The inimitable persistence called Baboso Negro

The reader can imagine a meeting in the “Garden of Varieties” of the Viñátigo winery of people that, outside their duties related to serving wine, are truly passionate about this world. It is really intended as a master of wine grapes and wines: chewing, detecting the explosion of juice in each variety, touching the bunches “in situ” transports what is the expression of the fruit in the winemaking development. Remember the legend Tanajara? Well, re-imagine the Baboso Negro grape.

The wine harvesting continues and in this very important phase in the future wine, airs of El Hierro come with this powerful, personalistic, and concrete manifestations in their organoleptic fruit. “We visit our grapes to understand our wines; variety, along with the influence exerted on the same soil, climate and man’s hand, makes up a high percentage of the nectar that we get, “says the alma mater of the Viñátigo winery, Juan Jesus Mendez.

From this claim uncovers the story of a difficult growing typology, its peculiar name given by the wine growers of yesteryear because when approaching harvest it has a great tendency to rot due to the delicacy of its skin.

“It is curious that finally it has ended up being grown only in El Hierro” -explains Méndez-, “like other varieties this is due to the isolation that the island was subjected to for centuries. The research which we carried out at the Rovira i Virgili University, showed that it genetically matches the Alfroncheiro preto, in the area of Alentejo in Portugal, where it is still cultivated as a minority. It was surely a Portuguese settler who brought it to the Islands.

But if the truly amazing Baboso Negro specific data is known, this knowledge comes in many of those coincidences that so often give a caper in the worlds of wine and cuisine. “In 1997 I met Gonzalo Padron, a student from El Hierro who was studying winemaking at the School of Agricultural Training in Tacoronte, Tenerife; He invited me to visit the family farm on the Meridian Island“. Juan Jesús Méndez recounts the story that at first he was reluctant to what would become a “bomb”. “Because of his insistence, I finally accepted the invitation and visited the estate in El Pinar”. There, the oenologist made contact with a “force of nature” that bears that name because it can start gushing juice, literally like slime. (Baboso means slimy in Spanish).

Therefore, this variety is grown in locations where it cannot be directly impacted by the trade winds and moreover, the land must not be too fertile in order to prevent extreme compaction of the clusters. It should be noted at this point that if the trade winds determine the climate, altitude also plays an important role in allowing such a small territory to be able to coexist within short distances from subtropical to continental climates. Thus, it is suitable for growing vine varieties very different from one another and is one of the factors which demonstrates the richness and diversity of Canary wine conditions.

A marvel. Committing to the organoleptic characteristics of the Baboso Negro, it should be mentioned that “we have a very powerful and forceful grape, concentrated like no other, to the point of giving the impression that the drink can be almost chewed.” In fact, the reference of the Viñátigo Baboso Negro (DOP Canary Islands) details it perfectly with a taste description calling it a structured and powerful processing, which is heavy in the mouth, and very intense. A high-intensity wine with maroon red marks, in the olfactory phase it holds a superiority of ranges of floral aromas reminiscent of jasmine against fruit and balsamic aromas.

Juan Jesús Méndez stresses that as a single variety, “The Baboso Negro variety is interesting, however, it is tremendous in its contribution to the blending.” Let us return to 1997. It is noteworthy that in this visit to El Hierro, Juan Jesus Mendez found the Negramuelle to be a majority, a term that in those parts was equivalent to Listán Negro. “What really caught my attention was the existence of some strains of two varieties that I found interesting: they were the Vijariego Negro and, of course, the Baboso Negro”.

“Of the two, I found the latter to be especially spectacular due to its concentration, although over the years and successive trials it has also shown that Vijariego must also be held in high regard”. The oenologist of La Guancha then decided to experiment with them: three years in each vintage, six boxes of grapes for microvinifications being transported to Tenerife on Binter Airlines that validated initial expectations. “Not without reluctance from the Padrón family, we managed to get by without the Negramuelleand implement Baboso and Vijariego”.

From this decision, the mythical Tanajara project was born launching the first harvest to market in 2001. A legendary brand inside and outside our community and one that lasted until 2011, “Finally succumbing to the economic crisis in El Hierro.

Viñátigo took over plantations of this fabulous grape which today the Tenerife winery pays tribute to the vinification of this Baboso Negro (with a patient ageing for 12 months in French oak barrels), and stimulates splendid “coupages” in the red Viñátigo Ensamblaje and red Viñátigo Elaboraciones Ancestrales.

Fran Belín (Blog Con Cúrcuma)

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