Envinate’s project in the Canary Islands grows!
The 2016 vintages marks a huge change for the Envinate project in the Canary Islands. It’s the same band of friends and the same philosophy as the Envinate projects covered here but from 2016 on the Canary Islands project has grown from focusing only on the village of Taganana in the North Eastern corner of the island to include two other distinct landscapes of Tenerife: Valle de la Orotava and Ycoden Daute Isora. As such it seemed easier to have a separate page for the Canary Island project but it must be stressed that everything that’s said about the Envinate group in reference to their work on the mainland is true here too – the same passion, the same detailed viticultural work, the same communal nature of their project and of course the same four faces are responsible for the bottles produced in Tenerife.
The wines bearing the name ‘Taganan’ refer to the wild, steep slopes on the north eastern corner of the island. Where a dizzying array of varietals are grown on a loose trellising system on extremely steep terraces overlooking the ocean. The vines here are constantly exposed to the cooling northerly winds that whip across the Atlantic and are grounded in a variety of volcanic soil and rocks. The resulting wines are slightly wild and definitively volcanic. The whites are full of sea salt, roasted nuts and savoury, unami characters carried across a medium bodied, glyeric mouthfeel. The reds are surprisingly light and fresh, sitting around Pinot or Nebbiolo in weight but full of sappy dark fruit and anchored by secondary flavours that seem to combine soy and balsam with a distinct graphite mineral kick.
The two wines from Valle de la Orotava, called Palo Blanco and Migan are both sourced from very old vines trained in the iconic Trenzado system. The shoots from each vine here are woven together and strung across the vineyard until a single vine can weave 20 or 30 meters across the land forming a sort of vinous dreadlock. Valle de la Orotava is roughly in the middle of the northern side of Tenerife, it’s more gently sloped than the extreme cliffs and terraces of Taganan but still cooled by the ever present northern winds. The wines here tend towards elegance, from the intensely mineral Palo Blanco that almost looks Chenin Blanc like in structure to the beautifully delicate and composed Migan red, where dark cherry flavours and a tightly wound but beautifully worked tannin make the structure of the wine recall Burgundy, albeit Burgundy with a big pinch of mineral salt and wicked volcanic tilt.
The third landscape Envinate are working with on Tenerife falls under the Ycoden appellation, although the Envinate team group them under the moniker ‘Benje.’ Their sites are perched at over a thousand meters above sealevel on the shoulder of the Teide volcano near the town of Santiago de Teide. Well above the vast majority of vineyards that make up the Ycoden appellation. Visually the landscape here is completely different to the verdant green of Orotava or the dramatic lush canyons of Taganana. The altitude means this area often sits above the cloud cover, resulting in a parched, red earth dotted with hardy shrubs and low growing pine. If anything the country-side around these vineyards is almost like dry lands of New Mexico or the Joshua Tree country in America. The whites here are rounder, more continental in style, distinctly volcanic still but without the hallmark seasalt of the lower altitude appellations. The red on the other hand, whilst still fresh and vibrant carries a whiff of baked terracotta, red desert florals like dried bottle bush backed by a juicy, wild raspberry tang of fruit.
Tenerife is one of the Canary Islands which lie a little more than 100 kilometers off the southern tip of Morocco. The island is actually the peak of a giant volcano, called Teide which rises to over 3,700 meters, making it the tallest mountain in Spain, technically, if you measure Teide from the ocean floor rather than from sea level it’s over seven and a half thousands meters tall. Despite it’s impressive stature, the actual land area of Tenerife is remarkably small, it would comfortably fit inside the Australian Capital Territory, despite this Tenerife is home to an incredible variety of landscapes. From the snow tipped peak to austere desert, to rainforest, to stunning beaches. An hours drive here can be a dizzying lesson in geography here, and a rather terrifying experience given the steepness of the terrain.
Envinate work only on the northern side of the island, where the cooling ‘Alisos’ wind helps to keep freshness in the wines despite the southern latitude. As such the wines retain the vibrancy that characterizes Envinate’s style