Last week I had the good fortune to visit the 4kilos Vinicola (winery) in Majorca. This winery was co-founded in 2006 by the former winemaker of cult producer Anima Negra, Francesc Grimalt. The other founding partner is Sergio Caballero, acclaimed musician and concert director.
4kilos assistant winemaker Eloi Cedó Perelló (who also makes his own wine under the Sistema Vinari label) met me at the Vinicola, to give me a tour and barrel tasting of the wines.
4kilos vineyard practice is mostly biodynamic, but they have chosen not to be certified as such. During my visit it became very clear that this is not about any lip service to marketing or fashion: 4kilos takes biodynamic principles – and their responsibility for the land and environment – very seriously. Making wine with minimal intervention is a big part of their philosophy.
First Eloi showed me some of the vineyard plots. Most of their vineyards have ‘Terra Rossa’-looking soil called Cal Vermel, rich in iron oxide. There is a lot of companion planting of fruit and nut trees in the vineyards to improve the biodiversity and also to control the vigor of the vines.
The older vineyards planted with bush-vines don’t get ploughed, which gives the (false) impression that the native vegetation is taking over the vines.
Eloi explained to me this practice has various advantages such as the control of vigor, growth of more concentrated grapes, increased humus, better water retention ability and increased microbiological activity. The un-ploughed plots are also more easily accessible after the very common heavy downpours in late September, closer to harvest time.
Majorca has two DOs (Denominación de Origen): Pla i Llevant and Binissalem. The 4kilos cellar lies in the Pla i Llevant DO which is home to quite a few old bush-vine plots, 70 years old.
4kilos philosophy of terroir might not be as literal as in France. Their understanding of terroir is more holistic with a strong emphasis on autochthon (indigenous) grape varieties, and gaining a deeper understanding of Majorcan viticulture history.
Francesc Grimalt was instrumental in saving local varieties like Callet, Manto Negro & Fogeneu from extinction. Over the past 10 years he and other Majorcan winemakers focused on making local wine from autochthone grape varieties, with some blending of international varietals as well.
The 4kilos wines are certified Vino de la Tierra due to the fact that they select grapes from both DOs. The approach here is similar to the Super Tuscan wines from 1980s Italy: making great wine without being restricted by the appellation laws (DO, DOC, DOCG). Super Tuscans in the 1980s could only be classified as IGT wines (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), as they also used international varietals for their cuvees, then not approved for DOC or DOCG classifications.
The Super Tuscans are not only highly regarded and desired they also have a premium price tag attached. The 4kilo flagship wines – Grimalt Caballero and 4kilos – also have premium price tags, but their third wine 12volts is more affordable and definitely a fine wine showcasing the beautiful aromatics and flavours of the local Callet grape, and the winery’s distinct style.
At this stage 4kilos is only producing red wines cuvees. Most blends are Callet dominated but they also use Manto Negro, Fogoneu, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Eloi is careful to not use the word “terroir” if he speaks of, say, Syrah or any other of the international varieties used for blending. In his and also my humble opinion, Syrah does not reflect the typical southern Mediterranean red wine style, which is lighter and more fruit-driven.
Wines from the southern Mediterranean – like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from east Central Italy, Nero d’ Avola from Sicily, or in this instance Callet from Majorca – have softer tannins and less acidity. These wines are mostly also less alcoholic and not dominated by big oak flavours. In general they are made to be consumed young. That doesn’t mean that they are simple: I find these southern Mediterranean red wine styles as sophisticated as the red wine styles from Northern Mediterranean terroirs.
When speaking about wine styles we also should appreciate and understand what makes the local cuisine. Food from the southern Mediterranean is much lighter, with a higher emphasis on vegetables, seafood and poultry, cooked with the best olive oil, fresh garlic and herbs. The cuisine from the more northerly regions in the Mediterranean is often heavier and can be more meat driven. Naturally a lighter style wine suits lighter cuisine and vice versa.
When we returned to the barrel room (a former milk shed), Eloi invited me to a barrel tasting. It is not 4kilos philosophy to just open their finished wines for a tasting; tasting a variety of Callets from different plots with different oak and fermentation regimes – as I did – enhances the understanding of the 4kilos style.
All of the 4kilos wines are fermented spontaneously. Recent research has confirmed that the indigenous yeast in the 4kilos cellar and fermentation tanks is identical with the one the local wine growers co-op used over 70 years ago.
The wines are fermented and aged in a variety of tanks and barrels. There are some of the old stainless steel milk tanks converted to fermentation tanks, old and new French barrique, 500L and 600L French oak barrels, 3000L and 4000L French oak Fodders. Eloi also showed me some open clay fermentation tanks made from local clay – this is more his understanding of terroir.
Some 4kilos wines had their malolactic fermentation in steel tanks, some in oak barrels, or a mixture of both. The wines are un-filtrated and are treated only with minimal amounts of sulphur.
Amongst the various wines I tasted, Eloi also showed me his own wine, a blend of Callet, Manto Negro and Monastrell. This wine too was sensational, but more about his Chateau Paquita in another blog post. Insert cellar/barrel photo
We finished the barrel tasting and coming out of the cellar, I could not wipe the smile off my face. I think 4kilos wines are fantastic. I loved tasting these youthful wines – their light red berry aromas, combined with freshness, juiciness and natural taste.
Don’t get me wrong: yes, they are easily approachable but certainly provide complexity as well. I love their herbal aromatics. Some even show intriguing citrus flavours like orange zest. All of these attributes lead to an immense drinkability and a longing for more.
Thanks to the talented, passionate, fearless Eloi (and the creative winemaking team at 4kilos), I had for the past couple of hours been deeply immersed in Majorcan wine heaven.
Moltes, moltes graçies.
Visit the 4kilos website.
Visit the Sistema Vinari website.
Photos by Megan Spencer © 2015. See the full gallery here.