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Editor at large Harvey Steiman joined Wine Spectator in 1983; his tasting beats are Australia, Oregon and Washington.
Harvey Steiman

A Fun Discovery from Spain's Canary Islands

Bermejos Malvasia Seco Lanzarote 2008

Harvey Steiman
Posted: November 24, 2009

I admit, this wine is pretty esoteric, but it’s too cool not to share. It proves that the frontiers of wine touch on more places than we can imagine, and that a sharp sommelier can introduce us to new experiences that won’t break the bank.

Sommelier Rajat Parr delivered this white wine in a set of several glasses to drink with a few seafood and vegetable first courses at RN74 in San Francisco. “It’s a Malvasia from the Canary Islands,” Parr said and walked away.

I took a sip. It had the vague spiciness typical of the Malvasia grape, but it also had a distinct minerality. It was dry, even crisp. And it made a seamless match with a plate of butter-poached prawns and another plate of grilled Italian flat green beans. The wine was the Bermejos Malvasia Seco Lanzarote 2008, and it was listed at $32 a bottle. I rated it 87 points, non-blind.

The Canary Islands are part of Spain, but they lie off the coast of Africa several hundred miles to the southwest of the Iberian peninsula. On the island of Lanzarote, the vines grow in small volcanic craters. (You can see pictures of this bizarre system at www.lanzarote.com/wines.) Maybe that accounts for the minerality?

WineSpectator.com members: Get our quick list of Top Values in Spanish whites.

Johnny Espinoza Esquivel
Wine World —  November 24, 2009 1:22pm ET
Harvey, nice hint! The other day I was reading James Molesworth's blog regarding the use of minerality as a wine descriptor. Based on your assessment on this "esoteric" wine (pretty nice term BTW), it proves there is minerality indeed in a wine, specially after checking the pictures from the website. Sorry minerality detractors.

On this subject, can you describe what is minerality for you?

Thanks as usual!
Harvey Steiman
San Francisco, CA —  November 24, 2009 1:37pm ET
For me, minerality is a aroma/flavor descriptor. It can smell like summer rain on pavement or stones warmed by the sun, or that chalky flavor from crushed limestone. It is usually associated with wines relatively high in acidity. It's an acquired taste, like a preference for hoppy beers—bitter at first, but pleasant when it becomes more familiar.
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel
Wine World —  November 24, 2009 4:31pm ET
Harvey, thanks for your feedback. Now I can relate with what you mean specially the "summer rain" comparison. I like that. One of the greatest things about wine it's precisely that: The capacity of delivering such a tremendous range of aromas and flawors. That's what I love about wine. Thank God for it!

Keep up the good work. . .and happy thanksgiving!

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