If you’ve never been to Mallorca, you’ve probably never sampled Mallorcan wine.
And, until recently, you weren’t missing much. Its small-scale production and basic quality in the last century meant that little island wine was exported even as far as mainland Spain, never mind further afield.
During Moorish times, though, wine was produced extensively along the west coast of Mallorca (and, to a lesser extent, in the east too) and widely exported, right up until the islands’ vines were wiped out by the phylloxera virus in the 1890s.
The first step in a local vitisulture revival came with the founding in the 1930s of the José Luis Ferrer bodega in Binissalem. Progress was slow, however, and it was not until 1991 that the Benissalem area was bestowed a Denominació de Origen (DO), and the rebirth began in earnest. In 2000, a second DO was recognised: Pla i Levant, covering parts of central and eastern Mallorca. Today, you’ll find a surpisingly diverse and frequently excellent range of wines on offer in island restaurants and bars.
Some of the grapes used are familiar international varieties; others are indigenous. Mineral-nosed Callet is popular in red blends, though tannin-rich Manto Negro ist the most commonly encountered local cultivar (all Binissalem DO reds contain a minimum of 50% Manto Negro). Indigenous white varieties include Giro Blanc, Gargollosa and aromatic Moll.
Of the island’s 20-plus producers, names to look out for among the Binissalem DO include the ubiquitous José Luis Ferrer (the reds shade the whites; try a reserva, resembling a light Rioja) and Consell’s Hereus de Ribas (its red-blended Cabrera is outstanding, if expensive). Among the most interesting Pla i Levant DO producers are Miquel Gelabert from Manacor (who isn’t afraid to try unusual grape blends, though his straight Chardonnay is also a winner) and Petra’s Miquel Oliver (who made his name with his Muscat Original, an exquisite dry Moscatel).
Don’t be afraid to stray from DO bottles. Some of Mallorca’s most interesting wines are labelled simply Vin de la Terra. The most celebrated example is multi-award-winning (and consequently pricey and hard-to-find) Anima Negra‘s An, made with 100% Callet, previously thought to be a grape suitable only for blending.
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