“Artisanal techniques and ingenuity create a spectrum for the palate.”
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Manacor, Mallorca, Spain
Open sesame – hidden away on a tiny residential street of Manacor, an anonymous door opened, and suddenly we are in a miniature but full-production bodega: Vins Miquel Gelabert. The family story goes that in 1984 Miquel cooked in his own restaurant in Manacor. His father owned land, and they were selling grapes to other wineries for so little money that they decided to try their own hand at wine making. At first, Miquel sold the bottles at his restaurant, but soon the demand was high enough to change careers and create Vins Miquel Gelabert. Today, though still small-scale and family run, Miquel and his team work with more than 30 varieties of grapes, creating blends unparalleled on the island. He is a champion of the local varietals! For the record, Manacor, and Miquel Gelabert wines, are in the Denominació D’Origen of Pla i Llevant, on the southern plains of Mallorca.
For a small island, we drove a long way to get to the old and almost industrial city of Manacor. That day we were searching for the two family-run wineries of brothers Toni and Miquel Gelabert [note that Miquel is spelled with a q, not a g, which is the Mallorcan spelling and pronunciation]. They had both been recommended previously by a favorite winery when we confessed our self-education project, and we were anxious to taste their work and see their bodegas.
We GPS mapped Vins Miquel Gelabert first, and somehow ended up on some tiny street in a small residential area, so of course we were sure our GPS was wrong. But no, looking closer we found telltale stucco grapes over a wide entrance, and when daughter Maria opened the door she revealed the remarkable antique urban bodega within! Built in 1909, it was originally designed as a winery on the rural outskirts of town, and now lies hidden in its center. We only know it was owned by someone else and was purchased by Miquel in the mid 1980s, when he began to make his own wines in earnest.
Stepping into the entry, two tall stainless tanks towered to our right and Maria told us that the wine in both was already sold in advance. The small room was wallpapered in a patchwork of awards. Maria told us that 50% of their wines are for Mallorca, and 50% for export to Europe.
She led us down a long and steep spiral staircase to the small room where their wine ages in barrels and bottles. Apparently without exception, all Miquel Gelabert reds are aged 12 months in barrel. She told us that though almost all Mallorcan wineries stick to the Spanish rule of Crianza being 6 months in barrel, in fact in the Mallorca D.O.s there is no specific time or system – it can be months in oak barrel or stainless steel. That’s important if you expect an oaky flavor when you buy your Crianza, and then don’t get it!
She led us into the old concrete fermenting tanks, repurposed now as cool storage areas for bottles that are gaining their age, and told us that Vins Miquel Gelabert has three locations right now: Their country vineyard with 9 hectares planted, their small city processing bodega with tasting room, and their distribution hub where the 50,000 bottles are picked up annually for distribution. They make over 25 different labels/types/blends of wine, which is truly astonishing for such a tiny family operation, for ANY operation!
Maria told us her brother is just finishing his Enology degree on the mainland, and will be “training in residence” in New Zealand before coming back and working with their father. Maria was in training as well, but for now she is back home and focusing on family priorities. Mother stopped by briefly, and cheerfully helped us make a reservation at Toni Gelabert’s winery. A family affair!
We were told that Miquel Gelabert works mostly at the vineyard, and when the grapes are crushed and the young wines are ready for aging, they transfer it all to portable stainless tanks, and bring it in multiple trips in their personal vehicles to this urban Bodega; exhausting, but a system in place and wistful intentions of consolidating at some point. At Vins Miquel Gelabert, they hand pick all their grapes for the different quality blends; and also because some, like the Callet grape, mature unevenly and must be gone over by hand.
Next we headed to the room where they bottle, label, cork, and seal. All the machines are very small and partly manual. Maria showed us how they work and explained that as recently as two years ago they didn’t even have these machines, and did it all by hand, down to each individual label adhered with a paintbrush and glue! Artisan industry through-and-through!
Another vintner had fondly described Miquel as a mad scientist mixing so many blends. Nice to imagine him that way, but we saw him as the cook working on recipes, exploring the local grapes, and thinking outside the box to great effect. All very labor intensive and commendable, and luckily he enjoys the freedom to experiment without any restrictions on grape percentage requirements by D.O. Pla I Llevant (a luxury his D.O. Binissalem counterparts do not enjoy).
Helping make sense of the plethora, Maria told us that the wines all fall into three lines as follows:
- CAULES – everyday table wines
- GOLÓS – medium range quality
- SELECCION PRIVADO – top quality
and then a few Special Releases…
For a long time Vins Miquel Gelabert used artists to create different labels every year… (part of his mad scientist thing?)… but recently they have decided to try for bottle/brand recognition and have picked a few labels to stick with! This is another winery combing art and wine – We are beginning to see a trend!
Finally Maria led us to the small and much awaited tasting room – and suddenly the array of wines astounded us further! Here their wines are all displayed with prices, organized across shelves spanning from white to red. Maria asked us where we would like to begin, so headily we started with the whites as we have learned to do; and goodness, are they good! She explained that their Chardonnay is unique because they have this Northern varietal in a special valley where the grapes get less sun in order to allow them to mature closer to their natural habitat. Otherwise, in Mallorca the land of sun, they often burn. Maria was very generous with her time, kind, since we had not made any reservation or given forewarning other than that last minute call of “Um… we are looking for your bodega… and we think we are on the right street, but…” She gave us a glorious tasting – please see our Vins Miquel Gelabert Tasting Notes.
Before we knew it, it was lunchtime and we had earned a good meal! Maria gave us a recommendation for cafe in the town (we wished it was at Miquel’s long-gone restaurant!) and we popped back onto the street to meet the grape-friendly sun with smiles on our face!
Hidden in the city of Manacor…I hope these directins help. Coming from the highway Palma-Manacor when you enter to the town of Manacor at the first round about- continue on the highway that takes you on a loop road around the town, a left or three-quarter turn. On the following round about head into town and pass the hospital, this is a right or one-quarter turn. Go straight through the following round about and at the next, with the road, Passeig del Ferrocarril, go left or three-quarter turn. It is a street with a meridian in the middle. From here you have to keep your eye out for the little sign on the right hand side and/or the street name: Carrer de la Veroninca. It is a one way street. Then it is your fourth street on the right- also a one way street. Carrer d’en Salas. It is difficult and the outside of the building is very discrete, but it is worth the hunt to find it.
See Wines Tasted at Miquel Gelabert: Click Here
### Vins Miquel Gelabert ###