BODEGA RIBAS, MALLORCA!
A short break in Mallorca, she said. Yeah, great idea, I reply, reaching covertly for the wine guide!
You see, a wine person is never really just on holiday! We are always keen to try new wines, learn about different styles, grape varieties, means of production, and so on. Fortunately, so is my lovely wife, Claire-Marie Soprano (www.clairemarie.es), though I might have been pushing it when I accepted a podcast interview with ‘The Yank and The Limey’ (found on Spotify), as well as a bodega visit!
Our tour and tasting at Bodega Ribas, was a highlight of our trip, in fact, so don’t worry, all’s well in the Harkness-Post household! The oldest winery on the island of Mallorca, that’s 300+ years, Ribas also boasts of being the oldest family run bodega in the whole of Spain – even more impressive.
We arrived early at the small and sleepy town of Consell, where Bodega Ribas is situated, its vineyards just a couple of kilometres away. A lovely old stone building, with a courtyard for visitors to taste wine prior to buying or, like us, to assemble taking in the history and the atmosphere before our fellow tour members arrived.
Apart from the brand new barrel crianza separate annexe, built because of the need to expand in order to satisfy demand, it’s the sort of ancient building that causes people over 6 feet tall to be on their guard, along with the slightly uneven stone floors, for those with bad knees (like me!) – though this is in fact part of the charm. There’s also a healthy aroma of wine, wood and old stone – perfect!
Sylvia, our guide, expert in the business, perfectly conversant with the family history and that of winemaking on the island, is actually a French national – another plus for Claire-Marie, fluent in French and a great Francophile! Sylvia told us that it is the 10th generation of the Ribas family that is now running affairs at this island and export popular winery.
The current incumbents have learned the winemaking ropes from their family, of course, supplementing this knowledge with travels abroad, even as far as New Zealand, all with a view to maintaining Ribas’ position as one of the leaders in the market. Judging from our tasting later, I’d say they are doing a pretty good job!
There are 45 hectares of vineyard, comprising of 160,000 vines, indigenous to the island, as well as international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and the very interesting for me, Viognier, white wine grape. Vines can be up to 65 years of age and all are either naturally low yielding because of their age, or because of some green pruning – there’s a maximum of 2 kilos of grapes per vine. This, of course, adds to the richness of the finished product.
Grapes are harvested by hand, with only those passing muster being placed in the 12 kilo baskets for swift transportation to the bodega, where they are then sorted for a second time, grape by grape, ensuring that only the best produce is used for Ribas wines. It’s only the free run juice (gentle pressing of the grapes) that is used, again to maintain quality. Yeasts are, at the moment, cultivated, but there is a plan to convert to solely yeasts grown from those found naturally on the vines. A move of which I’m certainly in favour.
Our first wine was Prensal Blanco 2019 – yes the new vintage is up and running! Served very cold, it opened in the glass as it warmed slightly. Orchard fruits with some blanched almonds, very fresh, of course, given its youth! Super-quaffable dry wine, perfect with fish and seafood which, incidentally, didn’t seem as generally prevalent as it might be, given that we were on an island! A good start.
Our next wine was a rosado made with another local variety, Manto Negro – again a 2019 vintage. Sylvia told us that there was an increasing demand for their rosé wine, to which they were responding, of course. Perfumed nose – rose petals and soft red fruits. There was a touch of bitterness on the palate, making it an ideal food wine. Try this with paella!
We next tried a Barrel Fermented 100% Viognier white wine – again served very chilled, I waited until it opened a little before it revealed that which I’d been expecting, and indeed hoping for – that lovely dried apricot, particularly, and white stoned fruit element so characteristic of this variety. It’s almost oily on the palate, so rich is the Viognier, yet it manages a degree of elegance too. This was my favourite wine of the tasting, and of our whole visit – and I can tell you, we tried plenty of wines!
Ribas Negre is their best sellin wine, a red made with Manto Negro, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. The 2017 is still developing, for me. There’s a slight leafy/mossy aroma along with the dark forest fruits, that come to the fore on the palate, with a touch of liquorice in there too. It’s a little stern at first, but melts into a lovely quite full flavour with some sweet tannin too.
Finally, Sió, their flagship wine – another red and a wine I tasted a few years ago. Using the same blend as above, but this time from the oldest vines, the wine is silky and rich. Sió, which has clearly enjoyed its 12 months on oak, fills the mouth with brambly fruit and blackcurrant, manipulating the senses, delivering a sense that all is well – a wine that needs savouring!