THE WINERY AND WINE MAKING
Grapes are everything to us. At Bermejos, we treat the grapes with the utmost respect, knowing the work and effort that goes into their care while acknowledging the enormous generosity with which nature gives them to us. Viticulture in such an unprecedented landscape is an act of heroism.
Our greatest concern lies in ensuring their overall health status.
We, therefore, put special emphasis to meticulously select the healthiest grapes and carefully look after their maturation process through exhaustive analytical control. Afterward, we nurture special care in their manipulation, provided by the fact that we do not use pumps or any kind of mechanical actions that may cause them damages. We rather use processes such as gravity and soft pressing of whole grapes to obtain a premium juice that faithfully translates the true nature of the grapes.
We do not clarify our wine and any handling in racking and bottling is done with specially designed machinery to care for and preserve all organoleptic characteristics.
As a result, we obtain a wine with a particularly attractive mouth, made with respect to the grape variety. We make our wine to be drunk and not to be tasted.
Vine culture in Lanzarote is characterized by the fact that it has not suffered from the phylloxera plague.
Coming from the American continent, it is a plague produced by a nematode that caused great havoc to the European crops in the second half of the nineteenth century. As a remedy, vine cultivators were forced to plant rootstocks of American vines, that were naturally immune to the parasite, and graft them with European vines varieties of greater enological quality.
In this process, many vinification varieties were lost, and the cultivation of others got so reduced that they have almost disappeared.
For inconclusive reasons, the vines from Lanzarote are not affected by the phylloxera and therefore are ungrafted rootstocks that purely maintain the original enological properties and richness of the European vines that existed before the phylloxera era.
UNPRECEDENT CULTIVATION TECHNIQUE
Extended, apocalyptic, untamed, desert, moon-like scenery field, carpeted by black volcanic ashes, sealed by semi-circle fences of rock that nest single vines. These few words describe the landscape scenery that hosts the viticulture of Lanzarote.
The vines grow in a unique architecture that harmonizes the interaction of these different elements:
The volcanic ashes (also called sand or “picon”) that cover the topsoil hold the vertu of retaining the scarce water provided by the rain and as it absorbs it like a sponge, this precious resource does not run off to the sea. By the same token, the ashes form an insulating layer from the sun and thus prevent any loss of water evaporation.
Therefore, the vines graciously receive the collected water by the volcanic ashes, which is later drained and ushered to reach the vine’s roots buried under the topsoil.
The Mystery of the Holes:
The volcanic ashes do not have any organic wealth; therefore, the grape growers must dig a hole in the ashes to plant the vines directly in the nutrient-rich topsoil.
Almost hidden in the holes, the vine is protected from the energy of the trades winds that intensely blow in spring and summer and tend to burn the leaves from the branches that creep out of the holes. In addition, small walls of rocks are built in a semi-circular disposition to protect the vines.
The thickness of the ash layer sets the depth and the diameter of the hole, and hence the planting density. There are areas where the holes reached 4 meters deep and 6 meters in diameter and the plantation density does not exceed 200 plants per hectare.
Other areas will provide a higher plantation density of 800 plants per hectare. If we factor in the low rainfalls and consider the spectrum of areas from low to high planting density, the overall production yields vary from 500 Kg to 1.500 Kg of grapes per hectare. Low production, scarce rainfall, abundant sunshine, and century-old plants are joint forces that intermingle to make the grapes of Lanzarote a true oenological jewel.
Between 1730 and 1736, for 6 years consecutively, volcanic eruptions in Lanzarote caused famine and forced emigration among the people.
However, thanks to the hard work of the grape growers, almost to a point of stubbornness, what came at the beginning as an ordeal as the aftermath of the volcanic eruptions, became in a short period of time an example for hard work and hope to showcase fertility and prosperity.
Before the volcanic eruption, the climatic conditions and the soil properties did not allow for the culture of grapes and fruits. Only cereals were planted.
Facing the adversity of layers of lava, hungry and determined cultivators started to dig holes in a totally rudimentary and manual way in the ashes expelled by the volcanos; fierce fully making their way through the layers of lava to get to the topsoil and plant roots that later rewarded such endeavor with the hatching of the first vine.
Holes and cracks, each one of them hosting one plant, one vine. And there we have it, grape growers walking down and climbing up the hole to provide to the gems with their undivided attention.
It is a grape that is vinified from ancient times.
Originally from Greece, it is believed that it is named after the port of Monemvasia from the Peloponnese region of Greece from where it sailed away to colonize and spread across the Mediterranean coast.
The Malvasia grape arrived in the Canaries from Madeira and became of the main varieties cultivated in Lanzarote.
Once introduced in Lanzarote, the Malvasia through its long adaptation process to the harsh climate and edaphology condition of the island Lanzarote has mutated to become a quite distinct clone called Malvasia Volcanica.
It is characterized to be a creeping plant, which makes it ideal to hide from the wind behind the semi-circular stone wall that protects the Lanzarote's vine holes.
The Malvasia from the Canary Islands had its glory days by seducing the European courts. It had even acquired the status of an exchange course in trade. The story is told that in 1478 the Duke of Clarence, brother to King Edward IV of England, made a pledge to die drowned in a barrel of Malvasia in the London Tour, where he was held captive for treason.
There are many references to the Malvasia from the Canary Islands in the literature, evoked by illustrious historical figures such as Shakespeare, Scott, Kuprin, Goldoni, Góngora, etc., that highlight the importance of the Canary, wine made from Malvasia, which came to be considered, at that time, the best European wine.
Also called Bujariego, Verijadiego or Vijariego, is native to the south of the peninsula, where it can still be found in the higher areas of the Alpujarra of Granada.
It is resistant to disease and has a high acid and sugar content.
It produces dry wines, with a strong nose and a long bottle lifespan.
It is a late-ripening varietal that is harvested in mid-September.
Mostly originating from the varieties of Muscat of Alexandria, Roman Muscatel, but there are also some Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains and Moscatel Morisco.
The muscatels of Lanzarote are centennial plants that are grown in cracks. Cracks emerge naturally from solidified seas of lava that cover the island of Lanzarote or are manually dug holes called “chavocos”, which can reach a depth of up to 4 meters.
The grapes are mainly used to make sweet wines and their ripening usually takes place in mid-September, although it is common practice to leave them to over-ripen on the plant or to passify them in the sun to obtain enough sugar to make naturally sweet wines.
Also called Listán Prieto, Almuñeco, or Forastera, it is the red variety par excellence of Lanzarote. It seems to have originated in the south of the peninsula, where it is called Mollar Cano, but nowadays this variety is barely present in its native area.
However, its presence is more established in the American continent where it was introduced by the missionaries during the time of conquest to provide wine for their masses.
Thus, in California and Baja California, it is called Mission, in Chile, it is called País, and in Argentina Criolla.
It usually matures at the beginning of September and produces soft wines, medium-bodied, and very aromatic.
There are many other varieties of grapes of lesser production, such as Listán blanco, Gual, Albillo, Burra Blanca, Negramoll, Mulata, Tintilla, Negra Común, and others in many cases not cataloged, that are still cultivated in Lanzarote, nevertheless, in the continent, their cultivation has completely disappeared or greatly diminished due to the effect of the phylloxera plague.
The varietal richness of Lanzarote is enormous and represents a challenge for any studies or cataloging endeavors.