Not a lot of people know this but . . .  I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Caine has uttered his immortal words about the wines of Mallorca, which in some senses have been a quite closely guarded secret. That is until your correspondent tasted some wonderful wines from this, the largest of the Balearic Islands. It’s just not fair that the locals keep these super wines to themselves!

 Yes it’s true that Mallorca is, quite rightly, known for it’s tourism industry – wonderful, secluded beaches as well as the highly populated sands of the tourist hot-spots; stunning hotels; millionaire-riddled harbours; and A List Celeb-filled restaurants etc. But also take the time to look at the wines, largely made from indigenous grape varieties not grown elsewhere – better still take a taste!

 Two years ago I waxed lyrical about a wine I had been given to taste, Sió, from Bodegas Ribas, Mallorca, established as long ago as 1711! It contained one of the Island’s own grape varieties – Mantonegro, along with globetrotters Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. As I recall it was a super-juicy mouth-filling wine with blackcurrant jam notes and a pleasing touch of spice on the finish. I’ve tasted it once or twice since and it remains in the forefront of my mind.

 At the beginning of this summer I was invited to present a tasting of wines at an Indonesian restaurant in Javea, one of the wines chosen, Ribas, was the from the same stable – using the same varieties, but in different proportions and with 10 months oak ageing. Again a super wine, with a touch of backbone to it and yet finesse as well as excellent fruit presence.

 Clearly, thought I, this is a bodega that needs some investigation! Their informative website put me in touch with the charming Araceli who arranged for some sample wines to arrive the following week. Such is the power of the Costa News Group!

 Bodegas Ribas makes wines under the auspices of Vi de la Terra Mallorca and Vi de la Terra Illes Balears and if any readers are looking for further proof that VdlT wines can be far superior to some DO wines – then simply sample those from Mallorca’s beacon of vinous excellence. For excellent, is the best description of these wines. Indeed their Soma Sioneta Oliver 2008 Blanc Viognier will certainly be in the Costa News Top Ten and is in fact vying for 1st place amongst the white wines I have tasted in 2010!

 I started though with Ribas Blanc 2009 – a wine that combines Prensal Blanc the island’s own variety with the internationally renowned Chardonnay. Grapes were harvested by hand to ensure their quality when arriving at the bodega and then the selection table was used choosing only the best bunches. It’s a good joven wine the floral Prensa Blanca is complemented by the depth of Chardonnay flavour. A very good start.

 Next their Sió Blanc 2007 made with the indigenous Prensal Blanc variety (aka Moll) but also with an eclectic mix of Chardonnay, Viognier and Chenin Blanc. It was partially fermented in oak and then matured for longer in wood with its lees. There is a super creaminess to the wine which adds depth of flavour to pronounced floral and fruit notes. It’s a wine that will be fine as an aperitif but that will also match food, particularly fish and shellfish. I imagine it is de rigeur in the fine seaside restaurants on the island.

 The Viognier (as above) is a splendid wine – the best example of Viognier (a favourite variety of mine) I’ve tasted in Spain, surpassing the New World Viogniers and being more in the style, and equal to, the wonderful Condrieu of its native France. On the nose, when well chilled, it initially has a touch of exotic fruit about it, which, as the wine slowly develops in the glass, becomes redolent of apricots, a typical characteristic of this noble variety.

 But this is not a flippant, frivolous fruit-salad style wine, designed to momentarily titillate before passing into obscurity. Not at all, this is a serious and subtle wine, a wine of depth and complexity. Half of the wine enjoyed 6 months oak ageing whilst the other half was kept in tank with its lees. There’s a slight nutty element, perhaps some blanched almonds or hazelnuts and floral notes too, but always with that apricot, particularly dried apricot, running through it like a seam of gold found in fine granite. You have to try this wine!

 The fourth white wine (how pleasant to find a bodega that pays as much credence to its white wine production as to its reds) is one I should use in the vanguard of my crusade to re-instate dessert wines as an integral part of any special dinner. Sioneta Contrast Blanc Dolç comes in a slightly chunky 50cc bottle . It’s made exclusively from late harvested (and therefore high in sugar content) Moscatel which is then fermented and matured in oak.

 It is one of those classic dessert wines that has the sweetness required for it to be paired with postres but with that crucial lick of acidity too. There are honeyed citrus notes, orange peel particularly, as well as the expected grape/sultana/raison aromas characteristic to Moscatel which makes such super wines in Spain.

 The final wine (following a further tasting of Sió Tinto and Ribas Tinto, above) was their flagship Ribas Cabrera 2006. This is a wine to grace any dinner table. It is rich, deep and complex with aromas that change as the wine develops in glass over dinner – dark forest fruits, combine with an Autumnal, earthy minerality with a touch of liquorice. Made from very old Mantonegro vines which have never been irrigated, whose roots stretch several metres below the vineyard in search of the limited nutrients available, the wine demonstrates all that can be achieved on this island in the sun.

 I’ll be returning to these wines for sure and hope to visit in the future. In the meantime why don’t you hassle your local wine merchants to get some in – he can’t go wrong!

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