The Envínate team met at wine school. Now, they are united in their mission of creating soulful low-sulphur natural wines from Tenerife, Ribeira Sacra and Castilla-La Mancha, from rare and indigenous varieties such as Listán Prieto (País) and Listán Blanco (Palomino).
LITTLEWINE spoke with Roberto over the phone
All photographs by Estanis Nuñez
"We believe that wines get their personality from the soil, their character from the vintage, and their soul from the people working in the vineyard."
People: Laura Ramos, Jose Martínez, Roberto Santana and Alfonso Torrente
Place: Tenerife (the Canary Islands), Ribeira Sacra and Castilla-La Mancha (Spain)
Varieties: Listán Blanco, Listán Prieto, Listán Negro, Gual, Malvasia, Verdejo, Negramoll, Mencía, Listán Gacho/Listán Rosada, Moravia Agria
Wines: Click here
Did You Know? In Castilla la Mancha, where the Albahra cuvée was born, they also discovered the Moravia Agria grape, of which only 40 hectares remain. It produces wines with lower alcohol and high acidity, with a pale colour. Historically this was useful as a blending variety, but once people began to sell their grapes in the 70s and 80s, higher prices were given for fruit that could create higher alcohol and darker wines. This was bad business for poor Moravia Agria, so most of it was ripped out to be planted to other varieties. Envínate is working to revive it.
“We try to recover vineyards to prevent them from becoming abandoned.”
Tenerife was the last of the Canary Islands to fall to the Spanish, after which many of the native Guanche people died from new infectious diseases, were enslaved or intermarried with the colonists. Sadly, today they are considered a lost culture.
There is also strong Portuguese influence on the island, and both Portuguese and Spanish influence can be seen in the wines and vineyards. In the south, there are more examples of Listán Blanco (Palomino) and Listán Prieto.
Listán Prieto holds a particularly fascinating history; it was almost wiped out in Spain post-phylloxera (the root-eating killer louse that almost wiped out Europe’s vineyards in the 19th century), but several centuries earlier it had been brought to the Americas on ships from Spain and Tenerife, together with the horrific element of this part of history: the slaves from Africa (Tenerife lies not far from Morocco). This means that while it was almost lost in Spain, it survived in the “New World” – in Chile and Argentina where it is known as País, and in North America, where it is often known as Mission, as it was predominantly introduced by the Spanish missionaries. The vines here are planted as bush vines; the historical way of planting vines in Spain.
Meanwhile, in the north of the island where there is more Portuguese influence, you also find more Portuguese varieties, such as Gual, Malvasia, Verdejo and Negramoll. Initially, many of these varieties had been introduced to boost the alcohol levels of Listán Blanco for exporting the wines on boat to the UK. However, when harvested earlier, they can produce fresh and very exciting wines with lower alcohol levels.