Vineyard in La Geria, Lanzarote. Piedad Sancho-Mata / © ICEX
In my early days of wine drinking, when I thought about Spain, it was usually about Tempranillo or Garnacha. In my mind, I associated them with Ribera del Duero and Rioja. Looking back at those days, I guess that there was nothing wrong with that. A novice wine drinker has to start somewhere.
As time passed and when I went to live in Spain, I discovered the sheer diversity of its viticultural heritage. According to Wikipedia, Spain has over 400 grape varieties and roughly around 650,000 ha of vines planted. This make Spain, the third largest producer of wine. The biggest is France followed by Italy. However, the red wine production of Spain is concentrated on grapes such as Tempranillo, Garnacha and Monastrell. With regards to white wine, they include Airen, Palomino and Albarino.
As these grapes take the start hall of fame, others have been forgotten into oblivion. To name a few, these include Bobal, Manto Negro, Mazuelo and Listán negro. However, these more unusual grape varieties are making a comeback, since a breed of curious young new sommeliers across the world are more open to Spanish wines and of course forgotten grape varietals.
Listán negro is originary from The Spanish Islas Canarias, off the coast of north-west Africa. It is often confused with Listán Prieto and Negramoll. Basically, this is the main red grape variety on Canary Island in Spain, precisely in Northern Tenerife. Recent statistics show 4,698 ha planted in 2008. On the grey volcanic soils, man-made craters or hollow are there to capture the moisture and fight the winds from the Sahara.
The Canary Islands were often the last stop for ships headed to the new world colonies in the Americas, and it is thought that Listán Negro was originally from mainland Spain, but was brought to the Canary Islands by Spanish settlers. From there, the vine was carried to the new world colonies, particularly those in the Americas, and hence planted. Phylloxera wiped out virtually all of the Listán Negro planted in Europe, but the louse never reached the Canary Islands and so the vine has continued to flourish there.
Canary Islands Vineyards. Source: Efraín Pintos/©ICEX.
The Canary Island produces wine protected by a total of eleven Designations of Origin: DO Abona, DO El Hierro, DO Gran Canaria, DO Islas Canarias, DO La Gomera, DO La Palma, DO Lanzarote, DO Tacoronte-Acentejo, DO Valle Güímar, DO Valle de la Orotava and DO Ycoden-Daute-Isora.
Some of the indigenous grape varieties grown in the Canary Islands are the following ones: Listán Negro, Negramoll, Tintilla (red grapes) and Malvasía, Listán Blanco and Albillo (whites) among others.
At the latest Raspipav salon 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, I had the pleasure to meet Jonatan Garcia Lima, the manager of Suertes del Marques who was there with its importer in Quebec, Les Vins Alain Bélanger. He was there to show 5 of his line of wines. These were: La Solana, El Esquilon, 7 Fuentes, Trenzano and El Ciruelo. He makes wine under the appellation Valle de La Orotava. These were my humble impression of the wines. All these were amazing wines, displaying the intense mineral character of the soil of Tenerife.
7 Fuentes 2012. $25.68/Case of 12. Private Import
Old vine blend from different parcels of the property. Listán negro (90%), Tintilla (3%) and Listán blanco (7%). Clay soils with a volcanic origin at different altitudes from 400 to 650 meters above sea level.
On the nose, coffee bean, smoke with lots of ripe red fruits. In the mouth, full body and very fresh with flavors bringing to mind herbal and mineral notes. Quite a complex finale bringing to mind beef extract and a volcanic minerality. 93\100.
La Solana 2012. $30.25/Case of 6. Private Import
2,5 ha vineyard located between 400 and 520 above sea level. Listán negro between 80-100 years old. Volcanic rock soil.
On the nose, the wine display a mineral and tarry nose. In addition, gunpowder, and animal nuances. Full body with a fresh acidity. Retronasal reminds me of flower. The wine has an elegant finish with a mineral aftertaste. 90\100
El Esquilon 2012 ( 70% Listán negro and 30% Tintilla). $38.69/Case of 6
1.2 ha vineyard, located at 550 metros above sea level. Listán Negro of an average age of 80 years and Tintilla of 15 years old. Espaldera cultivation method. Volcanic Rock Soil.
On the nose, very mineral with lots of dry animal extract. In the mouth, full body, lots of complex flavor layers reminding me of dry animal extract and black plums. Intense finish. 95\100.
El Ciruelo 2012 ( Majority of Listán Negro with a small percentage of Listán Blanco). $55.70
0.75 ha vineyard located between 500 and 550 metros above seal level with a north exposition.Cordón trenzado cultivation system for Listán Negro and pie franco. Vineyards age more than 90 years old . The parcel name is inspired by a centenarian cherry tree on the property.
On the nose, a dusty pulverized minerality. Tar and volcanic ashes. On the mouth, full body with beautiful bright and floral flavors. Racy. 93\100.
Trenzado 2012 ( Mostly Listán blanco). $30.19/Case of 6
Blend from parcels from El Esquilon y de La Piñera. Also La Florida vineyard, To complement, the Listán blanco other indigenous varieties are included such Gual, Marmajuelo, Baboso Blanco, Albillo Criollo, Vijariego Blanco and Verdello,
On the nose, silex, smoke and petrol nose. It is like if you die and went to mineral heaven. Ripe white fruits. On the mouth, complex and quite layered. Very long finale. 94\100