Diamonds in the Rough
Uncommon Varietals from Uncommon Regions
Across the world there are thousands of varieties of grapes lovingly cultivated and turned into wine, offering a startling amount of diversity beyond the standard varietals. While the international superstars such as Chardonnay and Cabernet still constitute the vast majority of wines served, some of the most intriguing values come to us from unrecognized and often-ignored appellations. Gathered below are a few producers who continue the traditions of their respective regions, working with the lesser known varietals indigenous to their area that have continued to please local consumers for generations. Trade out your go-to varietal choices for any of these wines; try something new and you are bound to be pleased!
Suertes del Marques- Wines of Canary Island
Founded in 2006 in Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, Suertes del Marques is run by winegrower Roberto Santana and owner Jonatan Garcia Lima. Together they farm 9 hectares of vineyards with altitudes ranging from 350–700 meters, on the slopes of Mount Teide, an active volcano. The work here is as natural as possible, practicing organic viticulture, the use of native yeasts, and all the wines are bottle with no fining or filtration. All Suertes vines are pie franco (ungrafted) and many of the vines are over 100 years old, trellised with a system unique to the Canary Islands: el cordon trenzado (the braided cord), with a number of the trained vine’s branches braided together. Tenerife is unique in its location; highly influenced by the northern Alisio winds, this region’s fresh climate can be tasted in the invigorating structure of its wines, the old vines accounting for low yields and the intensity of flavor found in these rare varietals.
The main varieties produced at Suertes are Listán Blanco (the same grape as Sherry’s Palomino Fino) and Listán Negro. Distinctive and authentic, the wines are complex, notably perfumed, with a striking minerality. The 7 Fuentes is a blend of several plots of Listan Negro blended with a small amount of Tintilla (Grenache). Fermented in stainless steel, the result is a spicy and bright red wine. The Solana, a single vineyard plot from the estate with vines a minimum of eighty years old, are fermented in concrete before being aged in French oak barrels. With richness similar to nearby Spain’s Reservas, the Solana’s dark fruit flavors are mingled with the spicy aroma and bright minerality that the unique Listan Negro is loved for.
Available Here Now
Suertes Del Marques 7 Fuentes Valle de la Orotava 2013 750ML ($24.95) $21.90 special
Josh Raynolds–Vinous 91 points “(98% listan negra and 2% tintilla; aged for eight months in a combination of concrete tanks and 500-liter French oak barrels): Brilliant red. Spice- and mineral-tinged red fruits on the intensely perfumed nose and palate. Fine-grained and very well balanced, with sexy floral pastille and incense qualities coming up with aeration. Finishes with strong mineral cut, no obvious tannins and excellent spicy persistence.”
Suertes Del Marques La Solana Valle de la Orotava 2012 750ML ($29.95) $24 special
Josh Raynolds–Vinous 91 points “Brilliant ruby. A complex bouquet evokes intense raspberry, floral and mineral scents and a hint of Asian spices. Vibrant and precise on the palate, offering lively red fruit flavors that gain sweetness with air. Silky tannins give shape to the finish, which emphasizes juicy red fruit and rose pastille qualities.”
Binigrau – Mallorca Wines
Founded in 2006 and situated in over 30 hectares of beautiful countryside, the Binigrau winery sits right in the heart of Mallorca on the lovely Belearic Islands, located off the east coast of Spain. With a sandy topsoil covering layers of limestone and clay, the wines of Mallorca reflect their Meditteranean climate; high altitude vines, short mild winters and hot dry summers that produce wines of intensity and verve. A little heard of, much less tasted, area, Mallorca is a growing winemaking region providing flavor and value that rivals nearby Spain.
Working under bio-dynamic principles, the wines of Binigrau are made using sustainable vine-growing processes, strict grape selection and are harvested entirely by hand. With great respect for the ecology of the area, Binigrau works with several varietals that are indigenous to the area. Manto negro, which accounts for nearly 40% of total vineyard production in the area, is typically blended with other local varietals like Callet ( a dark-skinned varietal commonly used to add body and color), producing a wine that is bold and rich with smooth tannins. Prensal blanc (aka moll) is the most widely planted white varietal of Mallorca, loved for its fresh and herbal quality. Winemaking is done using small tanks and oak wine barrels made using specially selected wood, with extra care taken in each of step of the process to produce a truly unique wine.
Available Here Now
Binigrau Nounat Vi de la Terra Mallorca, Balearic Islands 2012 ($31.95) $28 special
Josh Raynolds–Vinous 90 points “(85% native prensal and 15% chardonnay): Pale, green-tinged yellow. Highly aromatic nose combines tangerine, honey, iodine and chamomile. Deeply pitched orchard and pit fruit flavors are enlivened by juicy acidity and pick up notes of honey and smoky minerals with air. A bitter citrus pith note adds definition to the long, sappy finish.”
Binigrau Obac de Binigrau Vi de la Terra Mallorca, Balearic Islands 2009 ($31.95) $28 special
Winery notes “A coupage of Mantonegro, Callet, Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah grapes, matured from between twelve and fourteen months in fine-grain oak barrels. An elegant, dark ruby-coloured wine with a subtle shade of garnet. Aromas of spice, nuts, fennel and licorice, combined with a well-integrated underlying taste of mature fruit and wood.”