Wine is made up of more than three hundred components which account for its unique structure. According to the experts wine is defined according to its colour, its bouquet and its taste and, as far as taste is concerned, this certainly has to be the most sophisticated product there is. The Balearics are now recovering from the concerns which came with wine making in the 19th century and many wine cellars are now applying the latest technologies cellars are now applying the latest technologies to their production and aiming for excellent harvests.
It was probably the Romans who first introduced the vine and developed its cultivation in Majorca and it has remained on the island ever since. One of the most prosperous periods was in the 18th century when an annual wine production of 88,000 hectolitres in 1777 had, by the year 1802, risen to 335,331 hectolitres.
In the 1830’s wine making suffered a serious setback due to the poor economy at that time and the onset of aphid plague. However, shortly after that time, France was hit by the phylloxera plague and began to import Spanish and Italian wines to meet the country’s considerable domestic demand. Partly as a result of this, vineyards rapidly spread throughout the Balearics. This is illustrated by the mere fact that in 1891 a total of almost fifty million litres of wine left the ports of Palma, Porto Colom and Alcúdia heading for France and the Iberian Peninsula. However, the dreaded phylloxera was soon to appear on the Balearic vines with the result that they were no longer the main source of wealth on the islands. The vines were therefore uprooted and largely replaced by almond trees.
Replanting the vines has, since that time, been a gradual process, initially by means of grafting stems off others varieties on to American roots. During the first half of the 20th century the vineyards gradually began to expand again, but the onset of Civil War caused a setback in vine cultivation with other basic commodities taking priority, such as cereals. As if this weren’t enough, at the back end of the eighties a major grapevine uprooting process was initiated, prompted by EU subsidies. However, in terms of quality, the nineties was one of the best wine-producing periods of all times on the islands.
The concerted efforts made by grape growers to improve their produce, together with the heightened consumer interest in natural products from the land, has now put Majorcan wines in their fitting place. There are, in Majorca, two protected wine producing areas, having been awarded the Designation of Origin: Binissalem and Pla I Llevant. Wines are also produced in the Tramontana mountains, Andratx and Inca.
Varieties. Selecting the grape varieties is one of the most determining factors in the make-up of a good wine, normally by mixing different types of grape which blend together and enrich the final result. Some of the local varieties responsible for giving Majorcan wines their character are the following:
Manto negro. A high sugar content grape with a strong bouquet which produces a wine of little colour, with a high alcohol content, low acidity, and sharp. The basis of red wines produced in the Binissalem region.
Callet. Another black grape found in fruity red wines with little body and low acidity or aromatic, low alcohol rosés. This wine is cultivated in most of the vineyards in the Pla I Llevant region.
Prensal blanco. A white variety which gives the wine a pale straw yellow colour, with a strong bouquet of ripe fruit, a fresh clean taste with a fruity, slightly acidic character with body. The principal grape used in both white and sparkling wines produced in the Binissalem area.
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