Suertes del Marqués Wines
Philip Day looks to the popular holiday hotspot of Tenerife for an inspired source of fine wine and selects Suertes del Marqués Wines, Valle de Orotava, Tenerife.
This detailed article about Suertes del Marqués Wines Valle de Orotava, Tenerife includes the company’s history, viticulture and product portfolio.
Some friends recently set me a challenge, when we met up in Manchester for dinner. At the end of the month they were off to Tenerife in the Canary Islands for an early winter sun holiday. They had been there before some ten or so years ago and had found some of the wines there a bit hit and miss. So, they wanted me to recommend some decent tinerfeño reds and white wines for their upcoming visit. I thought for a short while, recalling some of the wines I had previously sampled there. After a few moments, one of the company commented, “I think we’ve got him stumped!” I immediately replied, “On the contrary, there’s really only one name you need to look out for and no matter what type of wine you’re interested in, you are guaranteed a flavoursome experience – Suertes del Marqués Wines and their range of DO Valle de la Orotava wines.”
This exchange led me to consider this article in which I will share my liking of these excellent wines with you.
Situated off the north African coast, Tenerife is the largest of the Canary islands and from all around the coast you cannot miss the dominance of its active volcano Pico del Teide (Mount Teide) situated at the centre of Tenerife, officially the highest point in Spain (at 3,718 metres or 12,198 ft) and one of the world’s largest volcanic structures.
The Valle de la Orotava is one of the oldest wine growing regions in the Canary Islands, taking its name from the historic town of La Orotava. Wine-growing in this fertile valley dates back to the Spanish conquest of the 15th Century. Originally a centre of Malmsey (Malvasia) production, the region had a reputation for fortified white wines. The DO, ‘La Denominación de Origen Valle de La Orotava’ was officially bestowed on wines produced in the area in November of 1995.
Listán Negro and Blanco (Palomino), Malvasia and Malvasia Rosada, Negramoll, Bastardo Negro and Blanco, Moscatel and Moscatel Negra, Tintilla, Vijariego and Vijariego Negro, Gual (Bual), Verdello, Forastera Blanca, Torrontés, Marmajuelo and Pedro Ximénez are the grape varieties that can be found growing officially within this DO.
Most of vineyards are planted on the gentle lower slopes of El Teide, where humid mists created by ‘Alicios’ (trade) winds, blowing off the coast throughout the year, moderate the hot maritime climate.
It is here, that the Suertes del Marqués Wines vineyards are located the green valley of La Orotava. The property is formed by some 11 hectares of vineyards divided into a number of small plots (parcelas) that climb the lower slopes of El Teide ranging from 300 to 750 metres above sea level. Each parcela benefits from a different orientation and soil composition, with deep patches of sand and clay acting as top-soils to Mount Teide’s volcanic sub-soils.
Owner Jonatan Garçia Lima founded Suertes del Marqués Wines in 2006. The estate is essentially a patchwork of ancient vineyards, with many of Suertes del Marqués’ plots having been continually cultivated for more than 100 years. Additionally, Suertes del Marqués work another 15 hectares in collaboration with other local vine growers whose vineyards are located at altitudes between 250-800 metres.
Although Suertes del Marqués Wines is a family winery that has only been producing its own wines since 2006, Jonatan García Lima’s role as winegrower dates back over twenty years prior to this, cultivating and selling grapes to other wineries within the Valle de La Orotava apellation.
Bringing on board young winemakers helped Suertes del Marqués Wines set the pace for embracing a new culture for quality wine production. It was through Jonatan García’s commitment to elevating the quality of the wines that brought about the introduction of low-intervention, organic wine-making practices and a continual focus on the individual characteristics of its 21 tiny vineyard parcelas.
Jonatan García has recently (May 2016) begun working with two talented young winemakers, the Portuguese Luis Seabra and canaria Loles Perez.
Valle de la Orotava DO
Suertes del Marqués (Bodega Soagranorte, S.L.)
Total: around 9 hectares (22.25 acres)
Listán Negro, Tintilla, Baboso Negro, Listán Blanco, Pedro Ximénez, Vijariego Negro and Blanco, Gual, Albillo Criollo, Marmajuelo
7 Fuentes, El Lance, Medianías, Trenzado, La Solana, Esquilón, El Ciruelo, Los Pasitos, Vidonia, Suertes del Marqués Blanco Dulce and Suertes del Marqués Tinto Dulce
Soils vary, with sand and clay in deep patches but always as a topsoil to Teide’s volcanic base strata.
Figures undisclosed but some special single vineyard bottlings have limited supplies.
Top Vintages Produced
Non vintage but the following were very good or exceptional years: 2008,
2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Unique to the Valle de la Orotava is its spectacular system of vine training, ‘el cordón trenzado’ (literally the braided or plaited cord) once traditionally employed for growing Malvasia grapes, which fruit only at the end of the vine branches.
This unique method of vine training evolved as a result of constraints on the island of areas used for cultivation. Traditionally, el cordón trenzado allowed the braids to be easily moved, allowing the soil below them to be utilised for growing additional essential crops like potatoes, to feed the island’s inhabitants. One major downside to this system is that mechanical harvesting is impossible.
The vines themselves are not planted on root-stocks since the disease phylloxera which ravaged the wine-growing regions of mainland Europe never reached Tenerife, consequently, many of the old vines on the Suertes del Marqués’ plots are more than 100 years old. The vines draw water solely from the terrain in which they are grown as they are not irrigated.
The branches of the vines are braided together in large bunches of multiple strands. The lengths of these ancient multi-stranded vine tendrils that snake up and down the mountainside from the main trunk, can vary from 3 up to 15 metres.
Since developing the business of the winery in 2006, Jonatan García Lima opted to continue the use of native grape varieties and traditional vine training methods. Additionally, he chose to work only with growers from Valle de La Orotava, in order to preserve a viticulture and wine-making heritage dating back five centuries.
The Valle de la Orotava is a predominantly white-wine region and the native Listán Blanco (Palomino) grape is the most widely planted variety. The Suertes del Marqués Wines vineyards are composed mainly of ungrafted vine stocks of black and white Listán grapes, many of which are well over a hundred years old. They are grown in ‘cordón multiple’, a unique vine training method, in which Listán grapes flourish alongside other native varieties, authorised by the local Consejo Regulador wine authority, including Vijariego Negro, Baboso Negro, Tintilla, Pedro Ximénez and Albillo Criollo. The grapes from the parcelas that make up the 9 ha or so of vines that surround the cellar are used to produce a wide range of wines.
The oldest parcelas: La Solana, El Barranco & Los Pasitos I, are planted with a hundred year-old vines: Listán Negro, the main red variety, Listán Blanco and Pedro Ximénez. Two further parcelas: El Ciruelo, planted with Listán Negro and Listán Blanco and El Esquilón, planted with Listán Negro are over 80 years old. All the vines in these older parcelas are trained in ‘el cordón trenzado’.
The remaining parcelas on the property were newly planted between 2000 and 2007 with Tintilla, Listán Negro, Baboso, Vijariego, Listán Blanco and Albillo Criollo. These newer vines are planted mainly in ‘cordón doble’, with the exception of the Listán Negro and Baboso Negro in the Las Terrazas parcela which are head-pruned.
All processes at Suertes del Marqués Wines are performed following traditional practices by hand, from any crop management work in the vineyard right through to harvesting the grapes. The use of systemic treatments in the vineyard are avoided, as any vine diseases are treated using only natural remedies.
Respect for tradition forms the basis of the wine producing philosophy at the vineyard. The naturally low-yielding ancient vines, the climate and the soils in which the vines are grown are celebrated, so that across the Suertes del Marqués range the wines capture the freshness, balance, purity of fruit, minerality and authentic terroir character, that distinguish so many of the most exciting contemporary fine wines.
Similarly, Jonatan García Lima and his winemakers artificially interfere as little as possible in the production of the wines, preferring to employ a range of natural wine ideologies and biodynamic practices, in the pursuit of a strictly hands-off philosophy. Only indigenous yeasts are used in the vinification process; racking and lees stirring are avoided and the wines are never filtered or fined. Finally, when the finished wine is ready for bottling minimal amounts of sulphur dioxide are used.
Fermentation of the wines takes place in uncoated concrete tanks of different volumes, some of which are also used to refine the wines from certain parcelas.
Ageing of the wines is carried out in small (500 litre) French oak ‘foudres’, hand crafted by Burgundian coopers.
In addition, the winery has a variety of stainless steel tanks of different volumes that allows them to carry out blendings of wines from various parcelas to create their Village Wines, as well as for storing different casks of their single vineyard wines, prior to bottling.
The wines produced by Suertes del Marqués Wines can be classified into the three following categories:
Village wines: These originate from plots of land owned by a number of different local vine growers, as well as from their own parcelas. They are vinified separately and blended prior to bottling.
Labels in this category include:
7 Fuentes, (Red) typically 90% Listán Negro and 10% Tintilla, from a mixture of 100+ year old ungrafted vines and more modern plantings. 13.5% ABV. A good introduction to Suertes del Marqués red wines. It is fresh, cherry red fruits with peppery mineral notes.
El Lance, (Red) a blend of mainly Listán Negro and Baboso Negro. It also includes other local grapes like Vijariego Negro and Malvasía Rosada and is fully aged in oak. 14% ABV. A little heavier than 7 Fuentes but has a similar character.
Medianías, (Red) typically 55% Listán Negro, 30% Vijariego Negro and 15% Tintilla. 14% ABV.
Trenzado, (White) made from a blend of mainly Listán Blanco (about 90%) and small quantities of Pedro Ximénez, Albillo Criollo, Gual, Marmajuelo and Malvasía, most of them grown using the ‘cordon trenzado’ training system.13.5% ABV. A dry, slightly nutty but refreshing well-balanced texture with a hint of oak. A good thirst quencher with tastes of stone fruit with a zesty finish.
Single vineyard wines: These originate exclusively from specific plots in the property known as Finca El Esquilón. They are vinified and bottled separately.
La Solana, (Red) 100% Listán Negro taken from the 1.5 hectares east facing La Solana vineyard at an altitude between 350 and 450 metres above sea level. The ages of the vines themselves range from eighty to one hundred and fifty years old, grown in the unique system of ‘cordón trenzado’. The composition of a layer of clay soil over volcanic rock lends the wine a taste that subtly combine fruitiness and minerality. 13.5 % ABV. In my view a good example of a fruity, Listán Negro.
Candio, (Red) 100% Listán Negro. The grapes used in this wine come from the El Barranco vineyard. It takes its name from the ravine that runs through the vineyards of the property. The wine is aged for 24 months: 12 months in new casks followed by a further 12 months in neutral French oak casks. 14% ABV.
El Esquilón, (Red) 70% Listán Negro and 30% Tintilla originating from the north facing 1.2 hectare El Esquilón vineyard, whose vines average eighty years in age. The wine is aged for 14 months in French oak casks. 14% ABV.
El Ciruelo, (Red) 97% Listán Negro and 3% Listán Blanco from the small El Ciruelo plot (0.75 hectare) located between 480 and 520 meters above sea level facing north, where the vines under the unique system of ‘cordón trenzado’ have an average age of over 90 years. The plot and the wine is named for a century-old plum tree that grows within the vineyard. The wine is aged for 14 months on its lees in neutral French oak casks. 13.5% ABV. My personal choice for the red single vineyard wines. It is intense and has a slightly darker hue than other reds available. It is a silky, elegant drink with just the right balance of peppery minerality mixed with fruity aromatics.
Los Pasitos, (Red) 100% Baboso Negro from the very small, north-east facing Los Pasitos plot (0.25 hectares)which is situated between 390 and 450 metres above sea level. The vines are planted in a simple ‘cordón Royat’ system. The wine is aged for 14 months on its lees in neutral French oak casks. 13.5% ABV.
If you prefer more dominant minerality then this smooth red allows those notes to appear through the red fruit.
Vidonia, (White) 100% Listán Blanco using grapes grown in three plots: El Barranco, La Solana and El Ciruelo. The vines here are over 100 years old and are trained in ‘cordón múlitiple trenzado’. The wine is aged for 12 months in neutral French oak casks. 13.5% ABV. A personal favourite. Its nutty, well rounded flavours mixed with complex minerality notes make it deliciously well balanced.
Suertes del Marqués Blanco Dulce (Sweet White) Made by a ‘solera’ ageing process, where small amounts of younger wines stored in an upper tier of casks are systematically blended with a more mature wine in the casks below.
The ‘solera’ was begun in 2010 using Listán Blanco and aromatic Malvasia grapes grown in an already defunct vineyard. Only one 300 litre barrel is used to age the wine, from which each year 50 litres are drawn off and bottled and the barrel is replenished with 50 litres of new wine.
Suertes del Marqués Tinto Dulce (Sweet Red). Also made by a ‘solera’ ageing process.
The ‘solera’ was also begun in 2010 using Listán Negro and Baboso Negro grapes from the El Esquilón vineyard. It comprises of only two 225 litre barrels, from which 40 litres of the aged wine are drawn each year, which is then replenished with new wine.
Owner Jonatan García Lima is part of the growing breed of intensely passionate young Spanish producers who produce truly special wines that are defined by their freshness, balance, purity of fruit, minerality and are distinguished by an authentic terroir character.
I can heartily recommend these wines and confidently state they will leave a lasting impression on everyone who tries them.
It is no wonder therefore that Suertes del Marqués Wines has become one of the most talked about producers in the Canary Islands.
- Address: Propiedad Vitícola Suertes del Marqués (SOAGRANORTE, SL) C / Tomas Zerolo, 15 – La Orotava – CP38300 – Tenerife – SPAIN
- Telephone: +34.922501300
- E-mail: email@example.com
- Internet: http://www.suertesdelmarques.com
- Facebook: @suertesdelmarques
- Twitter: @Suertesmarques
- Instagram: suertesdelmarques