Every week, Simon selects an orange wine (a white wine made with extended skin contact) that grabbed his attention. View the whole series here.
If you’re British like me, Tenerife probably has mixed associations. Package holiday nightmare, full of “rosbifs” behaving badly, or volcanic island paradise? Wine might not be the first plus point that comes to mind, but the island’s output has become really dynamic of late. The black volcanic soil and ancient vineyards at altitudes of up to 1000 metres above sea level provide the raw material for some extraordinary and characterful wines.
I’ve formed a rough idea of what Tenerife’s white or orange wines taste like – often salty and mineral, sometimes produced in a more oxidative style (cf. Suertes del Marqués), sometimes more tight and smoky. But then I cracked open Viñátigo‘s Elaboraciones Ancestrales Blanco 2016, and those pre-existing assumptions were blown to smithereens.
Imagine a young Blaufränkisch, or a tight, unoaked Syrah – this wine has the same intense pepperiness, but with some floral aromas lending it additional grace and charm. The Ancestrales is fruity stuff, not salty or savoury at all, but utterly open, expressive and full of apricot and pineapple. Texturally there’s hardly any suggestion of tannins – it’s a soft, accessible delight, subtly lifted by fine, whispy acidity.
Gual (better known on the mainland as Albillo), Malvasia and those old favourites Marmajuelo and Vijariego blanco are fermented with their skins for three weeks in stainless steel tanks, to produce this beauty. There’s plenty of aesthetic appeal too, with a beautiful burnished orange hue. Juan Jesús Méndez Siverio has four generations of winemaking history behind him, and this is his nod to the distant past – a time before presses or temperature control allowed the production of conventional white wines.
Jesús doesn’t just make wine, he was also instrumental in the creation of a very localised DO (Spanish appellation) named Ycoden Daute Isora, and subsequently a larger one – the Islas Canarias DO. It’s great that a skin macerated jewel such as this is welcomed under the DO’s auspices, something that’s still a rarity in more established appellations. White wines with the skins are too often banished to the lowly fringes of table wine, which might make winemakers feel rebellious but ultimately doesn’t provide much useful information for wine lovers.
It won’t come as a surprise to learn that this wine was produced in very limited quantities (a little over 1000 bottles made in 2016). So it’s probably just as well that the heaving throngs of tourists in popular parts of Tenerife are happy to sate themselves on sangria and cheap Spanish lager, leaving this as a glittering prize for more adventurous visitors to the island.
Viñátigo’s Elaboraciones Ancestrales Blanco doesn’t have great availability, but if you’re in Europe it can be ordered online from La Buena Vida.
Check wine-searcher.com for additional options.
I first had this wine in Gofio a wonderful restaurant in Madrid that specialises in the cooking of the Canary Islands. The owner of the vineyard helped me to buy some more. I have just ordered the last six bottles from an online wine seller in Madrid.