Mallorca is well known for its beauty, a gem in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Visitors come here to relax on sandy beaches, dive in its turquoise waters, hike across the Serra de Tramuntana, cycle around the island; some come to train for marathons, to practice yoga in secluded estates and enjoy the local food; but not all are aware of Mallorcan wines, the beautiful vineyards, the old wineries and local grape varieties.
“Beer is made by men, wine by God.”Martin Luther
Although history might suggest wine was already produced and sold in the 7th Century BC., it was actually when the island became part of the Roman Empire that it was introduced to Mallorca, and since then wine making has been part of the island’s culture and economy. Even Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History, stated that Mallorcan wines were equal to Italy’s finest.
The industry kept growing throughout the centuries and wine makers never stopped their production, even during the years of Arab rule, when it was forbidden. Mallorcan wines were of such good quality, they were ordered from both the Courts of Aragon and Castile in the 13th Century. The vineyards quickly spread across the island in response to the demand from abroad, but unfortunately at the end of the 19th Century, the Philloxera pandemic reached Mallorca from mainland Europe. The plague destroyed the majority of the vineyards and they were replaced with other crops, mainly almond trees.
In the 90s, a group of local wine makers began to invest in order to improve the quality of their wines. They decided to plant more international grape varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, and to nurture the local varieties Manto Negro, Callet and Prensal Blanc. Modernised viticulture techniques, along with the latest machinery and equipment and a better use of oak barrels also contributed to a substantial improvement in quality.
The process did not take place overnight, but surely it is paying off as the quality of the product has been increasing with every passing vintage since then; the wines are not just winning prizes but also a good reputation on international markets, giving the local economy a much-needed boost.
“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”Paulo Coelho
Much of the island is suitable for wine-growing, but three areas stand out for the quality of their produce: DO Binissalem, DO Pla I Llevant and the Serra de Tramuntana where, according to the official board, more than 70 Bodegas are producing wine.
I have been tasting wines for the past few years in search of new surprises and I haven’t met a single producer whose wines did not stand out for their viticulture, wine making, ageing choices or their vineyard location; I came across typical Mallorcan styles, international ones and what I like to describe as a Mallorcan style with a modern twist, a combination of modern techniques and a clever use of the autochthonous varieties.
I am still searching and definitely looking forward to the new vintage which will be soon released and we will have the chance to taste at the beginning of March when the wine fair season starts in Mallorca.