When staying in Palma de Mallorca last year, we visited José L Ferrer in Binnisalem where we picked up three varietal wines, each of a different variety grown only on the island. As varieties, they are not (with one exception) particularly rare, but you do not usually find them sold as single-variety wines. Unlike other wines from Ferrer’s cellar, they were fermented in 500 li oak barrels. The labels carry a drawing of a Ferreret, a toad native to Majorca – by analogy to the grape varieties presumably, and with a name that is not to be confused with that of the producer.
Last weekend, I tasted these wines, and then drank them with food. Below, are description of the varieties according to Wine Grapes, followed by my tasting notes.
Ferreret, Mantonegro, Jose L Ferrer, 2014, 13.5% – €18 Also spelled as two words: Manto Negro. 320 ha of vineyards, and often found in Majorquin blends. Wines are generally soft, light coloured and high in alcohol. Younger vines tend to produce red fruit flavours, while older vines with low yields give more concentrated black fruit. Its tendency to oxidise means the wines do not age well.
Pale garnet. Some oak. Fresh red fruit – raspberry and cherry. Sweet and spirity. Medium high acid. Intense aromas. Low but detectable tannin. Perfumed and fragrant. Sweet ripe fruit. Excellent length. Drink now ****
With food, this was the most enjoyable of the three ****
Ferreret, Gorgollassa, Jose L Ferrer, 2014, 13.0% – €18 Only 4 ha of vineyards, but the area is increasing. Produces wines that are dry and elegant, but with a tendency to oxidation. Typically gives wines with strawberry and violet flavours, fairly low acidity, moderate alcohol and soft tannins.
Medium pale garnet. Intense. Lightly aromatic oak – rather pleasant. Red fruit. Medium high acid. Intense aromas. Sweet red fruit. Medium low tannin. Nice structure. Excellent length. Refreshing finish. Drink now. Better than the Mantonegro ****
With food, this was one of the less enjoyable of the three, the pleasant oakiness failing to come through ***
Ferreret, Callet, Jose L Ferrer, 2014, 14.0% – €18 143 ha of vineyards. Traditionally rather rustic, light red or rosé, and low in alcohol. Increasing trend towards higher quality, finer tannins and moderate alcohol. Usually moderate acidity, but enough to give balance and freshness. Minerally, food friendly, typically red fruit aromas and sometimes violet scented.
Medium pale ruby garnet. Medium intense fruit. Raspberry maybe, but moving towards the black fruit end of the spectrum. Blueberry I think. More muted, and possibly more serious. Impressive legs. Medium high acid. Medium low tannin. Aromas as nose, but actually not very interesting. Excellent length. Disappointing on finish. Drink now ***
With food, this was one of the less enjoyable of the three ***
In summary, all three wines were good, lightly structured quaffing wines, rather than wines to sip quietly over the course of an evening: nothing wrong with that if you are in the mood for a good quaff, as I was.
Recently we spent a week in Palma de Mallorca. It’s a beautiful city that is easily accessible by air from the UK, and certainly worthy of a long weekend at the very least. There are plenty of interesting places to eat and drink, and I would like to draw your attention to a couple of centrally located venues that should be of particular interest to wine lovers. They were both good enough for us to visit twice on our trip.
Wineing (sic) is a great place for wine-lovers to geek out. Even normal people who want to grab something to eat with a couple of glasses of wine will not be disappointed, but if you want to taste local wines, it is the place to go. Here is a panoramic image of the enomatic machines available there – click to enlarge.
From left to right, there are two machines loaded with non-Majorcan Spanish reds, followed by one with white and rosé wines from anywhere in the world, one with non-Spanish reds, and then, fading into the distant darkness in the image, are the two machines I concentrated most on: the Majorcan reds. The emphasis on red wine reflects production on the island, but seemed inappropriate in a wine-bar-cum-restaurant setting. Nevertheless, it suited me.
On both visits we were served by a Swedish waitress with excellent English who was friendly and helpful, and very much set the tone of the place. One of the nice features of Wineing was the flexibility. The place was not very busy, so we could sit where we wanted, and it is possible to just drink, or eat as little or as much as you want. The menu included tapas, but you could also put together a full meal with dessert – a lot more wine-friendly than a cheese or ham platter. For our first visit we were not very hungry, but shared bread, one tapas dish, one steak and a portion of chips. The second time we ordered a few different tapas dishes.
The wine choices were even more flexible. Depending on where you chose to sit, there may have been a glass at your table, but regardless there was a stash of decent quality glasses on a table between two enomatic machines for you to help yourself to. From the machines you could take pours of size “tasting”, “half glass” or “full glass”, or buy bottles, at the prices indicated on the enomatic labels. To give you some idea of the range, the Majorcan wines I tried were: Ánima Negra, Án and ÁN/2; Miguel Oliver, Aía; 4 Kilos, 12 Volts and Gallinas y Focas; Oliver Moragues, OM; Son Bordils, Syrah; Xaloc, El Colmo; Castell Miguel, Shiraz Stairway to Heaven.
La Bodeguilla was also excellent, but in a very different way. The food at Wineing is good, but at La Bodeguilla it is outstanding, and there was also an excellent wine list. It is never going to be a Michelin starred restaurant for reasons mentioned below, but in my opinion it whupped Simply Fosh (a 1 star restaurant in Palma) on sheer quality of food.
But be aware that, although it does serve both tapas and restaurant-style courses, at heart it is an up-market tapas bar, with small tables and less-than-comfortable seating. There are two areas: in the more tapas part you are provided with stools, while in the restaurant part the chairs are ridiculously low. The table heights were in proportion to the chairs, but if you are tallish like me you finish up almost sitting cross-legged. If I were a cynic (actually I am in this case), I would suggest that the seating was designed to encourage people not to linger so they can cram more covers in. At the very least, a Michelin star does ensure more comfortable seating!
Another slight negative for us was the more formal, though not always well-organised, service. To be fair, this may have partly been due to the language barrier, but nevertheless it made a marked contrast to the service at Wineing.
The wine list in tangible form is illustrated above. You do get a paper version too, unprompted if you are seated in the restaurant area, but apparently only on request in the tapas area. There is also a good selection of wines by the glass. Nowhere near as comprehensive as the enomatic-powered Wineing, but very nicely selected. For example, the Sherries offered were, to quote the by-the-glass card verbatim: Tio Pepe Rama, Manzanilla la Goya Rama, Palo Cortado AB Leonor, Amontillado Tresillo, and Uno Palma.
Every tapas dish on the two occasions we ate there was exquisite: crab terrine, tuna tartare, aubergine and smoked cod, and a mini steak and foie gras burger with skinny chips. The main course we both ordered was suckling lamb shoulder, which turned out to be a whole shoulder and front leg. This was no doubt correctly cooked and presented, but I do tend to prefer the meat of more fully grown animals. So why did I order it? Well, there was not a lot of choice for the main courses, and three of the dishes were suckling something-or-other. On return I shall stick to the tapas.
This place is not cheap, and it does apparently get full very easily, but I recommend it highly for the quality of the tapas and wine.
Once again I decided there are more beautiful things in life than wine bottles to show pictures of, so here is the Gran Hotel in Palma, designed by Domènech i Montaner who was also responsible for Modernista buildings in Barcelona.
Palma is a fine city, but we were staying in Sóller, at the other end of the scenic railway, and just over the mountains on the North West side of the island. So most of the restaurants mentioned below are in Sóller, though there are a couple we visited for lunch on day trips.
Generally speaking I was a little surprised at how similar the restaurants we tried were in terms of price, menu choice and quality of food. It seemed to be pretty standard to offer a number of local Mallorcan dishes, along with some with a somewhat more international flavour which normally came with shredded lettuce and other inappropriate bits of salad. Generally speaking the quality was pretty good, but never much better than that. Here are the restaurants, together with the wines taken at each place. The prices are estimated Spanish retail prices for 75cl bottles, converted at current rates. Don’t take them too seriously, but it will give you some idea the relative prices.
La Vila, Sóller We had our first evening meal in our hotel restaurant. Good atmosphere and service. The food was OK, but on the relatively pricey side and unnecessarily complicated. Scallops were a bit chewy, and the selection of cheeses boring. Nicely cooked magret of duck in a good orange sauce, but lots of additional faffy bits, and apples with so much cinnamon flavour they overpowered the rest of the dish.
Jean Leon, Petit Chardonnay, Penedés DO, 2009, £9.50
Intense and ripe tropical fruit. Pineapple, and something with a bitter edge – maybe Seville oranges ***
Ses Nines, La Vila Hotel Sóller Edició Limitada, Binissalem Mallorca DO, Tianna Negre, 2009, £13.50
This was a supposedly a special cuvée for the restaurant. Intense and brambly, with quite a bit of tannin and a bitter finish. Good now, but I’d expect it to improve in the next 5 years or so. A good ***
Es Canyis, Port de Sóller Had a late lunch here, sharing a starter of grilled sardines and a main of arròs negre. Simple but very good – probably the best meal of the holiday. Nice relaxed restaurant and good service too.
Blanc de Blancs, Maciá Batle, Binissalem Mallorca DO, 2010, £5.30
Intense tropical fruit again. This time pineapple and melon I thought. Bitter and cloying finish ***
El Guia, Sóller The most remarkable thing about this place was the service. Slow and ponderous silver service, with wine top ups every few minutes until they got a bit busier, and a waiter who keeps repeating the order to himself as he returns to the kitchen. The fish soup was full of mushy fibres of fish. Maybe that is how it is done locally, but it wasn’t to my taste. But I enjoyed very much the local dish llom amb col – pork wrapped in cabbage leaves and slow cooked.
José L Ferrer, Crianza, Binissalem Mallorca DO (Mantonegro), Spain, 2008, £9.00
Sweet sickly dark fruit on the nose – rather unpleasant I thought. Slightly sweet, slightly oxidised, and quite tannic *
Son Tomas, Banyalbufar Just had a main course for lunch here – a disappointingly tough grilled monkfish. My wife’s Mallorcan fish was better cooked, so maybe I was just unlucky. A nice terrace location though.
Alba Flor, Blanco, Prensal Muscat, Binissalem Mallorca DO, Vins Nadal, 2009, £7.50 Another oxidised one. Lemon, sherry and apples. Maybe I should have been sending these back, but I quite liked this one. More interesting than tropical fruit! ***
Cipriani, Sóller This was not the Don Cipriani you may have read about elsewhere. It seems that has now folded. This was a restaurant on the main square. The food was very good. I had the sopes mallorquines, which was actually a meal in itself (I had forgotten that sopes was not soup), and the equally local slow cooked shoulder of lamb. Decent service, and a good outside location.
Ses Nines, Manto Negre Cab Sauv Callet Sirah, Binissalem Mallorca DO, Tianna Negre, 2010, £9.00
Blackberry. Jammy, and with a certain edge. Quite tannic, bitter finish. Not unpleasant. Despite the same star rating, it did not appeal as much as La Vila’s version of Ses Nines ***
Sa Cova, Sóller Had a couple of meals here. Service is a bit rough around the edges but acceptable, and outside tables small with little space around them. Had battered squid rings as a starter twice. The first time was fantastic – light and crispy coating with melt-in-the-mouth squid. Next time was sadly more greasy and chewy. Had the magret of duck here too to compare. This time it was in PX sauce. Bigger portion, also well cooked and tasty, but cheaper and less faff. This one also came with cinnamon apples, which were more subtly spiced.
ÁN/2, VdT Mallorca, Falanis, Ánima Negre, 2008, £11.60
This is the cheapest of the Ánima Negre red range. Nicely delineated aromas, vanilla oak, and blackcurrant fruit. Intense and quite tannic. Spicy, especially on the finish. Excellent length. At last we had stopped messing about with wines on this holiday. Would be even better after another 5 years ****
Victoria, Alcúdia This has an excellent location on the peninsula beyond Alcúdia – a terrace with fine views. I had a tuna salad to start with, which turned out to be tinned tuna on a salad you might well get in the UK. Pleasant enough, but I expected something more exciting. This was followed by frit mallorquí, a local offal fry-up, which was good.
Bach, Extrísmo, Seco, Penedes DO (Xarel.lo, Macabeo, Chardonnay), Spain, 2009, £5.00
Citrusy, orange I think, and pineapple. Good value ***
Café Sóller, Sóller As suggested by the name, this was less of a restaurant and more of a café that serves food. A rare fillet steak here, correctly cooked. The place seems to specialise in inappropriate garnishes, so my steak had a huge piece of white asparagus lying across the plate. My wife’s mozzarella and tomato salad came with a strawberry, and I saw pasta being served with slices of orange and kiwi.
Án, Felanis, Ánima negra, VdT de los Illes Balears, 2001, £50.00
This is the middling priced wine of the Ánima negra range. Intense mature spicy red fruit. Cinnamon, I think. Sweet ripe fruit. Dusty tannins. Fantastic length with a bitter finish. Drink now or keep up to another 10 years. Easily the best wine of the holiday *****
Bizarrely, in our experience of Sóller, the less fancy the restaurant and the poorer the quality of the wine glasses, the better the wines that were available. Sa Cova and Café Sóller were the only places to serve anything of the level of ÁN/2, and Café Sóller was the only place to have Án on their list. Café Sóller also deserves special mention for the reasonable markups on the Án. They charged €41 for the 2001 and €58 for the 2000 – less than the retail prices I saw for similar vintages.