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A trek through Taganana with Roberto Santana of Envínate demands focus and footwork to keep from skidding down the vine-coated cliffs, which appear to drop directly into the Atlantic. Known more to hikers than wine drinkers these days, this corner of northwestern Tenerife -- geologically, one of the island's oldest -- was a popular winegrowing zone in the 1600s, according to Santana. Its iron-rich tosca roja and rocky black volcanic soils are planted to a diverse array of white and red grapes: Malvasía, Listán Blanco, Albillo Criollo, Verdelho, Marmajuelo, Gual, Vijariego Blanco, Negramoll, Listán Negro, Listán Gacho, Malvasía Negro, Listán Prieto, Vijariego Negro, and Baboso (among others).
Constant focus is required to keep up with Roberto as well, whose conversation flows quickly from the history of Taganana, speculation about the zone's original style of wine, affectionate anecdotes of the local growers, tips on vine identification, Envínate's winemaking process, and their vision for the future. Envínate was formed by four friends from enology school in Alicante -- Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, José Martínez, and Roberto himself -- who make all of their decisions communally, to powerful effect. Though they produce wine in four disparate Spanish regions (with more to come -- stay tuned!) and work with a wide range of varieties, Envínate's wines exhibit a trademark balance and verve that has earned the talented foursome the respect of serious wine lovers and collectors who are otherwise not engaged with the current (explosively exciting) state of Spanish wine.
Today, we are pleased to offer Envínate's village wines from Tenerife, Taganan Tinto and Taganan Blanco, which are singular expressions of extraordinary volcanic terroirs. Flavors are cool, bright, and mineral, with supple and soothing textures akin to the feel of salt water itself.
The vines of Taganana are own-rooted, incredibly old, and propagated by tunneling a branch or shoot of one vine into the soil and out again, while still attached to the original, emerging above-ground as a "new" vine. This method results in a free-form sprawl of vines with discernable lineage and underlying order. Envínate controls about 90% of the Taganana vineyard area, spanning distinct soils and microclimates, which they accrued slowly as they earned the trust of Taganana's growers, most of whom continue to work their own vines. Farming is organic, despite extreme humidity, and all fermentations are spontaneous, with minimal sulfur additions when necessary. "If you have good village wines," Roberto asserts, "it means that you are good for the vines." This logic entails that Envínate is indeed very good for the vines of Taganana.
It has not always been possible to offer Envínate wines via email, due to limited supply and increasing interest. It is our goal to spread the joy of these bottles a bit farther, if only to engender a taste for wines of similar pedigree and deliciousness. Please read on for examples of such wines from Suertes del Marqués and Matías i Torres!
Suertes del Marqués Just over an hour's drive west from the wilds of Taganana, along the north coast of Tenerife, is the Valle de la Orotava, a center of Tenerife's wine trade in the 16th through 18th centuries, when Malvasía wines reigned supreme. Today, the Valle de la Orotava is home to some of the island's best vineyards of Listán Negro and Listán Blanco, which ripple in long rows down steep, often rocky slopes toward the shore of the Atlantic. Here we find Suertes del Marqués, a winery that boasts some of the most pristine examples of the Orotava's unique ancestral vine training method: the cordon trenzado ("braided cordon"). On a recent visit to Tenerife, Jonatan García Lima, proprietor of Suertes del Marqués, explained the complicated process of balancing each vine's natural impulses with the cordon trenzado method of integrating new shoots from the old vines into the gnarled, multi-stranded twists, some of which extend for more than a dozen meters. An impressive mix of viticultural knowledge and well-honed instincts are required to carry out the cordon trenzado correctly.
Lima and his team (which, coincidentally, included Roberto Santana of Envínate as Suertes' winemaker until 2016) are serious students and stewards of their historic lands and vines. Their wealth of minutely different terroirs, vines ranging from 10 to 250 years of age, and steep slopes that rise from 300 to 800 meters above sea level are a formidable match for Suertes del Marqués' ambitious program of vinifying each parcel individually. Their wines are increasingly fine and rank among Tenerife's most fresh and precise. While we wait for the fascinating single parcel wines to arrive, it is a pleasure to sip on the impressive and affordable village cuvées: Siete Fuentes and Trenzado Blanco. Taut, layered, and unmistakably volcanic, these are sophisticated snapshots of the Valle de la Orotava, which with its deep history, variegated terroirs, and allure to winemaking talent, is once again a region to watch.
Matías i Torres The western-most of the Canary Islands, La Palma is divided by a chain of active volcanoes, which create sheer vertical drops and stunning landscapes that are dramatic even by Canarian standards. Victoria Torres of Matías i Torres is a fifth generation La Palma native and gifted translator of this rugged volcanic terroir into quiet portraits of place. She makes wine from diverse zones of La Palma: from the cooler, fertile, high-altitude north of the island (where she farms vines at up to 1400 meters altitude) to her home base in Fuencaliente, closer to sea level on the south of the island, where relatively recent volcanic eruptions in the 1600s created interesting soil conditions that made viticulture possible where previously only grains would grow. (Similar to the island of Lanzarote, the south of La Palma relies on the gritty, black volcanic picón topsoils to absorb and trap sufficient moisture to nourish the vines.)
Standing in Victoria's single vineyard of Listán Blanco, Las Machuqueras, there is a pulse that radiates from the earth and air, which is palpable in the wines as well. The vineyard faces the Atlantic and abuts the Volcán de San Antonio, with 40-120 year-old, own-rooted vines snaking along the base of the volcano in long, wavy rows, daintily propped mere centimeters from the ground to withstand the relentless Alisios trade winds, which whip off the ocean and stir up the crunchy black picón sands. The subtlety, texture, and volcanic depth of Torres' wines provide a tantalizing glimpse of one of the wildest corners of the winemaking world. Today, we are pleased to offer her gorgeous 2015 Las Machuqueras, and the last of the exotic and layered 2015 red Negramoll. Ariana Rolich
Siete Fuentes is the village red of Suertés del Marques, assembled from dozens of small parcels spanning various altitudes and terroirs in Tenerife's historic Valle de la Orotava. A fresh and fabulous introduction to the taut, pure side of Listán Negro from volcanic soils, the 2015 vintage displays savory aromas and a lifted, focused palate of juicy, muddled purple berries, herbal berry seeds, sweet and earthy smoke, pert florals, balsamic notes, and a complex bitter ash element that winds through the fruit and lasts on the finish. If I were teaching a class on Canary Island reds, this wine would be Exhibit A. It's also terrific when you need a red wine to pair with fish. Ariana Rolich
Laying eyes upon the cliffs and slopes of Taganana, it is impossible to imagine that the place does not make beautiful wines. This ancient mountainous region of northeastern Tenerife is planted to a wild mosaic of varieties, including Listán Negro, Listán Gacho, Negramoll, Malvasía Negro, Listán Prieto, Vijariego Negro, and Baboso, with white grapes Malvasía, Listán Blanco, Albillo Criollo, Verdelho, Marmajuelo, Gual, Vijariego Blanco, and more. All vines are own-rooted, with some up to 300 years old. A small percentage of white grapes is included in Taganan Tinto, Envínate's village red, which contains grapes from the rocky black volcanic soils of Chavarria, as well the iron-rich red volcanic soils of Margalagua. 2015 is more open and expressive in its youth than past vintages. Aromas are subtle, with bramble, brine, iron, bitter herbs and earth; the palate is simultaneously electric and gentle, with a supple, saltwater texture and flavors of wild purple berries, tart black plum, creamy florals, and volcanic earth, with cool notes of eucalyptus and brine. A quintessential wine of place. (2 bottles per customer, please.) Ariana Rolich
From the precipices of Taganana in northeastern Tenerife, Taganan Blanco contains white varieties like Malvasía, Listán Blanco, Albillo Criollo, Verdelho, Marmajuelo, Gual, Vijariego Blanco, and more. Cool and exotic, with scents of stone fruit, green tea, coriander, and rocks. Flavors are fresh, salty and serene, acidity is more fluid than chiseled, with almond, anise, tropical white fruits, greengage plums, yellow flowers, thyme, with powerful salinity and mineral length that gains with air. Textured and expressive beyond a list of flavors, like a vinous dip into the subtropical Atlantic. (2 bottles per customer, please.) Ariana Rolich
Suertes del Marqués' entry level white is a delicious introduction to the authentic, terroir-driven wines of the historic Valle de la Orotava, located on the slopes of Mt. Teide in the north of Tenerife. Trenzado (named after the local vine training system - el cordon trenzado, or "braided cordon") is 95% Listán Blanco, with small amounts of Pedro Ximénez, Gual, Marmajuelo, and more, from five vineyards, made in a combination of concrete and used oak vessels. Grapes from certain vineyards receive a week of skin contact, for a subtle and structured palate that combines fresh musky stone fruit with tart, savory tropical notes and abundant saline and volcanic mineral character. Drink with seafood dressed with garlic and herbs. Ariana Rolich
La Palma native Victoria Torres makes this supple, minerally red wine with her family's large Roman press of Canarian pine that dates back to the 1800s. Her Negramoll vines come from vineyards in both the fertile north of La Palma island at very high altitudes (up to 1400 meters), and in the warmer, lower southern zones, which combine for an alluring, layered fruit profile. Volcanic aromas of bitter ashen soil and funky fruit skin, with dusty black cherry, damson plum, roses, and lots of volcanic earth and salty minerals drive the light/medium palate. In the Canary Islands, fresh red wines are frequently consumed alongside fresh grilled fish with herbs. This is highly recommended! Ariana Rolich
Las Machuqueras is a single vineyard of Listán Blanco from the stunning southern zone of La Palma island, Fuencaliente, where Victoria Torres' winery is located. Half of the vines are 40 years old and half are over 100 years old, trained mere centimeters from the ground in long, snaking rows. Ten months on the lees in stainless steel tank and large chestnut foudre gives a gracious texture to this spirited and aromatic rendering of a typically reticent grape. Anise, orange oils, sandalwood, and rich stone fruit aromas fill the nose; flavors are deep, an electric core of acid and mineral ash, encircled by exotic notes of cinnamon, roasted fennel and cumin seeds, ocean brine, citrus leaf and tarragon, with bitter, salty, and herbal length that resonates for minutes after each sip. With air, it develops a soft, lilting saltwater texture: like ocean water lapping onto your taste buds. A magical vintage for Machuqueras. Ariana Rolich