The Canary Islands are an archipelago of 13 islands located 100 km west of Morocco. Tenerife is the largest, most populous, and tallest of the islands. It is on this island within sight of both the Atlantic Ocean and the volcano El Tiede that you may find Bodegas Monje.
Bodegas Monje has its origins back in 1956 when Miguel Monje inherited a small parcel of vines. Vineyards and wine were not new to Miguel as he was the fourth generation of Monje’s to produce wine since 1750. Over the years he purchased surrounding vineyards such that today his son Felipe Monje produces wine from some 17 hectares. The winery was modernized in 1983.
The vineyards are located in northeastern Tenerife in the Tacoronte-Acentejo Denominacion de Origen (DO). It is here in the 17th century that these fertile slopes were terraced to for the vineyards which produced immensely popular wines. Tacoronte-Acentejo was the first DO in the Canary Islands having been granted status in 1992. In the span of 20 years the DO has grown from 10 bodegas and 523 hectares of vineyards to 46 Bodegas and some 2400 hectares of vineyards. This makes Bodegas Monje one of the oldest wineries and among the first to bottle their own wine.
The vineyards of Bodegas Monje are located in el Sauzal at an altitude of 500 meters just 2 km from the coast. There are only a few pests in the vineyards such as Oidium, Mildew, and Botrytis. The island has never experienced Phylloxera so the vines are ungrafted. The vineyards are not plowed but the grass amongst the vines are cut. It is used to control erosion. The soils are fertile and rich in elements but low in pH so every year some calcium carbonate is added to raise the pH. This assists the vines in taking in nutrients. Due to the terrain the vineyards are tended and harvested by hand. The vineyards are planted with Listan Negro, Listan Blanco, and Negramoll along with other varietals. Sometimes the varietals are mixed in the vineyards.
Both Jenn and I rather liked this wine. I was made curious by the vintage perfume nose then delighted by the flavors of black fruit and minerals. It really does taste of volcanic origins! Though there is structure and balance for short-term aging I would not hesitate to drink this wine now. I would like to thank Felipe Monje of Bodegas Monje for answering my various questions and providing images for me to use. This wine is available at Chambers Street Wine.
2009 Bodegas Monje, Tradicional, Tinto, Tacoronte-Acentejo – $22
Imported by Jose Pastor Selections. This wine is a blend of 85% Listan Negro, 10% Listan Blanco, and 5% Negramoll. The different varietals are pressed and fermented together. A combination of stainless steel and old barrels are used. Alcohol 13%. The nose is light+ with interesting aromas of vintage floral perfume. In the mouth the wine is a touch racy with weight to the ripe, savory black fruit. There are minerals, lots of almost-juicy black fruit, and fine ripe tannins which are a touch delicate. There is cool acidity which mixes well with the black fruit. A subtle drying structure comes out in the aftertaste. *** Now-2017.
Wines have been exported from the Canary Islands since the late 16th century. Even a quick look into the history of wine will reveal widespread and common reference to Canary wine. As popular as it was it eventually experienced a decline in exports such that many readers of this blog may not have tasted an example. Indeed as broad as I drink I did not taste my first sip of Canary wine until this month. From what I gather the resurgence of Canary Island wine in the United States is owed to the importer Jose Pastor. The Canary Islands represent the largest regional share in his portfolio with 14 out of 45 producers listed on the website. Jose imported his first Canary Island wine back in 2007. Since then this part of his portfolio appears to have gained traction in San Francisco and New York City. During my recent trip to New York City one of the first questions I was asked at both Despana Vinos y Mas and Chambers Street Wines was whether I had tried one of the island wines. I had not so I walked away with three different wines. My knowledge of the Canary Island wines was spotted at best so for my next several posts I will focus on the turbulent and fascinating history of Canary wine and my actual tasting notes.
The Origins of Canary Wine
The Canary Islands along with Madeira were discovered by the Portuguese and Castilians in the 15th century. By the end of the 15th century it was agreed that the Castillians would control the Canary Islands and the Portuguese would control Madeira. The Canary Islands are located off of the coast of Africa and were an important port of call before ships left for the Americas. Land was cheap so plantations were quickly created to grow and mill sugar for export. The rise of Brazilian and Caribbean sugar exports to Europe eventually undermined the Canary and Madeiran sugar exports. Vineyard were also planted on the islands with exports of sweet white Malvasia from Tenerife gaining popularity in Europe throughout the 16th century. By the mid 17th century West Indian sugar was half the cost of Canarian. With the decline of sugar production and the rise in price of wine, vineyards were greatly expanded. The main varietal was Malvasia brought over from Cyprus. Its popularity resulted in a vineyard expansion to such extent that grain needed to be imported to the islands.
There were three main markets for Canary wine: Spanish and Portuguese provinces in America, Portuguese Cape Verde, and European markets in France, the Netherlands, and England. To these markets three types of wine were exported the highly popular Malmsey produced from Malvasia, a greenish dry wine, and a purplish sweet wine produced from late harvested grapes. Though the vineyards were located in Teneriffe, Gran Canaria, and Las Palmas that vast majority were located in Tenerife. In 1600 Tenerife account for 62% of the total taxes on trade in the Canary Islands and by 1688 it account for 90%.
War with Spain ended in 1604 and the Canary wine trade developed. By the mid seventeenth century Portuguese independence from Spain meant the majority of Canary wine was exported to England. The price of Canary wine in the early 1660s had reached twice that as in 1640. Meetings were held to fix the price of Canary wine at 29 Pounds per Butt in 1662 and 32 Pounds per Butt in 1664. With such high prices a group of merchants received a royal patent from Charles II in 1665 to form the Governour and Company of Merchants trading to the Canary Island. Also known as The Canary Company the goal was to restrict the Canary Island wine import business to the Company so that they could negotiate for lower wine prices. This was not received well at the Canary Islands where the Company’s agents were expelled from Teneriffe in 1666. In an attempt to overthrow the Company, English ships were no longer allowed to land and no English merchants were allowed to live on the Islands until the Company’s charter was recalled. In response the importation of Canary wine to England was banned.
During these very same years London experienced the great fire of 1666 and the Dutch Navy were wearing on British ships. With the great losses due to the fire and difficulties in transportation within London and over the seas, there were extensive challenges to importation and sales. In London, members of the Company sought to petition alterations to the patent which ultimately lead to the cancellation of the patent in 1667 and the renewal of free trade with the Canary Islands. Just one year later Charlie II married Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess. He subsequently banned the importation of Canary wines to the benefit of Portuguese wines. Trade eventually resumed, in 1681 4.5 millon quart bottles or 4,464 pipes of Canary wine were taxed in London. By the 1690s two-thirds of the Malvasia from Tenerife was imported into London alone. Rising import duties began to reduce the profitability of the Canary wine trade. The War of the Spanish Succession broke out in 1701 forcing English merchants to once again leave Tenerife.
Canary Wines and Medicine
Canary Wine was not just consumed but prescribed in medicine. Dr. Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) revived the Hippocratic methods of observation and was a founder of epidemiology. He considered the foundation of medicine to be rooted in beside experiences. As such he actively studied epidemics in London beginning in the 1650s. He is famous for the introduction of Cinchona bark and his use of laudanum which reintroduced it to the medical community. In 1676 he published Medical Observations Concerning the History and Cure of Acute Diseases. In it we find his recipe for Laudanum.
Strained opium (2oz), saffron (1oz), cinnamon & cloves (1 drachm each), & Canary wine (1 pint)
As to his use of Canary wine we may find reason in his remedy to the symptoms of the Gout.
I have tried many things for the Fits of the last Tears to lessen this Symptom but nothing did so much good as a small draught of Canary Wine taken now and then when the Sickness and Faintness afflict the Sick Nor is Red French Wine or Venice Treacle or any other Cordial thing which I have yet known so effectual But we must imagine that neither this Wine or any other Cordial if Exercise be not used can wholly preserve the Patient.
Canary Wine is used throughout his Medical Observations including a method to invigorate and strengthen the blood in the case of diabetes.
Take of the Roots of Elecampane Masterwort, Angelica, and Gentian each half an Ounce; of the Leaves of Roman Wormwood; white Horehound; of the lesser Centaury and of Calaminth, each one Handful of Juniper-berries one Ounce : Let them be cut small and infused in five Pints of Canary, let them stand together in a cold Infusion, and strain it as you use it.
Canary Wines in Bristol
I spent my formative year of wine-drinking in Bristol, England. It was a fantastic city to buy wine in, with both new and long-established wine merchants. I often shopped at Averys founded in 1793 and John Harvey & sons founded in 1796. Starting in the 15th century Bristol was the second most important port after London. If we look at the 1620s and 1630s we see that this extended to wine imports with London importing an average of 19,650 tuns seconded by Bristol at 2,341 tuns.
There are a large variety of records related to the importation of wine into Britain. They frequently refer to wine in terms of tuns, pipes, and hogsheads. A tun is an English unit of liquid volume originally set at 256 gallons then reduced to 252 wine gallons by the 15th century and eventually 210 Imperial gallons in 1826. A pipe or butt is half the volume of a tun and a hogshead is a quarter the volume of a tun.
Import statistics rely on various customs books. They reflect the variation in harvest date and yield, alignment with the bookkeeping calendar, and also greater political events. In looking at 17th century importation volume of Canary wine to some degree they reflect the War with Spain in 1625-1630 and the war with France in 1627 which made 1620 into very early 1630s a difficult time. This was followed by extra taxes on wine in the 1630s and a privileges granted to London wine merchants. The decline in wine imports continued with the Civil War 1640-1641 and took until the 1680s to recover. By then higher duties were being imposed. With higher wine prices and the availability of alternative beverages wine imports declined again in the late 17th century.
Canary Wine Imports at Bristol
Sept 1600 – Sept 1601 1 – Canary wine 108 tuns (5.8%) out of 1871.5 tuns.
Dec 1612 – Dec 1613 2 – Canary wine 196 pipes (98 tuns, 5.0%) out of 1942 tuns.
Dec 1624 – Dec 1625 3 – Canary wine 171 pipes (85.5 tuns, 4.8% ) out of 1790 tuns.
Sept 1654- Sept 1655 6 – Canary wine 33 pipes and 10 quarter casks (19 tuns, 2.6%) out of 726 tuns.
Sept 1682 – Sept 1683 11 – Canary wine 15.5 pipes(7.25 tuns, 0.6%) out of 1206 tuns.
Sept 1685 – Sept 1686 12 – Canary wine 78 pipes (39 tuns, 4.8%) out of 813 tuns.
Based on Port Books and Society of Merchant Venturers Wharfage Books
In the 17th century Canary wine imports by volume peaked in 1600-1601 at 108 tuns. Wine was typically consumed in one quart bottle units so this volume represents some 108,864 bottles worth of Canary wine. The population of Bristol was approximately 10,000-11,000 during the first decade of the 17th century. Certainly not all of the wine was consumed within Bristol but if it was this represents 10 bottles for every man, woman, and child for one year alone.
Canary Wines in the County of Suffolk
At a more individual scale we can look at the consumption of Canary wine by John Hervey, 1st Earl of Bristol. John Hervey (1665-1751) became a member of Parliament in 1694 then became the 1st Baron Hervey of Ickworth in the County of Suffolk in 1703 and finally the 1st Earl of Bristol in 1714. While his diary is sparse with entries his Expensive Book are particularly detailed with expenditures on wine. The first recorded year of wine expenditures is 1689 when he bought Clarrett and Duncomb wine. In 1690 he began to drink Hermitage and in 1697 he purchased his first pipe of Canary wine. John Hervey drank diversely and well. In 1702 he purchased 4 hogshead of “obrian” (Chateau Haut-Brion) and in 1703 he purchased one hogshead of “Margoose Clarett” (Chateau Margaux). Over the span of 54 year he purchased Canary wine ten times for a total volume around 2 tuns. This represents an approximate household consumption of 2,106 quart bottle or three bottles per month. The cost of his Canary wine ranged from 30 Pounds per pipe all the way up to 100 Pounds per pipe. In the absence of an established annual trend this may reflect a range in quality of the Canary wine purchased.
Wine Expenses from The Diary of John Hervey covering 1688-1742
June 18 1697, 80 Pounds for 2 pipes of Fayall & 1 Pipe of Canary.
June 21 1697, Parcell of pictures & for a hogshead of old Canary, 80 Pounds.
Jan 15 1705, 9 gallons 1 quart of Canary he bought for me 4..15..0.
Feb 17 1710, 4th part of a pipe of Canary, 15 Pounds.
Feb 7 1711 60 gallons of Palme & Canary wine etc. 33..10..0.
March 8, 1718, 30 gallons of Canary, 12..1..6.
March 21 1718, Port-wines, Canary, & all other demands to this day, 114..17..6.
Jan 10 1724, 3 parcells of Canary, a pipe of Porte at 28 Pounds.
March 29 1734, for a pipe of Canary 30 Pounds.
Mar 26 1741, a hogshead of Canary at 31..10..0.
Canary Wine in the 18th and 19th Centuries
The Canary Island wine trade with Britain never recovered the vigor of the 17th century. At the beginning of the 18th century English imports of Portuguese wines, including port wine, and the wines of Madeira increased due to favorable relationships between Britain and Portugal. Thus with the Canary wine we see that in 1785 only 65 tuns were imported into Britain, in 1808 it increased to 1683 tuns, and by 1821 it was down to 1000 tuns. Though exports from the Canary islands to Britain decreased the wines were still exported around the world. In Williamsburg, Virginia we find 22 bottles of Canary listed in the Inventory of the Estate of Joh Marott in 1717. Canary wines were also advertised for sale in The Virginia Gazette in 1771.
”To be SOLD at John Greenhow’s Store, near the Church, in Williamsburg, for ready Money, on reasonable Terms,…Old Spirits, best and common Arrack, Madeira, Lisbon, red port, Claret, Canary, and Renish Wines…”, Publisher: Purdie & dixon, Page: 3, Column: 2, 1771-12-12.
The 19th century view of Canary wine appears somewhat consistent in that Tenerife produced the largest amount of wine followed by Gran Canaria. Of the three wines produced the sweet Malmsey from Malvasia was considered the best. In 1833 Cyrus Redding published a book on wine commenting that the Canaries produce 25,000 pipes of white wine annually while 15,000 are consumed internally or distilled. Tenerife alone producing 22,000 pipes. Upon tasting a 126 year old bottle in a small pint-size bottle he found it was “flavour was good, and it had ample body.” “Teneriffe produces the best wines of all the islands, having the greatest body.” “On the eastern side of Palma, Malvasia, or Malmsey, is grown, which in a few years gains a bouquet like a ripe pine-apple. The dry wines are not as good as those of the other islands. The best vines do not grow more than a mile from the sea.”
In 1863 Agoston Haraszthy found the Canary Islands producing a large quantity of wine with Tenerife alone responsible for 40,000 pipes of wine. This included the Malvasia wine which he found “of agreeable taste, sweet and spirituous” and the “Vidogne, which though keen and tart when new, gains by age.” He notes the wines of Palma island were considered inferior. Two years later wine merchant W. R. Loftus states the principal islands were Gran Canaria and Tenerife. The wines also known as Teneriffe “resemble Madeira, though far from possessing its flavour or body.” The dry Vidonia produced from the Vidogna grape “has a good body, and improves with age. It is made from grapes gathered before they are ripened, and when new it is far from pleasant; but a few years soon removes this flavour, and greatly increases its mildness.” Palma is inferior to that of Teneriffe. The Malmsey is “very excellent, although possessing, as some affirm, an acid quality.” He notes that in 1827 417,703 gallons of Canary Wines were imported into Great Britain but have decreased ever since.
Though Agoston Haraszthy and W. R. Loftus do not mention the Powdery Mildew which hit the Canary Islands in 1852, Thomas George Shaw comments that the Oidium attack “sufferings and losses have been consequently great…”. The Canary Islands suffered two blows from Powdery Mildew in 1852 and Mildew in 1878. These attacks devastated the vineyards to such an extent that in 1888 Charles Edwards writes that he no longer purchased the wines for the disease “came disastrously upon the vineyards of Tenerife.” By the end of the 19th century the wine industry appears to have recovered. In 1898 A. Samler Brown wrote that wine exports reached a low of 4,855 Pounds in 1885 but just 13 years later had reached some 25,000 Pounds per year. The grapes planted were Tentillo, Negra Molle, Moscatel (black and white), Verdelho, Pedro Jimenez, Forastero, and Vija-Riega. The inferior vineyards were found higher up on the hills and were more susceptible to disease. The better vineyards were lower, warmer, and produced more expensive wines. Wines in barrel were mature in eight years but improved up to 25 years of age. Fortified wine was still produced along with a small amount of high quality sweet wine known as Gloria. Red Canary was also produced and Samler Brown found that the red wines of Tacoronte were the best reds in Tenerife. Indeed 90 years later Tacoronte-Acentejo became the first Denominacion de Origen (DO) in the Canary Islands.
I have not found much detail on the 20th century history of Canary wine. In 1972 D. E. Pohren write, “the island of Tenerife, with its strong, dry white wine from Guimar, its heavy-bodied, strong red from Tacoronte, its aged wines from Icod, etc.; and La Palma, with its claret of 14-16% from Fuencaliente and its highly aromatic , white wine from localities scattered throughout the island”. In terms of varietals planted there are “Malvasia, pedro ximenez, albillo and listan predominate on the islands.” In 1992 Tacoronte-Acentejo on Tenerife was granted the first DO for the Canary Islands. Since then a total of 10 DOs have been granted, five of which on Tenerife with the remaining five on La Palma, Hierro, Gran Canaria, La Gomera, and Lanzarote. This year Decanter Magazine found the wines to have increased by 72.9% in volume and 5.4% in value, and the Balearic Islands, up 20.9% and 5.1% since 2011.
Brown, A. Samler. Madeira and the Canary Islands, 5th Edition. Sampson Low, Marsteon & Co, London 1898.
Edwards, Charles. Rise and Studies in the Canary Islands. T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1888.
Gray, Todd. From Tutor and Stuart Devon. University of Exeter Press, Exeter, 1992.
Haraszthy, Agoston. Grape Culture, Wines, and Wine-making. 1863.
Latimer, John. The Annals of Bristol In the Seventeenth Century. William George’s Sons, Bristol 1900.
Loftus, W. R. The Wine Merchant. George Burns Steam Printer, London, 1865.
McGrath, Patrick. Merchants and Merchandise in Seventeenth-Century Bristol, Volume XIX. J. W. Arrowsmith Ltd, Bristol, 1955.
Pechey, John. The Whole Works Of that Excellent Practical Physician, Dr. Thomas Sydenham. 9th Edition, J. Darby, London 1729.
Pohren, D. E. Adventures in Taste: The Wines and Folk Food of Spain. Artes Graficas Luis Perez, Madrid, 1972.
Redding, Cyrus. A History and Description of Modern Wines. Whittake, Treacher, & Arnot, London 1833.
Shaw, Thomas George. Wine, the Vine, and the Cellar. Spottiswood and Co., London, 1864.
Simon, Andre L. The History of the Wine Trade in England, Volume II. Wyman & Sons, London 1907.
Skeel, Caroline A. J. “The Canary Company”, The English Historical Review, No CXXIV. 1916.
Steckley, George F. “The Wine Economy of Tenerife in the Seventeenth Century”, The Economic History Review, Vol. 33, No. 3, 1980.
Unwin, Tim. Wine and the Vine. Routledge, New York, 1996.
Since I was young a bottle of Warre’s Nimrod Tawny was always opened at Christmas time. While I now drink port throughout the year I still very much enjoy it during the holidays for it naturally falls into the spirit of things. This year I forgot to stock up on tawny port for the holidays. I thought I had a bottle of tawny somewhere but could not find it so I opted for this Late Bottled Vintage. Berry Bros & Rudd has a large selection of wines and spirits under the Berrys’ Own Selection. This bottle of Port was produced by Quinta do Noval for Berry Bros and was bottled in 2005. Jenn and I purchased it during the summer of 2006 from their store at Heathrow Airport. Tasted over three nights it was lovely and another reminder of how much we love Port. I wish our basement was full of it! The current 2007 vintage retails for 17 Pounds so this was most likely a good buy!
1999 Berry Bros & Rudd, Berrys’ Own Selection, Late Bottled Vintage, Port
Imported by Berry Bros & Rudd. Alcohol 19.5%. Dark grapey purple. A nose of plummy, deep red fruit is youthful with hints of wood box. In the mouth youthful, concentrated ripe fruit has good texture and integrated acidity which keeps it fresh. The sides of the tongue salivate. There is a lovely wood box component which provides a hint of maturity. Easily drinkable now but there is good power and balance for additional aging. ***(*) Now-2032.
Bodegas Benabeleva has its origins in 1923 when Dr. Vicente Alvarez-Villamil purchased the estate outside of Madrid near the Cerro de Guisando mountains. The estate name translate to “path of the bear” and is named after the nearby Toros de Guisando. These bears (or bulls or pigs) were carved in the 2nd century BC by the Celtiberians as a dedication to the sacred forests. Dr Alvarez-Villamil believed this area would be ideal to cultivate Garnacha. With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 production ceased but the family continued to maintain the vineyards. In 2006 two of his great-grandchildren, Juan Diez Bulnes and Santiago Matallana Bulnes, decided to produce wine from the family vineyards. For the winery logo they drew inspiration from an old photo of Dr. Alvarez-Villamil’s daughter Luis on one of the bears. They began to work with consultant Raul Perez and winemaker Marc Isart Pinos. They produce wine from the 35 hectares of estate vineyards along with purchased fruit from nearby vineyards. The vineyards are located on tawny sands with decomposed granite rock. The parcels differ in size, orientation, and altitude. The vineyards are worked manually and are enriched from the estate cattle. Beyond manure only copper and sulfur are used but only if needed. The fruit is hand harvested with plots vinified separately in mostly wooden tanks. Maceration typically exceeds 30 days for the red wines with aging in French oak barrels of various sizes. Only some new wood is used.
Jamie of Chambers Street Wines recommended I try this bottle from Boegas Bernabeleva and I am so glad that I did. This is an attractive wine which is engaging from the very first glass. I usually taste a new wine over two nights but it was impossible to resist drinking this one. For over the evening it remained expressive and serious. At $14 I would make this a daily drinker. The Camino de Navaherreros is available at Chambers Street Wines.
2011 Bodegas Bernabeleva, Camino de Navaherreros, Vinos de Madrid – $14
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. This wine is 100% Garnacha sourced from estate and purchases which range between 40-80 years of age. The vineyards are located at 700-900 meters on soils of granitic sand. There is 25 day maceration with whole clusters in wood, stainless steel, and concrete tanks followed by aging in large upright old wooden vats. Alcohol 14.5%. The aromatic nose reveals fresh, acidity driven red fruit. In the mouth there are lifted flavors of dry, red fruit, cranberry and pomegranate, a little powdery quality, but definitely fresh with a hint of red pepper. Definitely lovely. *** Now-2014.
I have rather enjoyed my Christmas Vacation. Taking time off from work and writing for the blog gives me more time to read about wine. And to open up bottles purchased during my New York City trip! One such bottle is the feature of today’s post. Domaine Le Bout du Monde originated when Loic Roure showed Edouard Laffitte a sixty year old wine cooperative which he had purchased in Lansac, Cotes du Roussillon. The timing was fortuitous. Edouard had been working at Les Vignerons D’Estezargues, near Avignon, and was interested in working with vineyards. A small group rehabilitated the winery then set about securing vineayrds. Today they produce wine from six hectares of old vines split over five vineyards. The vineyards are only plowed and do not receive any chemical treatments. Six cuvees are produced each reflecting the different terroirs. Each cuvee is vinified differently but all are naturally made, a practice employed at D’Estezargues. I rather like the earthy and foxy(good not bad) aromas and flavors of this wine. I could, perhaps, image that some people may not like this wine but if you enjoy the sort of wines which I recommend then you should definitely grab a few bottles. It is the sort of wine I really preferred to drink than take notes on. This wine is available at Chambers Street Wines.
2011 Domaine Le Bout du Monde, Hop’la, Cotes du Roussillon –
Imported by Selection Massale. This wine is a blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Carignan, and 20% Grenache sourced from vines located on Gneiss. The fruit was destemmed, underwent full carbonic maceration then was aged in old wooden barrels. Alcohol 12-14%. The light+ nose was full of earthy, foxy black fruit. In the mouth there was acidity driven black and red fruit wihch had some weight. This initial fruit showed some ripeness. Then the flavors became drying with a good firm and black fruited aftertaste where the earthy aspect returns as well. This wine has good personality and should drink well over the short-term. *** Now-2018.
La Clarine Farm was created in 2001 by Caroline Hoel and Hank Beckmeyer. Their 10 acres of vineyards are a field blend of such varietals as Tempranillo, Syrah, Tannat, Grenache, Negroamaro, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The vines are typically located on thin, course sandy loam soils along a ridgetop at 2600 feet. Native grasses, herbs and flowers grow amongst the vines. Chemicals and fertilizers are not used. The fruit is fermented with indigenous yeasts, there is no destemming, nothing added, and no new oak. Fermentation occurs in flex-tanks and aging in older wood. Sulphur is only added if needed and just a minimal amount for bottling.
I was completely surprised when I first smelled both of them for there was so much gentle, confident presence. It is a treat when the nose is so interesting right from the start. The Cedarville is quite light and I can see what it was described as Mutant Beaujolais. To me it is a wine to drink on its own before sitting down to dinner or drinking something more substantial. I rather liked how the Sumu Ka starts with driven flavors then gently expands with some ripeness before the ethereal aftertaste. These wines are available at Chambers Street Wines. I am not sure what I did with my rather long receipt from Chambers but I believe these were priced in the $25-$28 per bottle range.
2011 La Clarine Farm, Mourvedre, Cedarville, Sierra Foothills –
This wine is 100% Mourvedre which was harvested on October 27th. It underwent malolactic fermentation. Alcohol 11.7%. The color is a rather light cranberry. The light to medium strength nose is rather citrusy then with air becomes more mellow with red fruit and some red candy. In the mouth the initial flavors are light bodied with yeast red fruit and are evocative of the sea. With air the red fruit becomes driven by acidity with a strong sense of purity. The flavors become a little blacker with light, grapey tannins in the finish. While there are good aromas and flavors this is a light wine which may be overwhelmed by strong food. Why not just drink it on its own? ** Now – 2014.
2011 La Clarine Farm, Mourvedre, Sumu Kaw, Sierra Foothills –
This wine is 100% Mourvedre. Alcohol 12.4%. The color is a light to medium garnet. The light nose has delicate citrus aromas, yeast red fruit, perfumed candy, and is ultimately lower lying than the Cedarville. There is acidity driven red fruit which is tart on the front of the tongue then a little blacker. There is a gentle, ripe expansive powdery finish. The aftertaste is long and ethereal. Elegant with good weight and interest. *** Now-2015.
The Fattoria Fibbiano farmhouse was built in 1707 but only recently purchased and renovated. Underneath the land are old Etrurian caves and tombs which have been incorporated into the winery. The winery is part of an agritourism business where it is possible to book an apartment or eat at the restaurant. I was curious to try the wine because it contains 50% Canaiolo and 50% Sangiovese sourced from the Pisa Hills. Canaiolo was prized for its resistance to rot and in the 18th century was used in larger proportions than Sangiovese. Today Canaiolo typically plays a small supporting role to Sangiovese. The Canaiolo vines do not graft well to American rootstock so it fell out of favor post-phylloxera. My first experience drinking a wine from Fattoria Fibbiano was a positive one. I rather enjoyed the blueberry and spice aromas and flavors of this wine. It needs a few years of ago for integration but I think it will be worth it. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2008 Fattoria Fibbiano, L’Aspetto, Tuscany – $26
Imported by Mondo Vino. This wine is a blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Canaiolo sourced from mainly clay soils rich in marine shells. The fruit was harvested in early October, fermented with indigenous yeasts then underwent malolactic fermentation and 12 months of aging in French oak barriques. This is followed by six months of aging in tank. Alcohol 14%. The light+ nose revealed creamy blueberries and spice. In the mouth the blueberry flavors continue and become rounder. There are fine+ drying tannins in the structure which stands out a bit in the finish. There is a little woodsy note. The wine becomes savory with air. **(*) 2016-2020.