We Are Proud To Introduce Pep Costa 2015, An Elegant White Wine

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The fruity mellow white wine of our 2017 season is dedicated to Josep Costa Ferrer, the founder of Cala d’Or. We applaud Pep Costa’s visionary perceptiveness and are happy to bear witness to him being named Hijo adoptivo de Santanyí (adopted son) later this year (August 11th, 2017). The photo below shows Josep Costa Ferrer and his wife Modesta Gispert Vilardebó in the year 1905.

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Our elegant new Pep Costa 2015 white wine is composed of organically grown Giró Ros grapes, an autochthonous Mallorcan variety. The grapevines were four years old when the grapes were selected by hand at the end of August 2015. Son Alegre is one of only a few vineyards of Mallorca cultivating all their vines according to EU organic farming standards following the principles of Biodynamic Agriculture. All our wines are rigorously controlled by the CBPAE (Consell Balear Regulador de l’Agricltura Ecològica – Balearic Council of Organic Agricultural Production).

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The mature white wine was vinified at a temperature of between 16 and 18º C during the fermentation process with a maceration of 21 days. The fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine matured for ten months in the tanks and a further ten months in the bottle. The wine was bottled in February 2017. The alcohol content is 11.8% Vol. Only 4,000 bottles were produced. We would like to have had more of this wine but we are a young and still small vineyard. In any case, we are grateful for what we have been able to achieve in the fifteen years of our existence.

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Pep Costa 2015 white wine is best served at a temperature of 8-10º C and is well suited to the hot days of the Mediterranean summer and the setting of our beautiful Isla de la Calma. The wine is agreeable on the palate, fresh and distinct. The colour is crisp and full. The wine has a complex disposition and can be drunk on its own, in the company of good friends, with appetisers, tapas or cheese, with fish or seafood, with chicken or white meat, with  pasta and also with vegetarian dishes. 

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At Son Alegre, we continue to cultivate all our grapes and all other crops with the utmost regard for Nature, respecting our land and our soil by following biodynamic principles according to Rudolf Steiner and adhering to some guidelines of Masanobu Fukuoka and Bruce Charles “Bill” Mollison, by applying methods of natural farming and permaculture to agriculture done the organic way. We simply allow Nature to fulfil its integrated and holistic function, although this may occasionally lead to reduced volumes and a lower profit margin. Profit-making is never our primary concern.

Quality is our principal objective.

 

 

Allow Us To Present Our New Sileo Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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Over the last fifteen years or so, there has been quite a renaissance of quality virgin olive oils here in Mallorca. It is really quite remarkable. In the Nineties, Mallorcan olive oils were few and far between. Now, however, we are spoilt for choice of Mallorcan virgin olive oil from Sóller, Caimari, Manacor and Santanyí, to name but a few of the main olive growing regions. The Consell Regulador de la Denominació d’Origen Oli de Mallorca applies strict measures of quality control and today endorses a sizeable number of olive oils with a Denominació d’Origen certificate.

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Currently, there are 69 Virgin Olive Oils labelled with the ‘d’O‘ seal, the Oli de Mallorca Denomination of Origin. This certificate was created in 2002 in accordance with European Union regulations, confirming that the thus marked and sealed oil is an agricultural product originating from a clearly defined location whose quality and characteristics are principally due to the geographical environment in which it is produced by natural factors and human activity.

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Of the 69 Mallorcan Virgin Olive Oils, only seven are grown and produced under 100 % organic conditions as controlled and certified by the CBPAE (Consell Balear de la Producció Agrària Ecològica), without the use of any pesticides, insecticides, chemical substances or inorganic fertilisers. Sileo oli d’oliva verge extra from Son Alegre is one of these few Mallorcan quality olive oils and it is 100 % organic. Try some if you can. You will like it.

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ArbequinaEmpeltre, Picual and Hojiblanca are the principal olive varieties on this island. Our olives are of the Arbequina variety. We harvest them by hand in late October when the olives on the tree are three different colours, green, purple and black. The three colours signify that not all of the olives are fully ripened – if they were, they would all be black. We have decided to let some olives not quite ripen. That way we can ensure a superior quality of olive oil combined with a better taste. If we were to wait any longer, chances would be that the olive fruit would be attacked by the Olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae), a serious pest in the cultivation of olives, and that would of course alter the taste of our oil dramatically, unless we were to spray against the little insect. We will never spray, and hardly ever with with copper, which we are allowed as an organic producer. We are committed to Nature and to the wondrous ecosystem on our land that we have allowed to develop over the last ten or fifteen years. We have not plowed our olive orchard once in the last twelve years; in fact we do not even enter our orchard all year long other than at harvest time, simply to leave the trees, their natural environment and our biological ecosystem as well as the prevailing biodiversity completely undisturbed.

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Every year, our olives are the first ones to be pressed at our Tafona (oil mill) in Sóller, the Cooperativa Agrícola de Sant Bartomeu de Sóller. The oil mill is famed for their gentle handling of olives and renowned for their output of oil of the best quality. We are proud to collaborate with them year after year and we are grateful for the liquid gold that they gently press hydraulically from our olives, store for us during the two or three months of the settling process and the bottling of Sileo Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the end of their labour. Before bottling, our olive oil is tested by an ENAC-laboratory (Entidad Nacional de Acreditación). Our 2016-17 Sileo virgin olive oil extra was measured with a degree of acidity of 0.6%.

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Here is a photo showing the production of olive oil in Mallorca in times gone by, courtesy of Oli Monnàber Vell in Campanet (photographer unknown).  Muchas gracias.

All photos of today’s entry were taken, as always, by John Hinde, with the exception of the historic photo (above). Thank you, John.

The Old Wine Cooperative of Felanitx

 

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An amazing building can be found on the outskirts of Felanitx in the Southeast of Mallorca, a massive piece of architecture in a post-Modernismo style, the Bodega Cooperativa, locally known as Celler Cooperatiu Es Sindicat. This large-scale winery was built in 1921-22 by Guillem Forteza when Felanitx happened to be a major centre of wine making. The business was run until 1991 when the cooperative set-up  ran out of steam and was forced to terminate its activities.

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The building was classified by the Consell de Mallorca in 2001 as a BIC (Bien de Interés Cultural), a type of heritage monument. Sadly, some of the glamour of the building has been spoilt by vandalism and defaced by graffiti.

One can assume that one is not allowed to enter the building. It is all boarded up even though some entrance points are left open due to carelessness or neglect. There are obvious dangers and safety risks. The erstwhile bodega has not been used for wine making for well over twenty-five years and consequently, its installations are run-down, ramshackle, decrepit and in parts, simply ruinous. By the same token, the place is fascinating for its sheer size, its magnitude in ambition, the visual beauty of some of its details and the massive dimension in storage facilities for hectolitres upon hectolitres of wine. The massive silo tanks were built on-site in concrete and must have held some 10,000 litres each, or even more. There are about 130 of these tanks, allowing for a total of perhaps 1,500,000 litres of wine being macerated and consequently subjected to the fermentation process, all at the same time. Plus, there are a dozen or two cistern-like storage tanks, holding up to 30,000 litres each, plus four massively big cylindrical storage steel tanks outside holding perhaps 100,000 litres, or even more, each. They must have drunk a lot of wine in the old days, here on the island. There is no bodega of this enormity in present day Mallorca.

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An interesting website on the Internet is run by a circle of friends of the old Sindicat building, should you want to know more and in greater detail. From that website, we have borrowed a video dating from 1929 documenting the construction of the building, the wine making process and the transportation of the Bocoyes (wooden wine barrels of 640 litres capacity) by train:

https://youtu.be/pOcGrlmzFcg

Our very own oenologist, Luis Armero Gonzáles, worked at Es Sindicat as Head of Operations from 1982 to 1986 before setting up his own bodega in Felanitx, Armero i Adrover. During Luis’s time the Felanitx wine cooperative produced some staggering 1,800,000 litres of wine per annum, mostly Rosé but also some 25 % of red and perhaps 15 % of white wine.

Luis Armero Gonzáles

The Felanitx town hall has been trying to acquire the Sindicat building for a number of years now with the idea of converting it into a place of cultural and historical interest, possibly with the help of Felanitx-born artist Miquel Barceló. These plans have not come to fruition as yet and currently an application is being considered to dispossess the current owners on the grounds of negligence and for causing a safety and health hazard to the public.

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We Are Proud To Announce The Launch Of Our New Organic White Wine, Ramon Lo Foll 2016

Vineyard Son Alegre is happy to present this year’s white wine, Ramon Lo Foll 2016.

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The new white wine of our 2017 season is dedicated to Ramon Llull, the Mallorcan writer, philosopher, teacher and mystic of the 13th century whose 700th anniversary of death was celebrated last year. He called himself, jokingly, Ramon Lo Foll (Ramon the Fool). We admire Ramon Llull and his way of contemplating the world. He was one of the greatest thinkers that Mallorca has ever seen and we are glad to pay homage to this outstanding man.

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Our new Ramon Lo Foll white wine is a composition of organically grown Chardonnay, Giró Ros and Malvasía grapes in equal parts. Our vines were eleven years old at the time of the harvest. All grapes were carefully collected by hand, at the end of August 2016. Vineyard Son Alegre is one of the few vineyards of Mallorca cultivating all their vines and in fact all their land according to EU organic farming standards following the principles of Biodynamic and sustainable agriculture. We take the natural harmony of Nature serious. We are farming in sustainable ways based on an understanding of the ecosystem and the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. As a consequence, we leave our soil undisturbed by not ploughing our land.

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Our new young white wine was vinified at a controlled temperature of between 16 and 18º C during the fermentation process with a maceration of 20 days. The fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. The wine matured for six months in the tanks and a further two months in the bottle. The wine was bottled in March 2016. The alcohol content is 12.5% vol. Only 8,000 bottles were produced. Ideally, we would like to have had more of this wine for sale but we are only a small vineyard. Quantity is not our main objective; quality is, as well as an utmost respect for our land with the highest regard for Nature and the environment. In any case, we are grateful for and appreciative of what we have been able to achieve at Son Alegre over the last few years since we started our vineyard.

Son Alegre Ramon Lo Foll 1

The Ramon Lo Foll 2016 white wine is best served at a temperature of 8º C and is well suited to the setting of Mallorca and to the Mediterranean climate. The wine is pleasing on the palate, fresh and refreshing. Its colour is clear and gentle. The wine has a distinct character and can be drunk on its own, in the company of good friends, with snacks or cheese, with fresh fish or with chicken, white meat, pasta or vegetarian dishes. Enjoy. And please, drink in moderation.

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Salut.

The Amazingly Rich Diversity of Balearic Grapes

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Between 1869 and 1891, the Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria published the most intriguing œuvre about the Balearic Islands under the title Die Balearen, spanning some 6,000 pages of information spread over 9 books. Ludwig Salvator, for nearly 40 years a resident of Mallorca, learned the island’s local language and conducted research into its flora and fauna, history and culture, as well as agriculture, architecture, industry and navigation, and so forth.

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The extraordinary publication is pretty rare in its original edition, published in German, but book lovers can sneak a glimpse of the beautiful edition by visiting the impressive library at the Fundación Bartolomé March, in Palau March, just below the Palau de l’Almudaina in Palma. Admission is free (Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 to 14:00h, Tuesday and Thursday from 16:00 to 20:00h). Or you could have a look at the online version here (in German).

It would appear that the Archduke’s masterpiece, which has no equal in the field of regional studies and ethnology, was never published in English, however, it is available in Spanish (Caixa d’Estalvis de les Balears “Sa Nostra”, 1980-91) and, as far as the Mallorca segment is concerned, also in Catalan (Govern de les Illes Balears and Grup Serra, 1999).

In an ample chapter on agriculture the encyclopaedic publication contains in all three languages a prolific section on vines and winemaking, with the description of 39 indigenous grape varieties found in Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza. The Archduke is said to have planted the Malvasia grape on his estate near Valldemossa.

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Only last week, the Govern de les Illes Balears and its Department for Environment, Agriculture and Fishery published a very useful and informative book in Catalan about the native grape varieties in the Balearic Isles. If you are interested in wine and wine making in Mallorca, give yourself a treat and acquire this stupendous sourcebook, listing, in great detail, 28 autochthonous grape varieties suitable for winemaking (Al·leluia, Argamuss, Batista, Batista mallorquin, Callet, Callet negrella, Escursac, Esperó de gall, Fernandella, Fogoneu, Fogoneu mallorquí, Gafarró, Galmeter, Giró negre, Giró ros, Gorgollassa, Malvasia de Banyalbufar, Mancès de capdell, Mancès de tibús, Manto negro, Moll, Quigat, Sabater, Sinsó, Valent blanc, Valent negre, Vinater blanc and Vinater negre) plus 10 more varieties classified as table grapes (Calop blanc, Calop negre, Calop vermell, Joanillo, Mamella de vaca, Moscatell, Moscatell romà, Pepita de oro, Pepita rosada, Peu de rata).

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Of course, many more grape varieties exist in Mallorca and are cultivated for winemaking but those are predominantly of either French, Italian, Spanish or German origin.

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To make things a little more complicated and perhaps also a bit more intriguing, there are some grape varieties that currently are not authorised for winemaking by the Mallorcan mandarins, be those grapes of foreign, national or native origin.

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Oh well, politics.

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Today’s photos of grapes and vineyard were taken by John Hinde. Thank you very much.

In February the almond trees are blossoming

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At Vineyard Son Alegre, we are not only interested in wine and olive oil. We are interested in all things of nature and everything else that makes and shapes the culture of our beautiful island.

The month of February is the time of the almond blossom. As our Mallorcan proverb says, ‘Pel mes de febrer floreix l’ametller‘ (in February the almonds are blossoming).

Right now almond trees are in full bloom all over the island. The Mediterranean climate aids the Almond tree (Prunus dulcis) even though it is not an indigenous plant like the Olive tree (Olea europaea), the Holm oak (Quercus ilex) or the Carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua). Almond trees were mostly planted here in the aftermath of the Philoxera disaster some hundred and twenty years ago which wiped out most of the Mallorcan grape plantation, to give affected farmers a new life-line and a new source of income.

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After the recent cold spell with the snow and heavy weather we had a fortnight or so ago, the flowering of the almond trees under a blue sky in February suggests the imminent arrival of Springtime and once again the awakening of the natural beauty of this island.

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Sadly, almond trees in Mallorca are currently suffering from a deadly disease or tree pest, an infection inflicted by the xilófago insect. Quite a number of almond trees have already died as a result of this affliction. One speaks of up to 12,000 hectares of almond plantations lost over the last few years. There is also recent news about the Xylella fastidiosa bacterium, a vibrant plant pathogen that causes further damage to our almond trees as well as olive trees and cherry trees. Authorities in Spain are concerned that this bacterium also threatens citrus fruit trees as well as the Mallorcan vine.

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The town of Son Servera is holding the Fira de la Flor d’Ametler tomorrow from 09h00 to 14h30 in case you should be so inclined. We might as well enjoy this natural beauty whilst it is still around.

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All photos of today’s blog entry were taken by John Hinde. Thank you very much for letting us use them here.

The Soil Has the Last Word

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Son Alegre‘s Miquel Manresa was recently asked to give an interview by the new magazine ConCiencia, published in Palma on a monthly basis and now only in its second month. The interview was published in the issue of December 2016 under the heading ‘La tierra tiene la última palabra‘ (The soil has the last word). We at Son Alegre are very happy about this published feature and would like to give you the opportunity to see and read it for yourself.

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For those of our friends who might struggle a bit with the Spanish language, here is a brief translation of the interview:

THE EARTH HAS THE LAST WORD

Vineyard Son Alegre

The owner of Son Alegre, Miquel Manresa, proudly shows us his vineyard, a perfect example of how Nature looks after herself.

Our walk begins by listening to the “sound of the earth”. This man is in love with his work and his vineyard; he lets us participate in his dialogue. He speaks with each stone, with each branch, and each animal or insect, thanking them for their contribution and collaboration so that this land enables the fruit produce to give us the best 100% ecological wine.

The land is doing the cultivating process all on its own. There is no need for us humans to do what roots, worms and microorganisms can do best. In addition, the act of ploughing the soil alters the natural environment and promotes the growth of weeds. Miquel tells us with absolute conviction that only through respect and love of Nature we can find the balance and harmony we have lost and which we do need so much.

Miquel continues to tell us that the vineyard is cultivated according to the principles of Fukuoka [1] which implies a “total respect for Nature and the environment”.

The particular weather conditions of our land give our wine the unique and special qualities it has. The cold air coming from the sea is reacting with the warmer air which has been heated by its contact with the warm earth and this encounter generates a fresh air stream during the hot summer afternoons.

We tend to believe that it is the grape which gives the wine its flavour, when it really is the land on which the grapes are cultivated which creates its particular taste. This is due to the typology of the soil, providing some elementary nutrients to the vines and also partly due to the microclimate of the area.

At Son Alegre we grow vines on 15 hectares at two different locations, one on the edge of Santanyí, in the area between Son Danus and Ses Angoixes, and the other one in the neighbouring area of Can Taconer in Calonge.

For us, growing the grapes is an opportunity to live out our fascination for the wonderful complexity of the natural environment. We use the classical methods of practice in viticulture and oenology. The grape harvest is done only by hand and in crates, the pressing is done the traditional way, the fermentations are facilitated with indigenous natural yeasts and the barrels used for the ageing of the wine are made of French oak.

At Son Alegre, a very important tool for our work is the lunar calendar. By observing the phases of the moon, the way our ancestors always have done it, we know the most propitious time for the pruning of our fruit, the grafting of plum on to almond branches, the planting of new trees, the planting of cereals, the harvesting of our grapes, the mating of pigs, sheep or horses, or even the cutting of our hair.

He speaks very animatedly, explaining all the intricacies of the finca, that we find it slightly difficult to follow and, more so, transcribe so much information in a single interview.

Nature creates and gives peace, supports us and helps us to find a balanced state of equilibrium, just what is needed so badly in our times. Here, the conversation focuses on education and the importance of keeping children in permanent contact with a natural and healthy environment. *

* ConCiencia and MundoFeliz propose to our readers to use this special set-up to hold workshops for schoolchildren, to give the young ones an opportunity to connect with the land.

We could spend hours and hours talking to a person who conveys so much ancestral wisdom, learned through the work which he carries out day by day in his vineyard, being continually connected with Nature which he loves and so deeply respects.

Miquel, it would be an honour for us to have you at some of our conferences and events. You will always have a special space in our magazine. And of course, we will taste your wines!

To which he responds, with his usual relaxedness, being as calm and cheerful as is his land, that he will gladly share his knowledge with us, our readers and friends.

See you soon, Miquel.

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[1] The Principles of Fukuoka:

Do not plough or turn the soil: In this way the structure and composition of the soil is maintained with its optimal conditions of humidity and micronutrients.

Do not use chemical fertilizers or prepared compost: Through the interaction of the different botanical, animalistic and mineral elements of the soil, the fertility of the cultivated soil is regenerated as in any non-domesticated ecosystem.

Do not use herbicides or weed killers: These destroy the nutrients and microorganisms of the soil, and are only justified in monocultures. Instead, Fukuoka proposes an interaction of plants to enrich and control the biodiversity of the soil.

Do not use chemical pesticides: These also kill the natural richness of the soil. The presence of insects in farming can be healthy.

Do not prune: Allow the plant growth to follow its natural course.

Use clay seed balls.

These fundamental working principles are based on a philosophy of Do- Nothing (Wu Wei), or more accurately, of not intervening or forcing things.

Fukuoka reached a degree of comprehension of the microsystems of the soil and devised a system of farming that desists from unnecessary tillage and unnecessary endeavours of traditional agriculture. His method, which he sometimes called Natural Agriculture Mahāyāna, is based on starting to give and to then receive in a natural way, rather than be demanding on the soil until it is exhausted.