The wine production in the Balearics has had a chequered history …. it has had to contend with invasions, wars, religion, dictatorships and deadly diseases. But it has risen through everything like a Phoenix to become a major contender in the world of wines.
It is reckoned that vines were first planted in Mallorca in 123 BC or, as it is now known AC, by the Romans, and for the next 700 years wine making flourished on the islands, often being exported to the rest of the Mediterranean countries. However, after the Muslim invasion, which lasted roughly 300 years, wine making became virtually non-existent.
In 1229 when King James I took control of the islands, production was restarted, but never really took off to be much more than for home consumption. Then in 1891 disaster struck when the deadly phylloxera plague arrived from France – it virtually wiped out all the islands´ vineyards, and replanting did not start until the beginning of the 20th Century. General Franco, being a teetotaller, didn’t encourage wine growing or its export (even though Spain was a big exporter of wine to France), so it wasn’t until the 1990`s that wine production really came into its own.
Formentera, Ibiza and Menorca have a great number of wineries between them – many of them are family-run affairs, although new ones have been started up since 2006, including ecologically aware and organic wines. They are rated as VT (vino tierra – the second rating to D.O.) as Vino de Tierra de Formentera, Vino de Tierra de Ibiza, and Vino de Tierra de Menorca respectively. These high accolades have helped the wines from these 3 islands to gain prestige and fame in many places. Some of them are also very highly rated in the Penin Guide (Spain`s most recognised wine guide).
There are currently two areas designated as D.O. (Designation of Origin) – and these are both in Mallorca – Binisalem in 1990 and Pla I Llevant in 1999.
Mallorca, by its sheer size, has the large number of wineries or bodegas, over 70, spread all over the island – and many of the wines have been award-winning wines of exceptional quality. Macia Batle, Santa Maria del Cami, has won prestigious recognition in the International Wine and Spirits competition, as well as winning at distinguished German wine shows.
Wines produced are red, white, rose, fine wine, cava and sparkling wine. Cava is made by the traditional method of two fermentations, the second one taking place in the bottle in which the wine will be sold. Sparkling wines have only one fermentation, which takes place nowadays in a tank.
Wine comes in all sorts and sizes of bottles, different ages and to suit every taste and every pocket:
Crianza – aged for at least two years; Reserva – aged for at least three years, Gran Reserva – aged for at least five years; and Fine wine – wine of exceptional quality (reflected in its price).
People who produce wine on the island are passionate about absolutely every detail of it – so you have Macia Batle with Art on their labels, Mallorcan friends getting together in 1994 to bring back original grape usage in Anima Negra; Castell Miguel’s Stairway to Heaven – the only bodega on a slope ….. the list is endless. There are still wine shops in some of the villages where you can take your own demi-john in and get if filled – how cool is that! In most bodegas and in tourist centres you can get Wine Map Routes – what a great way to spend a holiday indulging in your love or curiosity for heritage, culture, traditions, wine, gastronomy, and fabulous landscapes.
There are two things that Mallorcan’s are passionate about – one is wine and the other is fiestas – put them together and what an amazing exciting experience that can be. Every island and every village has some sort of wine fair.
The biggest wine fair in Mallorca, is the Es Vermar, in Binisalem, 2 grape filled weeks in September, but it’s not too late the miss this weekend’s Consell Autumn Wine Fair (18,19,20 October).