The Wine Route
In 2011 the Binissalem Designation of Origin (DO) covered thirteen vineyards with a combined area of 439 hectares and around 2,100 tonnes of red grapes and 650 tonnes of white were harvested from them. These in turn produced over one million litres of red wine, 414,000 litres of white and 282,000 litres of rosé. But these figures are a mere fraction of the wine production over 100 years ago.
In the 1850s the Mallorcan vineyards were flourishing, bringing great wealth to the villages across the island; but trouble was brewing in Northern Europe. New vines imported from North America to England brought an unwelcome tourist with them; the vine pest phylloxera. The tiny yellow pest ate roots and leaves, killing vines at a rapid rate. An infestation could devastate a vineyard in a short space of time and while the American vines were immune to attack, the European strains were not.
The pests struck in France in 1863, before moving onto Germany and Switzerland, devastating the Central European wine market. Portugal was hit in 1871, then Spain and finally Italy in 1875.
In twelve years the phylloxera pest had destroyed 80-percent of European vineyards but the European ecological disaster was Mallorca's good fortune. Wine was always in demand and the faster the pests destroyed vineyards, the higher prices rose; and the island's growers took the opportunity to make their fortune.
Crops were sold to the highest bidder before they were harvested without any consideration for the quality and as prices soared, Mallorca's vineyard owners became rich. Anyone who had money bought land and planted vines while the coopers worked flat out to make larger 60 gallon barrels. However, the good times only lasted around fifteen years. The phylloxera reached Mallorca at the end of the 1880s and the island's vineyards were wiped out in a single season. The large land owners had their savings to live off and their palatial houses can still be seen around the villages. However, the peasants were left with nothing and they replanted their small plots of land with almonds to give them a small steady income.
With cheaper imports to compete with, it was 50 years before the fields around Binissalem saw a concerted effort to start making wine in the 1930s. But the vineyard owners persevered and in 1991 the area was awarded Mallorca's first Denominación de Origen (DO), Spain's award for locally made products . Wine production continues to grow steadily and the island's wines have a good reputation around the world. The majority of the grapes are the native Manta Negro, Callet and Moll varieties. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo grapes are also grown in the area and the Ribas wines improve with age.
Thirteen vineyards are concentrated in the Raiguer area where wine is an important part of daily life. There is work to be done all year round and it starts in the winter with the pruning of the vines. The vines start to flower in the spring and it is time to trim the surplus leaves. Over the summer the vines mature until the grapes are ready to be picked in the autumn. Then is time for the harvest thanksgiving fiesta. The Binissalem 'Festa des Vernar' in September is a lively celebration with parades, music, wine tasting, grape-crushing and a very messy grape battle.
There are thirteen vineyards in the Binissalem Designation of Origin area which stretches from Santa Maria del Camí in the west, Binissalem in the northeast, and Sencelles in the southeast. A suggested route is to start from Santa Maria del Camí, then follow the Inca road to Binissalem. Head southeast through Biniagual to Sencelles and finally drive west through Biniali to Santa Eugènia. To find out more about the Mallorcan Wine Route check out www.binissalemdo.com to download the official 60 page colour brochure. (pdf format)
Santa Maria del Camí
There are two vineyards at the southwest end of the village; one old and one new. Celler Sebastià Pastor opened in a small 18th Century cellar in 1937 and the wines are produced from handpicked native Manto Negro and Moll grapes. Celler Ramanyà was opened by a group of enthusiasts in 2003 and has 12 hectares growing a mixture of old Manto Negro and Callet vines and new Sirà, Cabernet, Merlot and Moll vines.
The organically cultivated wines produced by Jaume de Puntiró in the centre of Santa Maria del Camí were the idea of the Vich and Calafat familes. They grow native Manto Negro, Callet and Moll grapes and foreign Cabernet Sauvignon, Sirà, Merlot and Muscatel grapes on eight vineyards.
The Macià Batle family started producing wine in 1865 and it was one of the many who lost everything when the vine pest struck. In 1996 their ancestors started a new winery called the Bodegues Macià Batle at the northeast end of the village using the Manto Negro and Callet grapes for red wines and the Moll and Premsal Blanc grapes for white wines.
Two of the vineyards in Binissalem were founded around the same time along the main road from Palma to Inca. Bodegas José Luis Ferrer was founded southwest of the village in 1931 by José Luis Ferrer Ramonell and it now occupies 92 hectares. It uses Manto Negro and Callet grapes for its red wines and the Moll grape for its white wines. Albaflor-Vins Nadal was founded by Miquel Nadal Fiol in 1932 just to the east. Albaflor is the name of the first wine made in Mallorca by the Archduke Lluís Salvador (see the Son Marroig webpage in the Tramuntana West area of the website for the Archduke's story) and it is created by blending Merlot, Cabernet and Sirà grapes. A third vineyard was established east of the village by the Morlà i Morey company of architects. Celler Tianna Negre grows a mixture of Manto Negro, Callet, Sirà and Cabernet Sauvignon black grapes and Moll and Frontignan Muscatel green grapes on its 10 hectares.
Biniagual is a tiny hamlet on the road from Binissalem to Sencelles and it had 43 vineyards when the vine pest wiped them all out at the end of the 1880s. The Roman road from Palma and Pollèntia ran through the village and the festival of Saint Gall is held on the first Sunday of the Grape Harvest Festival. Bodegas Antonio Nadal was opened on the Son Roig estate northeast of the village in 1968 and grows both red and white grapes on its 27 hectares. Bodega Biniagual opened in the centre of the hamlet in 2002. It is run as an ecologically friendly vineyard and the red wines are produced from a blend of native Manto Negro grapes and other Spanish and European varieties.
There were 127 vineyards in Sencelles when the vine pest hit at the end of the 1880s; they were all wiped out. There are two today, one old and one new. Celler Can Ramis was founded in the centre of the village by Pedro Molina Amengual in 1870. The family revived the winery in recent years and it now grows Manto Negro, Callet and Sirà grapes under the Serral brand. Celler Ca Sa Padrina was opened west of the village in 1999 to revive local wines. It has eight hectares producing the Mantonegro González- Suñer red wine and the Mollet González-Suñer white wine.
In 1996, Jaume Bennàssar bought the Can Desveri estate in Biniali and planted six hectares of Manto Negro, Merlot, Callet, Sirà, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines.
Santa Eugènia sits at the foot of Puig Son Seguí and the hill was called Podium Vinearum, or the 'Hill of the Vines' in Roman times. Now there is only one vineyard in the village, the Vinya Taujana which was opened by the Crespí family in 2001. A mixture of native Manto Negro, Callet, Moll grapes and foreign Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sirà grapes are grown on 12 hectares of land.
To find out how to tour the vineyards on a tourist-style train then check out www.mallorcawinetours.com.
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