The island of Menorca, a biosphere reserve, lends its name to wines with a Illa de Menorca regional wine indication made with locally grown grapes. There can be no doubting the quality and renown of wines from the island of Menorca. Many allusions have been made to them in the past, but perhaps one of the most significant was the fact that the Moslem authorities presented the ambassadors of King Jaume I with a gift of this wine on the occasion of an agreement made in 1231 for their subordination to the king. Following the island's occupation by Great Britain in 1708, there was a big rise in the population. This, added to the fact that British ships stocked up on stores in the Port of Maó, led to a big increase in wine production and the cultivation of bigger areas of vines, even though wine was subject to high taxation.
References on the subject can be found in the book "A History of Menorca" by the English engineer, Armstrong. During the 18th century, wine production increased and it was even exported. Riudavets offers proof of how important vine growing was in the 19th century in his "A History of the Island of Menorca", quantifying the vines in 1817 as covering an area of 1500 hectares.
A special mention should be made of the containers and measures used in the Menorcan wine trade, and numerous references can be found to the fact that wine was kept in wineskins, migbocois (half barrels), bocois (barrels) and wineskins with oak or chestnut rings. The main measure used for selling wine was a half quarter (3 litres): 2 halfs were equivalent to a quarter, 2 quarters were equal to a gerra, 5 quarters were the same as a barral, and 20 quarters equalled a càrrega. The half quarter and quarter measures had an esparto or split cane lining. In the 19th century wine production in Menorca underwent a recession mainly due to the end of Great Britain's occupation of the island and vine disease. The end of British occupation signalled the emigration of a large number of people and a reduction in maritime trade to and from the Port of Maó, leading to a decrease in consumption. At the same time, vine disease, particularly philoxera, was very detrimental to production. Despite this, in the late 19th century, according to information quoted by Archduke Louis Salvator, winemaking was an important business. There can be no doubt about Menorca's aptitude for vine growing. In 1909 Pedro Mir bore witness to this in his article "The Future of Agriculture in Menorca", published in the magazine "Revista de Menorca". At the beginning of the 20th century wine production was mainly focused on internal consumption until, in the 1980s in Es Mercadal, a modern vine-growing and wine-producing project was embarked on, with specially selected vines and new vinicultural technology.
The Geographical and Climatic Setting
The island of Menorca is characterized by a gentle physical geography, with a predominance of deep, chalky brown soil with a loose and/or sandy texture on a complex lithological substratum made up of limestone rock, sandstone and slate. The island has a Mediterranean climate, with rainfall (over 600 mm/year) from autumn to spring and dry summers, registering average temperatures between 13 0C and 20 0C. Of particular note are its strong north winds that are common in winter months.
Conditions of production
To produce "Illa de Menorca" Regional wines, only the following varieties of grapes may be cultivated:
Reds : Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Monastrell, Ull de Llebre, Syrah.
Whites: Chardonnay, Macabeo, Malvasia, Moscatell de Alejandria, Parellada, Moll.
Traditional growing techniques are used, which tend to achieve better quality grapes, and the density of plantations is restricted to 5,300 vines/hectare. The formation and training of the vines is carried out using the gobelet or espalier systems. When pruning the vines, the maximum number of fruiting shoots is 30,000 per hectare (except for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties, which is 40,000). The grapes are harvested with extreme care and, to produce these Regional wines, only healthy grapes are used with the correct degree of ripeness and a minimum natural volumetric alcohol content of 11.5% for white varieties and 12% for red ones. Referring to wine production, the grape must is produced using traditional techniques applied to modern technology, directed at improving the quality of the wines. The correct pressure is applied to extract the juice and separate the residue, so that production does not rise above 70 litres of wine per 100 kg of harvested grapes.
The Wines Characteristics
The red Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines are the island's most typical. They are bright cherry-coloured wines with a predominance of red fruit and spicy aromas. In the mouth they are well rounded, with an average intensity and good structure and balance. As for its white wines, we should highlight the single-grape varieties made with Malvasia grapes from the Albufera del Grau Natural Park. They are bright, pale yellow wines with an abundant aroma characterized by a predominance of herbaceous fragrances (recently cut grass) and flowers (white flowers). In the mouth they are fresh tasting, strong and dry with a long-lasting flavour.
Minimum alcohol content White wine 11.5º Rose wine 12.0º Red wine 12.0º
They are required to have a total minimum acidity of 4.5 g/litre of tartaric acid, with a volatile acidity no higher than 0.8 g/litre, expressed as acetic acid.
The Control System
All bottles bearing the Illa de Menorca geographical indication are commercialized with an official control number allocated by the Consell de Menorca, which is responsible for the control and certification of Illa de Menorca regional wine.
Surface area covered by vines: 41,25 hectares
Wine production: 1.196,44 hl