Spotlight on Spain: Tanajara 2006 Red

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The Canary Islands D.O.´s are producing wines that likely no North American reader has ever seen. However, these islands have been producing wines for a very long time and have never experienced the phylloxera plague, thus having own rooted vines from indigenous varieties that have elsewhere died out. The modern wine making scene, however, is comprised mostly of newer Bodegas, with Tanajara being one of them. As these are a series of islands rather than a single one, there are several D.O.´s to correspond, including La Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria and El Hierro amongst others.

This wine, produced in the island of Hierro is, accordingly, of the El Hierro D.O. While the indigenous grape varieties grown on El Hierro are unheard of most of elsewhere – Listan Negro, Negramoll, Verijadiego, Bermejuelo – this red wine is particularly strange for being made from Verijadiego, which, according to my sources is usually cultivated for whites. I cannot clear up this confusion, except to guess that the white wines are made from the juice of grapes with thick and more tannic red skins.

The Island of El Hierro began producing wines in 1526, in the Sack style made famous by Jerez. These fortified sweet wines dominated trade back when Jerez was the high quality wine capital of the world in the 16th and 17th centuries. These days, however, more modern dry red and white styles are being produced, some of which, such as this wine, are not only of surprisingly high quality, but are also modern while being distinctive. Currently most of the wines produced are either purchased by tourists visiting the islands or by (strangely) El Hierro expats currently living in Venezuela (the largest export market)

The wine itself was extremely modern and fruity and reminded me of a high altitude zinfandel with less alcohol. Grown in volcanic soil (the Canary Islands are the outer ring of a large underwater volcano), this wine suggested plenty of cranberry and fresh tart red berry fruit, but there was also a superb structure to the wine held up by a relatively high level of acidity, which I would attribute to the cool coastal and high altitude climate of the island. This is also a wine made to pair with traditionally prepared Catalan leg of lamb, as the delicate flavours of the meat and sauce meld completely with the acidic lift and very bright fruit of the wine. While I suspect oak aging on this wine, it is non-intrusive and deftly handled. I was very impressed.

Excellent
€17 Retail, €22 at the restaurant Vinya Royel in Barcelona

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