The Viñátigo winery turned 25 in 2015, and it does so proud to be a force behind research into endemic –though not necessarily native– grape varieties from the Canary Islands. Travel to their vineyards, which are located along slopes to the north of the highest volcano in Europe, Mount Teide, on the island of Tenerife.
A trained chemist, Juan Méndez took over the reigns of his family business 25 years ago. At the time, this group of small wine growers made around 5,000 liters of wine a year for neighborhood consumption. Juan, who originally didn't think of this as way of life with a long-term future, discovered what he refers to as an, "impressive heritage". He still brims with the excitement and emotion that he must have felt upon wandering through a vineyard riddled with plants he couldn't identify. "I contacted respected Spanish technicians from the most prestigious Spanish universities, if we hadn't had help from them, this wouldn't have been possible". The plan was to combine the research with "recovering the local knowledge of the older generation, even respecting the names that they used for the different plants. They told us if a plant worked better facing one way or another, in drier or wetter years, etc."
Viñátigo currently sells nine single-variety wines under DO Ycoden-Daute-Isora and DO Islas Canarias designations. From those nine varieties we have chosen what we think is the most unique one to bring them to you to New Zealand:
Marmajuelo is an aromatic variety grown exclusively on the Canary Islands. The variety thrives in the sandy island soils but is grown only in very small quantities. Marmajuelo is considered to be a high-quality variety and is enjoying something of a small revival. It is revered for its high acid and distinctive aromas.
This wine has aromas of palm leaf, passion-fruit, pear and fig leaf, framed by a pleasant mineral backbone. Tasty and very well balanced, brings sweet memories of travel and adventure to one's mind.
Vines grown in the black soil of volcanic ash, which is carved into circular hollows that resemble craters on the Moon. On the sea side of the hollows, low stone walls are constructed to guard the huddled vines from the hot, humid breath of the Atlantic, which blows in mercilessly. Often the vines are the only things growing.
Aged 8 months in French Allier oak barrels, this wine has aromas of violets, blackberry, cocoa and spices. It is a meaty and intense wine, flavorful, well structured and well balanced with a long and very pleasant finish.
Viñátigo exports most of its small production to different countries. "We have set our sights more on the international market because our wines are perhaps somewhat excessive. They aren't wines that are understood easily in the local market. In reality we are looking for a more specialized public all over the world. We are mainly positioned in high level restaurants and specialty wine stores that are looking to feature a different product in their portfolio. I personally go and train wine store merchants and sommeliers, explaining the origin of the wines to them."
In a market that avidly seeks out new proposals, Viñátigo has found success by offering the originality of singular grape varieties that, when blended, create wines that convey their point of origin and are capable of synthesizing the black volcanic soil of the Canary Islands in a bottle. "We sell quality, but we also sell the name Spain, a culture and a gastronomy."