Marmajuelo: the treasure he was about to rescue

The journalist Fran Belín discovers in an article published in Canarias3puntocero some of the singularities of Marmajuelo, one of the grape varieties rescued and cultivated with careful zeal by Bodegas Viñátigo.

We reproduce the text of his full article here:

Those who decide to direct their concerns about wine by channelling it through the experience of the hedonistic pleasure of tasting knows, from the first steps of learning, that the variety of grape used by the producer, along with other features that the winery confers, will to configure a defining personality. Thus, for years Viñátigo-Marmajuelo has formed a tandem that has not gone unnoticed in the international and Canary Islands markets.

The harvest is in full swing these days and about 15,000 bottles of this excellent wine-growing reference from the Canary Islands-Tenerife PDO can be seen from the campaign. The activity is full and meticulous on the plot of the Mazapé cliff, in San Juan de la Rambla, as well as on Isla Baja (Garachico and Buenavista).

The vintage draws excellent omens of a unique variety and, after the pertinent process, a wine that will not fail those who want to taste a truly splendid marmajuelo (also called bermejuela).

His thing would be to visualize the pictures and horizons (go to, Viticulture / Our plots tab) where the vine of a type of fruit is established from which Viñátigo obtains a reference of unusual intensity and that is vindicated in the mouth with power, long and expressive aftertaste persistence. As for the Mazapé plot, 160 meters above sea level and 4.7 hectares in size, we visited the first enclave of these dimensions that served to house rescued minority varieties. Sun exposure lasts all day and at the aforementioned altitude, the climatic conditions are added that are very mild, ideal for marmajuelo. Although it may seem like a truism, you will not be stubborn by insisting that the high quality of the wine is forged in the field, in the vineyard. Care is millimetric for those compact clusters that treasure both locations, of medium size and cylindrical-winged, with short wedge-shaped leaves and yellow-green colour.

I think that talking about marmajuelo, its recovery and the nectar that this fruit provides is a very interesting topic and, furthermore, because all this did not arise for its own sake,” says Juan Jesús Méndez Siverio, alma mater of Viñátigo, with the main winery in La Guancha." We found the variety around the year 91 - he remembers - from the hand of Cayo Armas at his El Hierro farm (in El Golfo, specifically), where he kept some vines".

The winemaker emphasizes that “from then on we have not stopped evolving in the interpretation of its behaviour, in its cultivation and in the concepts of production, adapting to new market trends, such as vinification without the application of allergenic clarifiers and the minimization of sulfites”. The incessant search Those marmajuelo cuttings that were placed in the Cabo Verde Estate - where the Viñátigo project began, in the main winery - were used to undertake very different tests and scientific works on a grape “that I personally would define as a whole fun festival of aromas and carrier of organoleptic characteristics that suggest exoticism”, comments Juan Jesús Méndez.

The idea is widely accepted - by way of curiosity - that at the beginning all grape varieties were red and that, as a consequence of evolution, the genes responsible for pigmentation have been lost. Taking this theory as good, we could say that marmajuelo is still a variety in this process, so it is very tannic in the mouth when chewed and then in the wine it reveals a more intense yellow color than usual in other varieties”.

The oenologist takes the opportunity to emphasize that from the investigations carried out on molecular genetic identification at the Rovira y Virgili University in Tarragona, it was assumed that, due to its DNA, the Canarian marmajuelo does not exist anywhere else in the world.

This irrefutable credential together with the winery's philosophy of working with natural, indigenous “wickers” and discarding (aggressive disinfectants) also aggressive practices, add spectacular value to the productions that give an annual average of 15,000 bottles in perfectly numbered series.

The milestones of a long journey

Méndez also refers to the first important study on marmajuelo that dates back to 2000 and in which the universities of La Laguna and Zaragoza were involved through a European ERDF project. This initiative led to the identification of the aromatic descriptors of the variety.

During the tasting of a wine, precisely the olfactory perception (analytical attention) is organized based on a principle of differentiation of registered aromas and in this selective memory we go to our series of comparative sources: smells of fruits, flowers, wood, of spices,... Marmajuelo has a high aromatic intensity and exotic references that recall the passion fruit, as well as the fineness of the fig leaf.

Our path is based on two key aspects: quality and differentiation, where the potential offered by our incredible varietal richness plays a crucial role. We can obtain very different products that can find a place in an increasingly globalized and competitive market ”, adds Méndez Siverio.

In the case of marmajuelo, with high acidity at maturation, it favours very noble wines in this facet. It should be noted that Viñátigo, taking advantage of the experience in the recovery of Galician varieties from the Galician Oenological Station, promoted a very interesting project, financed by INIA, in which the knowledge of the cultivation of various Canarian varieties, fertility, ... among which was the marmajuelo.

In 2004, a doctoral thesis presented by Elena Batista at the University of La Laguna on the optimization of the winemaking processes of marmajuelo and gual began from the La Guancha winery. In short, Viñátigo's constant commitment to renewal and commitment to new wines from a raw material that was there, that has been rescued and for which they have allocated significant technological investments, work and enthusiasm.

Fran Belín

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