Sunday, July 08, 2007

Spain's Isle of Wine

The Island of Mallorca, 120 miles off Spain's Mediterranean coast conjures up images of white sand beaches filled with vacationers from mainland Europe, yet a mere 20 miles off the beach lies a land filled with rolling hills (mountains to the North) dotted with windmills and countless small bodegas.

Winemaking in Mallorca dates back to Roman times and since then has seen its ups and downs, most notably during the early 20th-century when Phylloxera (the vine root eating louse) devastated most of the vineyards, which down are down from 30,000 acres at the turn-of-the-century to around 2,500 acres today.

For many, wine from Mallorca is merely a curiosity and very few bottles ever reach the U.S. as most are consumed locally by the hoards of tourists that visit the Island each year. Yet the wine gems of Mallorca are worth seeking out, especially reds made from the native local varieties Manto Negro and Callet and whites from Premsal Blanco.

If you go, here are some spots not to miss:

Perlas Majorica--Mallorca's famous faux pearls are manufactured here in the small town of Manacor. Guests can view the process and purchase items at factory direct pricing.

Restaurant Ca'n March--a few blocks from Perlas Majorica, this quaint restaurant specializes in traditional and modern Mallorca cuisine and makes a perfect stop between wine tastings.

Oliver Moragues and Finca de Binicomprat--a rustic bed & breakfast and winery located in the village of Algaida, a mere 20 minutes from Palma, which specializes in red wines from Callet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

Vins Toni Gelabert--a small family-owned winery outside the town of Manacor, which produces a range of both red and white wines. Appointment necessary.

Anima Negra--one of the few wineries that exports to the U.S. which produces the following stellar wines:

Quibia 2006--white blend of Premsal Blanc and Muscat. Over the top aromatics with peach, pineapple and citrus notes with an undertone of fresh herbs, full-bodied with a creamy palate

AN/2 2005--red blend of Callet, Manto Negro with a dash of Syrah. Juicy black cherry and plum fruit along with cedar and cigar box notes. Smooth and light with soft ripe tannins.

AN 2004--red blend of Callet and Manto Negro. Intense savory aromas of leather and spice plus dried cranberry, plum and cassis notes, smooth with ripe tannins, persistent finish.

Es Moli Den Bou Restaurant--For Mallorca's best gastronomic experience, a visit to this Michelin starred spot is a must. Set in the base of an old windmill in the village of Sant Llorenç des Cardassar, Es Moli Den Bou features creative Mallorcan cuisine from Chef Tomeu Caldentey. Splurge and go for the Gran Tasting menu, which features a dizzying seven courses plus a number of 'surprise' items from the chef. Ask the Sommelier to pair your meal with local Mallorcan wines.

My recent visit included the following Gran Tasting Menu:

Prawns with "Venere" rice, mushrooms and Mahon cheese
Scallops with Foie
Baclao with mushrooms, parsley and garlic oil
Loin of deer with grapes and red wine sauce
Pine nuts with caramel
Chocolate with Coffee

The cheeseboard was met with a surprise twist; instead of the traditional spread of artisan cheeses, a luscious bowl of goat cheese ice cream appeared. Simply stunning!

And while in Palma, a visit to the Puro Hotel is a must. The uber-chic hotel combines style, funky-vibes, signature cocktails and a menu of Asian-Mediterranean inspired nibbles. Puro makes a great stop after a day of sightseeing and shopping around the Old City. Snatch up one of the hotel's signature music discs as a souvenir of your visit.

For more information on Mallorcan Wine Routes, visit the Agro Routes page on the Ministry of Agriculture's website.

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