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Quite a few respondents in our recent brief survey asked for more coverage of Spanish wine. Your wish is my command.
Actually this is far from standard-issue Spanish wine. For a start it is not grown on the Spanish mainland but on the Canary island of Tenerife. I keep reading about the remodelling of the Canaries and how many smart restaurants and hip hotels have been springing up there, so it's good to know there are fine wines to go with them. I feel a trip coming on…
Of the Canary island wines I have tasted so far, the whites have in general been nervier and more exciting than the reds. Suertes del Marqués, Vidonia 2011 Valle de la Orotava was my favourite from a range of wines I tasted recently from Suertes del Marqués, an artisanal producer founded by Jonatan Garcia Lima with Roberto Santana as winemaker as recently as 2006 but based on very old, ungrafted vineyards.
It's a very nervy, exciting white made mainly from century-old Listan Blanco (Palomino Fino) grapes grown on volcanic slopes in the north of the island. It was fermented in 500-litre used French casks, kept on the lees for 11 months and otherwise pretty much left alone. I suspect that this wine derives its undoubted quality from the distinctive soils it was grown on (holidaymakers always come back from the Canaries complaining that there was no sand, just black volcanic soil) and the age of the vines. Palomino Fino does a great job providing the raw material for sherry in Andalucia but it is not an obvious choice for a table wine. The soils presumably help to add tension to this naturally rather low-acid grape variety.
There is not that much nose (apart from an unexpected hint of something lightly oaky) but there is masses of substance and fresh, tangy personality that increases with time, building on the finish. In fact, the most impressive aspect of this wine is how it opened out so convincingly in the glass. It has the same sort of uncompromising acidity, weight and dryness as a fine, slightly austere white burgundy and slightly reminded me of Le Soula Blanc – which is high praise.
It was found and is cleverly imported by Indigo in the UK and Jose Pastor in Richmond, California. UK stockists include Roberson, The Vineking and WineBear.