Even during a time when people are exploring wines beyond world-renowned regions like Bordeaux and Rioja, the wines of Mallorca, Spain, remain relatively unknown. As the largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca enjoys a healthy tourism industry and a long history of winemaking stretching back to Roman times.
Pliny the Elder, Roman author and naturalist, wrote of its wines with great enthusiasm, comparing them to the best of Italy. While most of the wine produced on the island today is made from indigenous grapes, a growing handful of wineries are taking advantage of the island’s microclimates and the moderating influence of the Mediterranean Sea to make international varietal wines that display great finesse.
Enter Bodega Son Mayol, which has been producing a Bordeaux-style Premiere Vin and Grand Vin from its 24- ha vineyard since 2014.
As far as wineries go, Bodega Son Mayol is young but has considerable weight behind it. The wines are the creation of the late Patrick Leon, the highly influential winemaker who made wines for estates like Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Opus One. Today, his work is continued by the winery’s technical director Marie Barbe, who has seen winemaking experience all over the world and worked in places like India, Russia and Chile.
The Peak speaks to Barbe about making wine on an island paradise.
What was it like to work alongside Patrick Leon?
It was an honour. He was a demanding person and had a great deal of experience in the vineyards and winemaking and even in subjects like marketing and how the international market works. He knew how to surround himself with competent people. On a personal level, he was also someone with great human qualities and enjoyed the good things in life.
You’ve made wine all over the world. What is it like in Mallorca?
Patrick brought me to Son Mayol to help him develop this magnificent project. At first, I thought we were going to a vineyard that would be a little hot and sunny, and produced heavier, New World-type wines.
But the terroir of Son Mayol turned out to be pretty unique and produced a wine with natural freshness and a notable balance of acidity.
In vineyards in Chile, India and Russia, the balance of the wine often has to be corrected. Here at Son Mayol, our varieties are more accustomed to colder and wetter climates, and the vines react in surprising ways. We’ve almost no need to envy our French neighbours with our beautiful clays and limestone soils that allow us to retain freshness in the wine.
What is the house style at Son Mayol?
Our wines are worked in the style of the grand crus of Bordeaux. We’re searching for extraction and power combined with finesse and elegance for the Grand Vin. For the Premier Vin selection, gourmet and convivial dimension.
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Can you tell us about the gravitation process at the winery? Is it pump-free?
The winery has three floors. As the grapes get turned into wine, it flows through each floor of the building. There is no harvest pump at the reception and the tanks are racked by gravity for the descent into barrels. As much as possible, gravity moves the product from one stage to the next.
Gravity plays the biggest role at the reception of the harvest because it allows gentle work and is easier to control than a pump. Having whole grapes without any premature crushing is important. Building the winery downwards was also an architectural and aesthetic decision. It also allows us to better control the temperature as two levels of our building are underground.
The cellar doesn’t fully operate on gravity though. Doing so would have required the implementation of many circuits and mechanical movements, so we use devices like peristaltic pumps for the pump-over as well for the racking of the barrels, filtration and bottling.
Bodega Son Mayol is a young winery. What’s next on the cards?
Production is low at the moment but will increase in the next 10 years as we plant more in our vineyard. We are experimenting with cabernet franc and mourvedre, and have started production on rose wine. It’s a young area and vineyard, so I’m looking forward to discovering the potential of the terroir.