Jonatan Garcia is the dude behind Suertes del Marques, one of Spain’s most exciting producers. They are based in the Orotava Valley, in the north of Tenerife. Jonatan’s father started buying vineyards here in 1986, and now they have 9 hectares of their own, two hectares that are rented, and they also buy from growers who have in total 17 hectares. They began making their own wines in 2006.
Viticulture in Tenerife goes back to the 15th century, and from the middle of the 16th century until the early 19th century this was the driver of the economy on the island. Wines were exported primarily to Britain, but also to north America and even Australia.
A film of the visit, where Jonatan introduces the project and we get to see the remarkable vineyards, with the Cordon Trenzado. One of them has 250 year old vines.
One of the distinctive things about the Orotava Valley is the training system used for the vines, called Cordon Trenzado. This looks very unusual: the cordon is formed of canes that have been twisted over each other. The shoots are then pruned to around four buds and then tied down by string, and the vine cordon effectively keeps growing, so that the old vines are as long as 10 metres.
As a result, these are low density vineyards, with around 400 vines per hectare. They are ungrafted, because phylloxera hasn’t got here, and are replaced by marcottage (laying down a cane into the soil so that it forms its own roots). But the risk here is one of trunk disease.
The soils here vary a bit, but are volcanic in origin. Some of the more basaltic soils can have very low pH, and without the traditional application of lime, the vines can suffer. 95% of the fruit Jonatan uses is organic, and he has about 80% of the organic fruit from the region.
Generally speaking, in the eastern part of the valley the soils have more clay and are more fertile, and this is where Listan Negro is planted. In the west, they are more basaltic, and this is where Listan Blanco is planted. These are the two key grape varieties. They are supplemented by others, including Vijareigo Negro, Tintilla, Baboso Negro, Malvasia Rosado, Torrontes and Albillo Criollo.
The vines have an extremely long growing cycle here: perhaps the longest in the wine world? We were visiting in early March, and already the shoots were out in most of the vineyards. Most of these vines will be harvested in late September and October. In the north of Tenerife the weather doesn’t get too hot, and there’s often cloud cover because of the nearby volcano (Teide), which at 3800 m is the highest peak in Spain.
Jonatan has help in the cellar from consultant winemaker Luis Seabra. The winemaking here is what I’d call modern traditional, with a strong dose of natural. There’s lots of whole cluster and very little stainless steel. Fermentation is with wild yeasts in foudre or concrete, normally. Jonatan has 2500 and 4500 litre foudres (from Rousseau and Stockinger), and his barrels are almost all the larger 500 litre size. The early picking gives a leanness and precision to the wines, and the house style is one of mastery of reduction: for many of the wines, matchstick/mineral reduction is a key component, and it works really well.
A film from the part held to celebrate opening the new cellar, with lots of other winegrowers in attendance:
All the whites are made the same way. The grapes are destemmed and then pressed, the juice is allowed to settle for two days, and then goes to barrel or foudres to ferment, and the wine is kept on full lees during ageing.
Suertes del Marques Trenzado 2017 Tenerife, Spain
From the west part of the Orotava Valley, which has more basalt and less clay, and six different vineyards. One is matured in a 4500 litre foudre, two in 2500 litre foudres, and three in 500 litre barrels. This is fresh and fine with nice reductive minerality. Lemons, minerals a touch of wax, and such precision and finesse. 93/100
Suertes del Marques Vidonia 2017 Tenerife, Spain
Listan Blanco from clay soils in the middle of the Orotava Valley. 11 months in barrel. Lovely focus and elegance here, showing fine citrus fruit and a hint of wax, with lovely finesse. Has a rounded mouthfeel but also lively acidity (pH 2.9). Thrilling stuff. 94/100
Suertes del Marques Nat Cool 2017 Tenerife, Spain
11.5% alcohol. Listan Negro, destemmed, fermented and aged in concrete, bottled in a 1 litre bottle. Taut reductive nose with red cherries, spice and minerals. The palate is very fresh with appealing raspberry fruit. Good reduction here and a slightly grippy finish. Very Nat Cool. 93/100
Suertes del Marques La Floridita 2018 Tenerife, Spain
This is Listan Negro which spends 4 days in a concrete tank, and is then pressed. Fermentation continues in 500 litre barrels. The idea is to make a very fruity red that’s easy to drink. Pale in colour, this is sappy and fresh, with compact cherry fruit and a bit of reduction. There are some green leafy hints, and it’s a pretty elegant wine. 91/100
Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes 2016 Tenerife, Spain
Red cherries, spice and some sappiness on the nose. The palate is supple, elegant and refined with lovely texture. Such a bright wine. 93/100
Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes 2017 Tenerife, Spain
Very fine and supple with a slight seaweed edge to the bright, linear red fruits. Expressive, with a bit of tannic grip. Beautiful balance here. 93/100
Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes El Lance 2016 Tenerife, Spain
Light and expressive with juicy fruit. Nice tannins here with elegance and purity. Light, grainy and expressive. 93/100
Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes El Lance 2017 Tenerife, Spain
A blend of five varieties. This has some flesh with nice weight to the compact cherry and raspberry fruit. There’s nice concentration and detail, as well as some sappy character. It’s astonishingly drinkable and delicious. 94/100
Suertes del Marques La Solana 2017 Tenerife, Spain
Varietal Listan Negro, fermented with 50% whole bunch in concrete, then it spends a year in a 4500 litre foudre. Very fine with nice grip and precision, showing red cherries, spices and some nice reduction. Good structure with a compact finish. 94/100
Suertes del Marques Candio 2017 Tenerife, Spain
Aged in 500 litre barrels. Very fine and expressive with raspberry and red cherry fruit. Nice structure and purity with freshness and detail. Has some herbs and spice, too: really elegant. 95/100
Suertes del Marques El Chibirique 2016 Tenerife, Spain
Sappy and elegant with red cherries, herbs and some spice. Lovely focus here withfine red fruits, herbs and real elegance. Lovely structure. 95/100
Suertes del Marques El Chibirique 2017 Tenerife, Spain
Whole bunch fermentation in concrete tank, then aged in 500 litre barrels. Very fine, sappy, floral red fruits nose. The palate is fresh and structured with precision and elegance. Red cherry and raspberry fruit with good structure. This has both structure and finesse and it’s brilliant. 95/100
Suertes del Marques El Esquilón 2016 Tenerife, Spain
Listan Negro. Whole bunch fermentation in concrete then ageing in used barrel. Very peppery, fine, leafy and expressive with light red fruits. Has tension, elegance and precision. 94/100
Suertes del Marques El Ciruleo 2016 Tenerife, Spain
Whole bunch, sandy soils. Sappy and elegant with red cherries, herbs and some spice. Lovely focus: shows fine red fruits, herbs and real elegance, as well as some structure. 95/100
Suertes del Marques El Ciruleo 2017 Tenerife, Spain
Listan Negro, from over 100 year old vines, 480-520 m altitude. Whole bunch. Supple with some reduction and direct cherry and raspberry fruit. Some peppery notes. Fine and pure with finesse. The reduction is quite marked right now, but in a year or two this will be singing. 95/100
Suertes del Marques Cruz Santa 2017 Tenerife, Spain
Baboso Negro. Whole-bunch fermentation in a plastic vat. Fine, pure and elegant with sappy red fruits, nice structure and good acidity. Bright and pure; elegant and fine. 94/100
Suertes del Marques Los Pasitos 2017 Tenerife, Spain
Baboso Negro. Supple and leafy with nice wax, orange peel and spice, as well as cherries and plums. So elegant and fine with nice detail and precision. 95/100
We visited the new cellar to taste 2018s from barrel. This was a good year for ripeness and acidity. Each year Jonatan makes some 17 wines from around 55 different cuvées.
Clay soils. Still fermenting. Lively (pH 2.9) and expressive. Mineral.
- Amagoge vineyard
This is a blend of different grapes from the Taganan area. Rich, mineral and rounded with lively acidity. This is an area with more volume (in terms of richness of flavour). This is still fermenting.
- Fefe Suertes
Same soils as Vidonia: clay. Listan Branco. Proper mineral reduction: lively and expressive with some pith notes and also a vinyl hint.
A co-ferment of three vineyards, clay soils. Beautifully taut and mineral with amazing precision and good acidity.
This is not the same as the Argentine grape, but it’s from Madeira. It used to be called Pedro Ximenez here, but it isn’t. Very mineral and taut with great acidity. Characterful.
- Piñera and Brezos
2500 litre Stockinger foudre. Still has 5 g/l sugar. Textured, powerful and mineral, and very fine.
- Cruz Santa
Out west in the valley on basaltic soils: goes into Trenzado. Taut, lemony and mineral with fine spiciness and some herby notes. Very distinctive.
- Parajes Oueste
Five small growers from the west provide this fruit which is cofermented. Very spicy and lemony with lots of fruit. This has some pear and spice. Distinctive.
Rented vineyard in the west, Listan Branco. ‘I am in love with this vineyard,’ says Jonatan. This ends up in Trenzado. Tight and fine; mineral and focused. Lovely.
Next we went through the vineyards for 7 Fuentes, starting with the simplest, most fruity wines.
Listan Negro from clay. Destemmed. Smoky, spicy edge to the nose. Lively, tangy, spicy and vivid with red cherry fruit. Nice brightness. Juicy, fine and fruity.
To the east, from clay/sandy soils, fermented in concrete, 20% whole bunch. Nice, fresh, lively and bright with raspberry and cherry fruit, and mineral framing.
- La Florida
East part of Orotava, mostly clay soils. First sample sappy and fine with nice detail and some flesh. Second sample from a plastic vat fermentation has lovely raspberry and cherry fruit with minerals and flesh. Third sample from whole bunch in plastic vats is elegant and sappy with lovely perfume, fine spices and real elegance, with a salty finish.
- Pencones and a bit of Fefe
This is a clay terrace low down in the middle of the valley. 20% whole bunch. Very reductive with mineral spiciness and nice fruit.
More sandy soil, destemmed. Tight and mineral with nice grip. Vivid red fruits.
- Hacienda Las Cañas
250 year old vines, some of the oldest in the world. Rented. Bright, focused acidity. Sappy notes. 30% whole bunch shows. Concentrated wine.
A co-ferment of Listan Negro (to decrease pH) and Tintilla. Supple and bright with some dark fruit and some grippiness.
Tight and reductive with nice grip. Serious wine.
- La Solana
Lovely mineral quality with fine, taut, spicy red fruits, and some pepper.
West facing, clay soil. Grippy and quite structured with vivid red fruits and some richness, but also a linear, peppery finish. Has some ripeness.
Sandy soil, planted E-W, 100% whole bunch. Has fleshiness and brightness with a nice mid palate and a peppery edge.
- El Ciruleo
North-facing vineyard planted N-S. Lots of elegance and finesse with spicy cherry and plum fruit, firm tannins and good acidity.
- Los Pasitos
Baboso Negro which can get overripe fast. Spicy, sappy and fresh with nice green notes, and pepper and herbs. Dictinctive.
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UK importer: Indigo Wines