Son Grau Gran
It was whilst planning a food and wine tasting dinner for a hotel in central Palma that I first came into contact with Sergio Navarro. Winemaker, winery consultant, agricultural ergonomist, and super fan of using native grapes in his viticultural ventures, I knew we were going to get on. He invited me to visit a new wine project he was taking on in Alaro, and of course I jumped at the chance.
The picturesque backdrop signaling the exit to the bustling yet secluded town of Alaro never ceases to charm. Twin rocks (Puig de Alaro and Puig de sa Cadena) stand brazen against the shadow of the looming Tramuntana Mountains that course their path behind, and create quite the contrast to the flat vineyard plains one drives through to get there. Everything suddenly seems a little more green and tropical and the slight breeze (one of Mallorca’s 8 winds to traverse the island) is a refreshing reminder of the microclimates that exist here.
A little bit of history
Son Grau Gran is an old Mallorcan “Possesió” with historical roots dating back to the 14th Century and surrounded by 51 ha of olive groves, vineyards and woodland on the outskirts of the town. We are collected at the main gate by Sergio and Blanca, (whose family have owned the estate for the last 30 yrs), and given a tour in a golfcart type vehicle of the different parcels of land belonging to the finca. Blanca explains that the property would have originally served as the hub of agricultural activity and production for the town and its inhabitants. The main manor house would have been lived in by the family and the outbuildings by the many labourers who worked the lands and cultivated the crops. They are currently renovating the main house with a view to building production facilities and a centre for visitors to understand more about their project.
Among the wineries and oenologists here in Mallorca, Sergio is renowned for his innovative approach to winemaking and grape selection. His focus here will be on Mallorcan grapes and terroir driven wines and making aunthentically Mallorcan wines that express specific parcels of land. His experience on the island and understanding of the soil seem a great fit with this family, who seemingly take a keen interest in horticulture themselves, shown by the numerous fruit trees and plant species lining the property and vineyards.
The 51ha of land on the property now also has 4 distinct parcels of vineyard planted where Sergio has meticulously studied the soil and climate to understand which grapes would fair best in the varied terroir. Currently there is Escursac, Giro ros, Malvasia de Banyalbufar and Gargollosa (as well as some VERY experimental vines using even less heard of grapes). His approach is one of minimal intervention and his accessible way of talking combined with his clear passion makes for very interesting conversation.
We finish our tour in the vineyard with the (even better) view. A wooden table sits facing the twin peaks of Alaro, and Blanca produces a basket filled with fresh Mallorcan delicacies, ham, local cheese, olive oil as well as a selection of their wines to try. Along with Sergio we taste through their bottles and I love just how much individual character each one has. It’s not just tasting the grape in its purest form, but also the parcel in which it was grown and Sergio’s guidance is key in helping understand the nuances we can find in each bottle and why.
I have a private tasting that week with some Swedish wine enthusiasts and I am excited to show off the Escursac we have tasted as something totally different to surprise them. A grape that was nearly extinct after the phylloxera crisis of the late 1800’s, it is slowly making a comeback with the more experimental producers on the island. A beautiful cherry colour in the glass, the wine is light and aromatic on the nose with bright fruit, forest floor elements and soft tannin it has a beautiful savoury edge to it reminiscent of an old world pinot noir.
The palate is floral and medium bodied with a lovely soft edge, from its short contact with oak. Perfect for summer sipping slightly chilled, autumn afternoons or indeed paired with white meat – turkey anyone? With research showing that the more obscure grapes are a vital component to maintaining a healthy bio diversity in the vineyard, (and the best way to do this by drinking them!) I can’t wait to raise a glass of this over the festive season!