The Amazingly Rich Diversity of Balearic Grapes


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


Oh well, politics.


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

Grape Harvest in Santanyí


September is always a busy month for us here at Son Alegre in Santanyí. September is the month of the grape harvest on the island of Mallorca. Depending on area and grape variety, some grapes, especially white ones like Chardonnay, Macabeu, Malvasía and Giró varieties, may already have been picked in the latter half of August.

In the past there were plenty of grape harvests in Santanyí. During the 1880s, some 580 cuarteradas of land (approx. 420 hectares) were cultivated here with vines. But the Grape phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae), a tiny sap-sucking insect, destroyed virtually all of Mallorca’s vineyards, including the ones in Santanyí, between 1893 and 1898. Son Alegre is the first, and so far only, vineyard in the Santanyí area to grow wine again since almost 120 years.


Even though this year was unusually dry in Mallorca with hardly any rainfall over the last eight months, the year 2016 promises to be a very good year for wine here in Mallorca, both in terms of quantity and quality. Our grapes do not seem to have suffered too much from the current water shortage. If anything, the lack of water may have improved the quality of our grapes; they are definitely smaller than usual but probably of a better quality. Had there been more water, the grapes would have a lower sugar level and a lesser concentration of aromas. It may have helped that we never plough our land and thus do not deprive the soil of any remaining humidity that might be stored that little bit further down below the surface where Mycorrhizae and other organisms form an important component of our soil life and soil chemistry.


Ten days ago we started with this year’s wine harvest at Son Alegre. We collected about 6,000 kilogrammes of white grapes and expect to convert these into perhaps 5,000 bottles of Son Alegre white wine, ready for consumption in 2017.

Our red grape varieties, such as Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell, will be harvested anytime soon between the middle and the end of September, depending on their state of maturation and on the analysis of their sugar content.


This year, Nature rewarded us again with a truly beautiful harvest, always in harmony with the land. We are truly blessed with our land and are grateful for what we receive from our soil, year after year.

Vinya Son Alegre Proudly Presents the New Organic Es Faralló White Wine

Es Faralló 2015 2

We are happy to present our new white wine, the Es Faralló 2015.

The Es Faralló white wine is a composition of organically grown Chardonnay (40%), Prensal (40%) and Malvasía (20%) grapes. Son Alegre is one of the few vineyards of Mallorca cultivating all their vines according to EU organic farming standards. Unlike most other vineyards, we also follow a number of principles of Biodynamic agriculture. We also leave our soil undisturbed by not ploughing our land. Our grapevines were ten years old at the time of the harvest at the end of August 2015. All grapes are always carefully collected by hand.

Son Alegre 2016 2

The young white wine was vinified at a controlled temperature of between 13 and 16º C during the fermentation process with a maceration of 21 days. The fermentation took place in stainless steel vats in our own new bodega in the village of Calonge (Santanyí). The wine matured for eight months in the tanks and a further two months in the bottle. The wine was bottled in June 2016. This year, the alcohol content of our white wine is 12.5% vol. Only 6,000 bottles of this wine were produced. We would like to have a higher output but we are still only a small vineyard. Growth is not our main objective; quality is, as well as respect for our land and the highest regards for Nature and the environment. In any case, we are grateful and beholden for what we have been able to achieve.

Es Faralló 3
Our Es Faralló 2015 white wine is best served at a temperature of 6-8º C and is well suited to the Mediterranean landscape and the climate of our precious island Mallorca.


Illustrating The Son Alegre Grape Varieties


Last week, and just before the autumnal rains set in, we finished harvesting our grapes of this year’s crop. The way it looks, it has been a good year, it has to be said. At the moment, we grow six different grape varieties at Vinya Son Alegre, four red (blue) ones and two white (green) ones.

The image above shows the Monastrell grape, a Navy blue grape variety with a small and compact grain of a spherical shape, and with a distinct flavor. This grape was probably introduced to the Iberian Peninsula and Catalonia in particular by the Phoenicians around 500 BC. We use the Monastrell grape in our Sant Andreu Negre 2010 wine as well as in our Ca’n Sureda Petit Ropit Negre 2010.


This grape is of the Merlot variety. The Merlot grape has a dark blue colour. The name Merlot is thought to be a diminutive of Merle noir, the French name for the Blackbird, probably in reference to the colour of the grape. The Merlot grape is used for our mono-varietal wines, Picarol Negre 2011 and Ca’n Sureda Merlot Negre 2010, as well as in our Picarol Rosat 2013 wine, our Es Pontàs Rosat 2013, our S’Antigor Negre 2012 (coming out soon) and our Ca’n Sureda Rosé Lucia 2012, which are all wines blended in combination with other grape varieties.


This image shows the Syrah grape. The Syrah is a small-berried grape variety with a dark blue skin of an Indigo blue colour. The name Syrah originates from the areas of northern France. When it reaches perfect maturity, wine connoisseurs consider this grape as one of the greatest for wine. Perfect maturity is not easy to be reached with this grape. The Syrah grape is rather vulnerable; it can easily be harvested just a tad too soon or it will suffer when it is harvested a few days too late. We hope we have got it right this year; fingers crossed. We use this grape in our Sa Porta Murada Negre 2011 wine as well as in our Picarol Rosat 2013 and our Es Pontàs Rosat 2013 wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon

This image shows the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape variety with a dark blue colour, almost Midnight blue, originating in the French region of Bordeaux. The plant is vigorous and well suited for warm climates with relatively low humidity. Cabernet Sauvignon is most widely distributed throughout the world among a diverse spectrum of climates. The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is used in our Picarol Rosat 2013 and our Es Pontàs Rosat 2013 wines, as well as in our S’Antigor Negre 2012 and our Ca’n Sureda Rosé Lucia 2012 wines.

We are preparing to plant vines of the Callet grape variety early next year, an indigenous grape variety of Mallorca and in particular of the Felanitx and Santanyí region. We will show you photos of the Callet grape as soon as it will be grown and ripened, probably not before 2016. Patience and victory are twin brothers, for victory comes with patience.


This photo shows the Malvasía grape. Our Malvasía grape is the Balearic variety of a green grape historically used to make dessert wine due to the presence of some residual sugar. The Malvasía grape is said to be of ancient Greek origin. There is also a red Malvasía negra grape variety but we do not grow that one (yet). We use the Malvasía grape for our Picarol Blanc 2013 and our Es Pontàs Blanc 2013 wines, as well as our Ca’n Sureda Blancs 2012.


The image above shows the Chardonnay grape. Chardonnay is a green grape variety with origins in the Burgundy region of eastern France, giving the wine a medium to light body. The grape is small and round and acquires a melon tone when fermented. The Chardonnay grape is used in our Picarol Blanc 2013 and our Es Pontàs Blanc 2013 wines, as well as our Ca’n Sureda Blancs 2012.

Earlier this year, we planted vines of two more green grape varieties, the Giró ros grape, another autochthonous grape variety of Mallorca as well as the Viognier, a white grape originating in the Rhine valley, especially in the department of Rhone (France). We will be able to show you photos of these two grapes in the autumn of 2015. The vines are doing well at the moment; the have taken root and are doing fine, but the grapes have not developed yet.

All photos shown above were taken by our friend and collaborator, John Hinde, as were in fact most of the photos used on this blog. Thank you, John.

The texts of this blog have so far always been written by Klaus Fabricius, just in case you wanted to know.

Cultivating the Malvasía Grape

Malvasía grape Vinyes Son Alegre

Vinyes Son Alegre is one of only a few vineyards growing the Malvasía grape variety. Historically, this grape has only been grown in the Mediterranean region, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and the island of Madeira, but now it is tended to in many other wine-making regions of the world as well, such as Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Corsica, the Iberian Peninsula, California, Arizona, Australia and Brazil. In the past, Malvasía wine was predominantly consumed as a sweet dessert wine similar to Malmsey wine from Madeira. The white Malvasia grape is more common but, a red Malvasia grape also exists.

In the old days, wine generally only had about 7 % of alcohol. As it was quite difficult then to sufficiently cool the wine, much of the wine as a consequence turned sour and could not be stored for any length of time. In contrast, the Malvasía wine even at that time had an alcohol content of about 14 %, allowing it to be stored that much more easily and longer. Its low degree of acidity was regarded as delicious. Soon, the sweet Malvasía dessert wine was very popular in the European courts.

Here in Mallorca, the Malvasía vine was only rediscovered in the 1980s. Then, the Malvasía grape only grew in the Tramuntana area, in Estellencs, Banyalbufar, Deià and Pollença, with Banyalbufar being the main producer. Of all the wine grown in this municipality, Malvasía is the only grape variety there. During the 16th century, a total of 25,000 litres of Malvasía dessert wine were produced by the Cooperativa de Banyalbufar alone, with most of that astounding amount being sent to the Court of Aragón.

We introduced Malvasía grapes to the area of Santanyí. In fact, you might be interested to know that we are the first and so far the only vineyard in Santanyí for more than 120 years. The Malvasía grape likes the climatic conditions at our land, where the coastward hinterland of Santanyí joins the Mallorcan Sierra de Llevante hills at an altitude of 66 m.

Vinyes Son Alegre wines

Apart from Malvasía, we grow other grape varieties as well. We also grow Chardonnay, Giró Ros and Viognier white grapes, and we grow Monastrell, Merlot, Syrah, Callet and Cabernet Sauvignon red grapes.

At the end of this Summer, we shall open Can Taconer, our shop in Calonge, where you will be able to sample our wines, as well as Sileo, our Aceite Ecológico de Oliva Virgen Extra (Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil). Watch this space for further information.