Bodegas Tamerán is an exciting new winery in The Canary Islands, making waves with their unique single-variety white wines. Jamie Goode spoke with winemaker Jonatan Garcia, also of Suertes del Marques, about this intriguing project.
Bodegas Tamerán is the winery owned by ex-Manchester City footballer (and club legend) David Silva. It is based in San Bartolomé de Tirajana, in Gran Canaria.
Gran Canaria hasn’t been known for high quality wines in the past, but David Silva wants to change this with Tamerán. He’s enlisted the right help, because the wines are made by Jonatan Garcia of Suertes del Marques in Orotava, Tenerife. Like Tenerife, Gran Canaria is a volcanic island, but with slightly different soils (poorer and less acidic than Orotava, with more sand and less clay).
Jonatan and David had become friends after David had tried some of Jonatan’s wine while he was in Manchester. David, who comes from Gran Canaria, bought the vineyard from another winery on the island, and the first vintage – 2020 – was made in rented space at Los Berrazales (in Agaete). The second vintage was made in the newly built Tamerán winery.
Farming is organic, with the only treatment used in the vineyard some sulphur against powdery mildew. Because this is on the south facing side of the island, the climate is quite warm, resulting in wines tending to opulence, but as with Jonatan’s own wines, there’s freshness and vitality here.
I interviewed Jonatan to find out more about the project.
Jamie Goode: Jonatan, I’m really impressed with this first vintage. How did the project start?
Jonatan Garcia: I’m really happy that you like the first vintage. I’m happy with the results, for a place I didn’t know – I didn’t know the grapes and the soils – and also working in another cellar, it’s not like making Suertes where I have my team, I have my equipment. So I’m happy with the result, and also David is happy with the results. The next vintage, 2021, I think is going to be a step ahead of 2020. But I’m happy with 2020.
It all started when David contacted me by Twitter because he was drinking El Ciruelo 2016, and he was impressed. He said, congratulations, it is great that the wines from the Canary Islands are so good now. So we started a friendship. Six months later we were talking about making something together, and he said, we could make something in Tenerife together. I replied that I know Tenerife, I have different projects here, so for me this doesn’t have any interest. I said ‘why don’t we look for something in Gran Canaria?’ Finally, he found a vineyard that was selling, so I negotiated for him. I visited and saw that they had planted local varieties. If they had planted international grapes, I’d have told him there was no interest. But the grapes I found there were amazing.
Jamie Goode: Is David a wine fan?
Jonatan Garcia: Yes, he’s a freak! He is obsessive. When he does something, he wants to be the best. If he wants to be a footballer, he wants to win, to always improve. With the winery it is the same. He wants to do something that he can be proud of. He tastes very well: he tastes a lot of wine. He doesn’t only taste labels, he likes it a very good Morgon, or Rioja from Artuke. He’s a person that appreciates the quality of the wine first.
Jamie Goode: How are these vineyards different from yours on Tenerife?
Jonatan Garcia: The main difference is the orientation. In the Canary Islands, in the islands with elevation it is very important whether you face north or south. In Lanzarote, there are flat areas, so this is not so important there. These vineyards are facing south, so they have higher temperatures and more sun. This makes the wines much more aromatic than those from the north face of the island. The second difference is that the pH of the soils is higher than in Oratava (Tenerife). The pH in Oratava is 4.5/5, which is very acid, while in Gran Canaria it is 6.5/7.
I have a feeling that being in a warmer place, if I were to make a malolactic fermentation the wines would be too wide, too fat. So, when we finished the alcoholic fermentation I added sulphites fast, to block the malolactic and keep acidity. Also, I advanced the harvest time by around three weeks from where the previous owners picked the grapes, to preserve acidity. I like wines that have freshness and acidity. The wines are from 11.5% alcohol to 13%, whereas before they were at 14%. At 14% I don’t think the wines would have the tension and the freshness.
Jamie Goode: What are the soils here?
Jonatan Garcia: It is a mix. In some parts there is a bit of limestone, but it’s mostly a mix of sand and silt, with a little bit of clay.
Jamie Goode: Does David have just one vineyard or lots of different plots?
Jonatan Garcia: When I went there, I didn’t see a big difference in the soils from one side to the other. The composition of the vineyards is in blocks. So, I thought there was more sense in taking a new world-style block approach, rather than the old-world whole vineyard approach. For example, in block 4 the grape is Marmajuelo. I make the wine using the block concept, not by terroir. We work with single grape varieties from single blocks.
Jamie Goode: So, at the moment you have wines that are single grape varieties. Is that the model?
Jonatan Garcia: That is the model. But there are some grapes where we don’t have very much, so we blend them in, but they are a small percentage of blends. Mostly, we work with single grapes.
Jamie Goode: So, this was a good start, with the first vintage made in a borrowed cellar. Now you have your own?
Jonatan Garcia: Yes, we made the 2021 in our own cellar that we built. It is in the middle of the vineyard; it is a fantastic place. I made the 2020 in another cellar, but with our barrels. For me it is very important that we do fermentation in oak – foudres and barrels. We had some new Stockinger barrels, but you don’t feel that they were new.
Jamie Goode: In terms of the elevage, it is very similar to the way you make the wines at Suertes?
Jonatan Garcia: I make them in exactly the same way. I have learned a lot from this project. Sometimes I start to think, is my style of winemaking reductive? But then I realised it is not the style, it is about the soils. Our soils in Oratava with low pH are less balanced and sometimes they cause the wines to become reductive. Also in Oratava, the wines from Trenzado from the west where there is more black basalt are more reductive than the soils from Vidonia, from the centre and the east, with more clay. For me this was a good exercise for understanding that not all the wines from the Canary Islands must be reductive.
Jamie Goode: Yes, you are known for making wines with Suertes that often have this reductive character, but that is not your stylistic imprint, it is the place being shown through the lens of microbiology: the yeasts are causing reduction because of the lack of nutrients from the soil.
Jonatan Garcia: Yes, it is the soils, but it could also be something about the yeasts and the grapes. It is not easy to isolate a single reason, but for me the soil is very important.
Jamie Goode: What are you planting?
Jonatan Garcia: We have planted Listan Blanco. David likes Vidonia a lot, and so we have planted Listan Blanco to see how it does here. Last year we planted a big plot of Baboso Blanco. It makes fantastic wine and has great potential. We will plant some more this year.
Jamie Goode: This sounds like a fun project.
Jonatan Garcia: Yes, David is a fantastic person and he enjoys this a lot. He is always asking, and trying to learn every day. He is a fanatic for knowing everything. It helps that he’s a great wine enthusiast.
Bodegas Tamerán, Vijariego Blanco, 2020, Gran Canaria, Spain
11.5% alcohol. Fermented in 500 litre barrel. Full yellow/gold in colour. Richly aromatic with pear, canteloup melon and mandarin notes on the nose. The palate is lively and intense with good acidity and forward pear and melon fruit, a bit of baked peach, with some taut lemony notes sitting underneath. Vivid and characterful with lovely fruit intensity, finishing with some firmness. 93/100
Bodegas Tamerán, Verdello, 2020, Gran Canaria, Spain
12% alcohol. Fermented in a 1500 litre foudre. Full yellow colour. Lemony aromatics with some pear and a touch of orange peel. The palate has lovely texture with some richness to the lemon and table grape notes, with a chalky, mineral underpinning. Lively but assured with nice weight. Quite special, and a little understated. 94/100
Bodegas Tamerán, Malvasia Volcanico, 2020, Gran Canaria, Spain
11.5% alcohol. Fermented in a 2500 litre foudre. This is lively and aromatic and has a lovely grapey edge to the keen citrus fruit. Real power and intensity here, with a lovely acid line and distinctive minerality. Long, spice-laden, mineral finish. Such intensity and power, with real complexity. 94/100
Bodegas Tamerán, Marmajuelo, 2020, Gran Canaria, Spain
13% alcohol. Fermented in a 2500 litre foudre. So intriguing: powerful flavours of pear, apple, lime and grapefruit, with good acidity. Quite intense and mineral with lovely presence. Initially understated, this finishes expansively with complex fruity notes coupled with a lovely minerally acid line. 93/100
Bodegas Tamerán, Baboso Blanco, 2020, Gran Canaria, Spain
12% alcohol. Fermented in a 500 litre barrel. Intensely aromatic with powerful quince and peach notes, as well as some spicy notes. The palate is intense and concentrated with a great acid line and powerful pear, mandarin and grapefruit. So intense with great acidity and very ripe fruit. 95/100