Our Buyer Ben just came back from a (working) holiday in Tenerife. Here he shares his visual diary, with a few notes about the island’s spectacular old vineyards, and the beginnings of an exciting new project for Indigo.
I spent a week in Tenerife with my family this Easter holiday. This marks my second visit to the island, a place that fascinates me with its mix of wild, rugged natural beauty, and ancient winemaking history. It’s also home to two of Indigo’s most celebrated producers, who are largely credited with the restoring the island’s reputation for producing high-quality wine, while recuperating old vineyards and working with indigenous varieties: Suertes del Marqués and Envínate.
(For a brief summary of the fascinating history, appellations, and indigenous varieties the island holds, check out this short article by Jancis Robinson.)
The first part of my trip was spent with Jonatan from Suertes del Marques, who was also generous enough to host my family for the trip. After waking to a view of the vineyards, and the sounds of the bottling line (we were sleeping right above the cellar), we took a little tour of the Suertes property, located in the Valle de La Orotava DO.
Vines trained in the Valle de la Orotava’s traditional system, cordon trenzado, where the vines are literally braided together.
Possibly the most memorable part of this visit were the El Ciruelo, La Solana, Los Pasitos and El Esquilón vineyards—the names behind some of Suertes’ single-vineyard cuvees. What hits you as soon as you get out of the car is the sheer steepness, but the old vines are equally impressive.
Vines are ungrafted and many are over 100 years old
We capped off the evening with a dinner and tasting with Roberto Santana of Envínate and Robert Parker’s man for Spain, the charming Luis Gutierrez. Plenty of great wine and conversation, but by 10:30 pm I was ready for some food. Of course my Spanish friends thought it was the perfect time to taste the 2015’s down in the cellar (looking amazing by the way). It was after midnight by the time we sat down to eat with my kids asleep on the sofa in the next room, and my increasingly famished wife…
On the next day Roberto and I drove to the stunning Anaga Hills, on the northeast side of the island, to see the Envínate vineyards. This area is lush and green with sandy soils, a significant contrast to Orotava’s more arid, Mediterranean-like vegetation and volcanic soils. I’m always impressed by the diversity of terroir across the island.
We drove up the narrow winding roads leading to a big rock commonly referred to as the Lion Head, which sits at the very top. The tiny Amogoje vineyard is planted on the “lion’s” throat. The area is so popular with hikers that Roberto has to place a sign to keep them from eating his grapes!
Envíante’s Amogoge vineyard is planted with a mix of white varieties including Gual, Listán Blanco, Marmajuelo, Albillo Criollo, and Malvasia, untrained and at least 100-years old.
We then drove through the village of Taganana to see where the red varieties are planted, perched right above the Atlantic Ocean. The vines here grow directly on the ground as a means of protection from the cold wind, and are lifted onto small wooden “stilts” shortly before harvest. These are some of the few remaining vineyards planted within such short distance of the sea—as the tourism industry grew, most of the land this close was sold off for development. They are Atlantic wines in the truest sense of the expression.
Back at the Suertes del Marqués property, Jonatan took me to see an empty field he wanted to use for another project. Looking at this fertile landscape got us thinking about the possibility of planting some botanicals, so who knows– some interesting Tenerife spirits might be hitting these shores in the future. It’s just a dream for now, but at the very least it gives me a good excuse to go back soon.