred restaurants and excellent wines can be found all over the island.
Wine in Mallorca normally comes from the following regions:
Binissalem, central region between Palma and Inca , or from Pla i Llevant, central and east, or around the Tramuntana mountain region, west coast. A century ago some grape varieties like Escursac, Giró, Argamussa, Gorgollassa and Quigat produced the traditional wines of the island.
Today the recognized known autochthonous grape varieties of Mallorca have interesting names like:
Moll/Prensal, Malvasia de Banyalbufar, Manto Negro, Fogoneu, Callet
These are some of the descriptors for these varieties:
Moll/Prensal Blanc: pears, apples, grapefruit, some floral notes, aniseed
Malvasia de Banyalbufar: this variety has been revived by a co-op, with 1.8ha of vineyards, producing dry and sweet wines with fresh fruity wines redolent of white flowers and citrus fruit.
Manto Negro: lighter red, intense blackberries, figs, pomegranate, some hints of carob tree, most common in blends
Callet: deeper colour, rustic, vigorous vine, aromas of red ripe berries, blackberries, good acidity, medium alcohol, often used in blends
Fogoneu: said to be similar to Gamay, produces deep coloured wines, lighter in style
Only some of the other traditional grapes have been legally allowed for winemaking. Giró, Gorgollassa and Escursac are well on their way to being accepted.
Although you can find any Spanish wine (from the mainland) on the island, the surprise was in the quality of wines produced with these autochthonous grapes.
Blanc de Blanc from Macia Batle, Binissalem, is made of Moll, Chardonnay and Moscatel, a medium bodied wine with white blossoms and citrus nose, dominant citrus fruit on the palate, an excellent accompaniment to the tuna in onions, capers and tomatoes. The Macia Batle Crianza, Binissalem, is actually made from noble varieties of Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, which works very well with crusted rack of lamb.
An orange distillate, Angel d’Or would have complemented the almond tart, made without flour, and almond icecream, but we were happy to progress to coffee.
In DO Binissalem, a region of 601 ha, the main production is red wine of Manto Negro, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Tempranillo and Callet. The white wines, 112 ha, are made of the white permitted varieties Moll/Prensal Blanc , Moscatel although you can also find Chardonnay, and other varieties like Parellada. The DO regulations are similar to the Rioja regulations for ageing ( eg. Crianza needs to be aged 24 months, with a minimum of 6 months in oak barrels). Red wines need to contain a minimum of 30% Manto Negro. Bodegas Antonio Nadal (first winery to obtain DO Binissalem) , Bodegues Macia Batle, Bodegas Jose Luis Ferrer are a few of the region’s top wineries, although there are some 16 bodegas, according to www.espavino.com. This region produces 2 million litres of wine a year.
At the restaurant “Agapanto” we had a Veran Rosat 2011, from Finca Biniagual, (a rose made from Manto Negro) as well as a red blend, Obac 2009, from Binigrau Vins I Vinyes SAT (a blend of Manto Negro, Callet, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon). These wines come from the DO Binissalem.
The other wine region of name, DO Pla i Llevant has an area of 340ha of vineyards. 13 wineries produce wine here, with a total production of 200000 liters annually.
Here we tasted the wines of Miquel Oliver, in the town of Petra, a family winery celebrating their 100 years in business this year. They have many distinctions, among others for being the first winery to use stainless steel tanks for controlled cold fermentation. Their range of wines is huge: from a Prensal Blanc to a single variety Syrah. There are some great surprises for example a dry aromatic wine made of Muscat de Frontignan and Muscat d'Alexandrie. Ses Ferritges 2008, a blend of Callet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, aged in American and French oak for 14 months makes good drinking at Euro9.15 from the cellar. Our group also liked the Aia, a perfumed Merlot with cherries, candied fruit and chocolate on the palate.
The Serra de Tramontana region, a UNESCO world heritage site, is characterized as the home of “the orange, clementine and lemon trees, long hillside terraces of olive trees, blossoming almond groves and vast grape-bearing vineyards” by the website of some property agents. This is not a DO, but Vinyas de Mortitx produces a lovely Malvasia/Moscatel white blend, form this region. The Restaurant Jardin (Macarena Castro, the chef, has just received her first Michelin star) offered us this wine as a complement to some of their delicious 11 courses ‘menu dégustation’.
The VT Mallorcan Wines are ‘vi de la terra’ (regional wine, which can have a more specific geographic indication) with about 26 cellars producing mostly red wines. The An/2 2008, or 2009( from AN Negra Vinicultors) is one of the most representative red wines, showing off , once again, how well autochthonous grapes blend with noble varieties. The 2008 is a blend of Callet, Syrah, Fogoneu and Manto Negro, and is aged for 10 months in American and French oak. The nose follows through to the palate: intense red berries, spice, liquorice and vanillins, a balanced medium to full bodied wine.
In a classy 4 star hotel in Mallorca you will find a wine list still based around the Spanish mainland regions, but there are Mallorcan wines in the white, rose and red wine categories. Miguel Angel Frau, from the Institute IQUA, Palma, says that it is time to improve the sales and distribution on the island for Mallorcan wines. A Nielsen study from 2005 also confirms that 65% of all wine sales on the Balearan Islands is sold through HORECA. Is this the best way to enjoy a Mallorcan wine on the island? Claro que si (of course).