Suertes del Marques ‘La Solana’ 2014
Tasting note at the bottom
One of the inescapable facts of learning about wine is that you simply can’t know it all; it’s simply too vast and fragmented an industry. Likewise, you can’t possibly taste every region to the same level of depth, and as a result, most professionals end up specialising. One of the areas I have neglected somewhat over the past few years are the Canary Islands; 7 small islands hovering off the western coast of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean, yet still an autonomous region of Spain. With it now being the fashion to explore indigenous, preferably old-vine, grape varieties, the wines from these shores have suddenly become very popular indeed. Neither phylloxera nor French varieties settled here and the result is a smattering of hidden treasures; typically volcanic slopes, littered with Listan Negro, Malvasia and Negramoll. Whilst I’ve enjoyed tasting some of these wines in passing at events, I’ve never sat down and become acquainted with a bottle over a day or two, so I opted for ‘La Solana’, a single vineyard, 100% Listan Negro wine from the leading producer of Tenerife, Suertes del Marques.
Suertes del Marques are located in a north-central part of Tenerife, known as DO Valle de la Orotava (See here for upcoming, forward-thinking changes to the 5 appellations that make up the wine scene in Tenerife). A relatively recent producer, founded in 2006 by Jonathan Garcia Lima, they’ve since rose to fame with their pure, mineral inflected wines, typically made in a minimal intervention style. Clearly influenced by Burgundy, their wines are organised by ‘village’ wines and single vineyards, the latter of which are fermented in open-topped concrete vats and aged in 500L neutral oak barrels, whereas the ‘village’ wines tend to be produced in stainless steel.
The most interesting factor in all this though, are the vines themselves. Phylloxera never settled in Canary Islands (It is generally discouraged by volcanic soils) and as a result, the average vine age is incredibly high, often well over 100 years old. In DO Valle de la Orotava, they’re also trained in a remarkable system known as ‘El Cordon Trenzado’, literally ‘The Braided Coil’, which historically allowed for polyculture in the vineyards. The interwoven wines can be moved from side-to-side, allowing for potato crops to thrive underneath, and make for a unique sight. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The recent ‘discovery’ of the potential here shouldn’t come as a surprise; it comes off the back of other such discoveries in Priorat, Swartland, Etna and many others. For producers willing to put in the effort of making and selling these wines, there is an eager market waiting for them!
100% Listan Negro from vines aged between 80-150 years old, from the La Solana vineyard. Fermented with ambient yeast (no mention of whole bunch or destemmed) in open-topped concrete containers, then malolactive conversion and ageing in 500L, old oak barrels for 14 months. Unfiltered. 13.5% ABV.
Pale ruby in colour, and not immediately pleasant on the nose! There’s a bit of sulphur/reduction that needs to blow off, so decanting is definitely recommended. Once it does, though, there’s a lovely mixture of fresh damsons, dried herbs, undergrowth and a rocky sort of minerality. Very fresh on the palate, with a real raciness to the acidity and quite firm tannins, with a sour plum character and the same clean, mineral sensation on the finish. This is very much my kind of regular-drinking wine; refreshing, clean and very pure fruited, although I can see it not being everyone’s cup of tea due to the lean structure and initial reduction. It’ll likely be softer and more approachable in a few years time, and there’s a clear connection to the sort of new-wave wine-making sweeping across north-western Spain at the moment. 90Pts.
Purchased from Magatzem Escola for €16