The wine from Mallorca

Gastronomy — By on

Anytime soon, the first Mallorcan wine of 2011 will be on offer. Last year was a good year, or so we are told. It may even make for an exceptional wine. We’ll just have to wait and see. Some 135 bodegas up and down the island are busy producing their latest vintage with grapes and must fermenting in huge cooling tanks. In France, there is the tradition of making the young wine of the Beaujolais area into Beaujolais Nouveau selling this year’s vin as early as Mid-November. Last year, I saw some young Mallorcan wine in the Nouveau or Primeur mode on offer sometime in November but apparently it failed to create any craze the way it does in France and Britain.

Mallorca has a wine-making tradition going back a long time. Some people say it goes back to the Romans. Plinius mentioned wine from Mallorca as early as 100 B. C., giving Mallorca a wine tradition of more than 2,000 years. Even during the Moorish period wine was produced on the island.

During the second half of the 19th century, wine production in Mallorca was on an all-time high level even in comparison with continental Spain, France or Italy, both in terms of quantity as well as quality.

Between 1891 and 1905, the Phylloxera louse destroyed nearly all of Mallorca’s vineyards. It was downhill from then on with the quality of Mallorcan wine suffering a lot in the process.

Production in Mallorca got off to a good start again in the Nineteen-Twenties and even more so, in the Fifties and Sixties. But the emphasis then was on high quantity output. Quality was of a lesser concern. The visiting tourists loved the stuff. It was very cheap, like 300 pesetas for a 5 litre flagon of vino tinto, or even less. It was paradise.

Over the last 15 years or so, we have witnessed a renaissance in Mallorcan wine making.

First of all, every campesino with a quantity of vines on his land would actually make his own wine. His father had made his own wine, and so had his grandfather. The foundations were laid then, some basic wine making techniques were known and there was no reason why one should not confront the experimental challenge of combining some old traditions with a few new resources.

Also, the tourist profile had changed. Suddenly some tourists arrived who were actually interested in more than just sun, sea and some large quantities of Sangria. They appreciated a better wine, showed an interest in the food, in olive oil and other Mallorcan specialities.

After the Phylloxera set-back, most Mallorcan wines came from Binissalem. They were sold under the Denominación de Origen Binissalem. A few years ago, a new Denominación de Origen was established, that of Pla i Levant, covering Bodegas from Es Pla (the centre) and from the East of the island.

Every year, new Bodegas started up, such as AN, Son Sureda Ric, 4 Kílos, Binigrau and many more. Suddenly, Mallorcan wines won medals at international wine testing competitions. Some forgotten grape varieties, native to Mallorca, were rediscovered and appreciated for their unique characteristics and flavours.

Many of the smaller vineyards would rather their wine was known as Vino de Mallorca. We may well find that in a few years time all wine from Mallorca will be sold under the Denominación de Origen Vino de Mallorca. It would probably make sense, too.

One of the more important annual Mallorcan wine gatherings is held in Pollença, the Fira del vi (Pollença Wine Fair). This event will take place, now in its ninth year, on April 21st and 22nd in the Cloister of the Santo Domingo Convent, an historic venue in front of the Joan March gardens, where cultural activities are organized throughout the year such as the Festival de Pollença.

This fair with wines from 36 bodegas from all four Balearic Islands is a must for wine lovers. The Fira del vi 2012 will present an excellent opportunity to learn about, taste and compare the best of our islands’ wines, including the first ones from last year.