To Tenerife, then, for the latest Finest Wine… And refreshing it is to be able to associate this Canary Island with fine wine rather than Brits abroad and Sexy Beast suntans.
Suertes del Marqués is a small, family-run winery in the Valle de la Orotava in Tenerife. The soil here is basically volcanic, like on Etna, with more clay the closer to the coast you go. Trenzado is made from grapes from five different plots located in different parts of the valley.
The word ‘Trenzado’ means ‘braided’ and refers to the unique cordon vine training system used. The wine is made mainly from Listan Blanco (aka Palomino) and Pedro Ximénex – both grapes more commonly associated with sherry.
For vinification, all the grapes are destemmed, then about 40% of them (so skins included) are transferred to concrete tanks for fermentation; about 60% are pressed and the juice is transferred to French oak barrels.
Fermentation happens naturally with wild yeasts and no sulphur is added until bottling. There’s no racking either. Winemakers often choose not to rack because ageing on the lees (yeast residue) can help to develop flavour and ‘body’ in a wine.
Lees-ageing is also helpful for minimal-intervention (‘natural’) winemakers because certain enzymes released during lees ageing prevent oxidation which is, more or less, a wine’s death.
The result in the case of Trenzado is particularly interesting. The wine is very striking on the nose, obviously well-made, focused, rich, layered and with lingering flavour.
Apart from a fresh, light, slightly salty fruit, there’s a clear smell of just-struck match. I’m thinking of this sort of match:
Why would a wine smell like a Cook’s match? Because of a chemical process called reduction. Reduction is basically the opposite of oxidation – chemical reactions that occur in an anaerobic environment rather than an aerobic one, and which create certain volatile smell compounds grouped as sulphides.
Whereas oxidation is irreversible, reduction can be reversed simply by exposing the wine to oxygen – swirling in a glass will usually be enough. Another way to reverse it, and to make your friends think that you’re some kind of wine sorcerer, is to drop a copper coin into the glass. The copper will react with the reduced wine and any reductive smells (can be sulphur/struck-match, can be burnt rubber, can even be cooked vegetables) will vanish.
Coming back to the Trenzado, what’s interesting with this wine is that it is deliberately made in a reductive fashion. This is partly because of the winemaker’s minimal-intervention principles, but also because, with certain grapes, in certain conditions, it makes for a more interesting wine.
When I first tried the Trenzado, I was immediately put off by the reductive element, but there was such a nice wine behind the struck-match aroma that I went back for more. And then more. Eventually I started to like that smell and to enjoy the way it interacted with the other aromas in the glass. Other associations than Cook’s matches began to form – salty popcorn for instance.
So now I love the stuff.