08-06-2012

The island wines of Menorca

Since publishing this, we’ve released a Menorca enotourism guide you might very well enjoy!

Menorca, a veritable all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of beaches around a compact island, is more than just its sand and sun. There is a fantastic dose of history on the island, dating back thousands of years. There’s also a great food scene, which revolves around the quite fantastic Maó/Mahón cheese that they make. Then of course, there are the wines.

By no means is Menorca like Mallorca. Its big brother to the south has over 60 wineries in two DO’s. Menorca is much, much smaller with just a handful currently producing and three more with young vineyards that need another year or two before they can start harvesting. Despite this, the wines are unique and interesting, capturing all the wild herbs that abound across the island. Taking a break from working on our Empordà wine guide, we headed out there for some sun and grapes, although there are only three wineries that currently offer full public visits.

Our initial impression of Binifadet was well, wariness. From a card at the car rental counter, to large billboards by the airport, to other promotional items, they really, really get their name out there. It often happens that wineries who have to advertise this heavily are making up for lackluster wines. But, as we found out, this wasn’t the case at all.

Officially started in the location where you see it now in 2000, they produce 50,000 bottles of wine from about 10 hectares of vineyards that slide up behind the winery that you see from the road. The winery itself is quite pleasant to visit with a patio out, bedecked in tables and a dappling of shade from trellised vines overhead to take the edge off the sun. Inside, the cellars are quite cool as they’ve dug deep down in to the limestone base that seems to comprise all of Menorca.

Their entire line of wines was overall, quite good. Out of all the wines, it was the Syrah 2011 that was probably our favorite. With a strong fennel aspect and a mellow, pleasing acidity to the body, it’s one of the more unique takes on Syrah we’ve encountered in some time. Their aged, Merlot 2005 was also tasty, but in a way that is much more like a New World style of wine with larger (but not overpowering) oak elements and dark, wet fruits to the nose and body.

In the middle of the island, just north of Ferreries is Hort de Sant Patrici. For some time they’ve been making really good cheeses. And while their pasteurized cheeses are quite good, those produced with raw milk are fantastic, with the aged one tasting like the finest Parmesan you’ll ever find.

In 2002, they branched out in to wines and have been going strong. With a dizzying amount of production methods that they’re always trying, we found their Merlot 2009 to show the best qualities typical of Menorca wine with its nicely herbaceous nose and a slight slate aspect coming in to the body as it breathes. It can be quite hot on the palate though as the alcohol runs 14.5%. The Cupatge 2008 is a more evenhanded and round though, developing cantaloupe and peach textures as it breathes with a much more toned down acidity. Even still, the body can come up a bit short.

On the far west side of the island, a bit south of Ciutadella is Binitord. A small winery started in 2007, they built it inside an old stone quarry. While nowhere near the size of the impressive Lithica quarry that you can tour, it provided enough space to have a winery that produces about 12,000 bottles a year and is growing year by year.

All of their wines are quite distinct, especially the Blanc 2011 which has a portion of Merlot in it, making for a partially “blanc de noir” style of wine. The Negre 2010 is a wholly enjoyable blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Merlot. It proudly boasts its distinct herbaceous qualities. The Negre Roure (Criança) 2009 picks up on the nice parts of the younger wine and produces a well-balanced, thoroughly wonderful wine. With a nose of dried figs and a nice swath of earthiness, it’s full and luscious, but still holding its acidity and tannin structures, making it a wine with something for all red drinkers.

In the end, the wine scene of Menorca, while not huge, is quite interesting and as it matures, it feels like they’ll work more to embellish these herbal, spicy elements that make their wines taste so different from the others in Catalonia and Greater Spain. It should be noted that if you do visit and fly with just carry-on (like we did, ahem…), if you buy a case of six bottles, most of the wineries will ship it to Spain free of charge (like we did, ahem…)

Read more about the wines of this island region in our Menorca enotourism guide.

WINES

Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014 95
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
95 3 Stars

Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015 94
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
94 3 Stars

Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015 93
Ruby with minor garnet rim. Rich red fruits with an underpinning of ripe plum, orange peel, licorice, cocoa. Broad, round tannins with a touch of toast and sweet cocoa in a long finish. Manages to stay very light on the palate despite the higher alcohol.
50% Grenache 50% Carignan · 15% · 25EUR
93 2 Stars

Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014 93
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL
93+ 3 Stars

Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016 93
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
93 2 Stars

AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012 93
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
93 2 Stars

Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015 93
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
93 2 Stars

Clos Henri - Petit Clos Pinot Noir 2016 92
Earthy, red cherries, young, crisp cranberry, light herbal notes, leafy, minor chalk. Medium tannins and medium plus acidity as well as length. Light sweetness on the palate but with a very pleasant, lingering structure and lightness to it.
100% Pinot Noir · 13.5% · 16.50EUR
92 2 Stars

Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Rouge 2015 92
Medium ruby. Fresh red cherry, raspberry, and young strawberry, lifted and breathy, saline tinge along with light stoniness and rosemary and garrigue. Fresh red fruit on the palate, medium acidity but still light on the palate, fresh, and while the alcohol sticks out a little, holds and excellent, long finish.
Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre · 14.5% · 20EUR
92 2 Stars

Domaine Fontanel - Prieuré 2014 92
Dense ruby with brick flecks. Crisp red fruits, lifted by a waft of volatility making for a light nose with a spicy licorice and leather component. Crisp and lively with red cherry fruit in the mouth and a nudge over medium acidity. Nice, lingering finish.
50% Syrah 25% Grenache 25% Mourvèdre · 14.5%
92 2 Stars