Many people naturally focus in on road biking when they talk about cycling in Mallorca. Having discussed the challenges of Sa Calobra, Puig Major & Cap Formentor, the conversation naturally moves onto mountain biking in the region. Recently I put together a one day tour of the vineyards on trekking bikes. With a Trekking bike tour, friends of mixed abilities can enjoy the countryside. There is no need for any cycling gear – just wear whatever you fancy and go at your own pace. Next year we will do many more of these one day tours for people living on the island….
Trekking / Hybrid bikes
The “Trekking” or “Hybrid” bikes are a relatively new style of bikes, ideally suited to most leisure riders and a good deal of commuters. Hybrids were first seen in the late eighties and early nineties, but have taken a while to catch on. They feature the best elements from 3 styles of bike available at that time.
They originated at a time when most people buying a bike were buying a mountain bike, but often a mountain bike was simply too cumbersome, heavy and slow for the average rider. Designers took the best elements from Mountain Bikes, Tourers and Racing bikes and built a bike which met the requirements of the average rider.
A hybrid is fitted with 700c wheels (the same diameter as fitted to racing bikes) but with wider tyres and rims (on average 35mm). These tyres are generally multi condition, in that they have a smooth centre line for efficiency on tarmac, but have knobbly outer tread, to give good traction if the bike is ridden on a non tarmac surface. They are fitted with the same gear systems as mountain bikes, with between 21 and 27 gears, flat handlebars and cantilever or linear pull brakes. Better models feature “fully equipped”, ie they come factory fitted with mudguards, and panniers, and some offer suspension seat pillars and adjustable rise stems.
Commonly, these style of bikes are available as either a traditional gents frame, along with a matching or complementary ladies (step through) frame and sometimes a unisex.
We transferred a group of ten Swedish friends to the starting point at Es Verger in the hills behind Esporles. Despite us starting with a down hill section and finishing with a short uphill climb, the route was all on tarmac and predominantly flat (65km with 500m vertical gain). A wonderful combination of straight flat roads through the vineyards and narrow country lanes sheltered from the sun. Despite the group’s mixed ability, a love wine tasting and a lot of pattering, our average speed was in excess of 20kph.
A bit like a competitor catapulting himself out of the start gate in a giant slalom, we were off with a 4km descent from Es Verger into Esporles. An instant treat of wonderful views, shaded forests, traffic free roads and beautiful sweeping bends.
From Esporles we headed east to Santa Maria for a quick coffee stop and then along Cami de Muro, passing through Biniali and Sencelles. Having cycled through the square at Costix, the group sensed our first little wettie stop – wine tasting at Son Prim. We had completed 3/4 of the route (48km) and it was time to enjoy the vineyards… We tasted 2 wines (including a White Merlot) at Son Prim, before cycling a full 3km to Biniagual… on the route we stuck to whites and rose, saving the reds for the lunch! From Biniagual we had our sights set on Castel Miguel and a paella lunch… only about 12km, with a nasty last few kilometres up hill or a cheeky lift in the support vehicle! The bikes were hastily collected by the team from Tramuntana Tours and we nestled down for lunch. In addition to the traditional locally sourced food, lunch included the tasting 7 different wines. We were all transferred back to Bunyola – via Orient for a little cheeky wettie.
Es Verger – www.esverger.e
In the fifties the family produced Mantonegro wine in Santa Maria del Camí. Nowadays these old vines are still being carefully loved and have been joined by varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Viognier… (in Esporles)
The stunning vineyard of Es Verger is in the Serra de Tramuntana, at 450m above sea level. Nestled in the hills behind to Esporles, the vineyard enjoys its own special microclimate which has a wonderfully positive influence on the wines. The 7 hectares of vineyards and 3 hectares of olive trees are set in a valley, with both the wine and the oil being cultivated according to the strict parameters of ecological agriculture. They only select best grapes and olives resulting in a high quality end product but with slightly lower yields. The annual production of wine is of 15.000 litres. The oil production is 3.000 litres.
Their six different wines:
- Ses Marjades (Mantonegro & Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon)
- Els Rojals (Mantonegro, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.)
- Pinot Noir
- Neu (Sauvignon Blanc)
- Sensual (Rose – Montenegro)
- Fita del Ram (Sweet white – Viognier)
The red wines are aged for 12 months in French oak barrels and combine local vines (mantonegro) with French vines (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and viognier). The main wine is “Ses Marjades”, again… aged in new Frech oak, a top quality wine for which they have won a number of different awards (silver medal in the Nuremberg 2011 exhibition)
The range & crop are continually growing, yet are still able to retain the small family business mentality, putting quality before quantity. Es Verger was one of the first 100% ecological vineyards in Mallorca and they believe that their hands on philosophy is essential to producing the best possible wine.
The wine and olive oil is sold directly from the finca and in specialised shops on the island. The cellar is open for arranged vineyard tours all year round – all you need to do is contact them.
To make our extra virgin oil, which is registered as an official product of Mallorca: “Oli de Mallorca”. Jaume uses olives directly from the tree, never touching the soil and during the harvest. The olives are collected just before they reach maturity so that the grass and flowery flavours stand out in the oil. The oil won the Feinschmecker award in 2010, that places it in the best 250 oils in the world.
Son Prim – www.sonprim.com
At the beginning of the 90s, a small plot of land, Jaime Llabrés planted a mixture of vine stock that included Prensal, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot. The main aim was to see how they performed in Mallorca’s climate and soil. They made wine from these different varieties, using small stainless steel tanks with a cooling system, all placed under a very large carob tree. The results were surprisingly good. The ageing process was completed in barrels resting in the cool basement of a garage in Palma. This venture produced some barrels of surprisingly good quality wine which was bottled. It also produced a few barrels of vinegar too, which were more suitable for using as salad dressing! Year by year the production grew and the quality improved.
The Son Prim winery in the village of Sencelles came to its natural end – the two ‘cups’ of living stone and the big oak casks were past their sell by date and impossible to update.
In time for the 2004 harvest, the new winery was completed, located in the middle of the countryside next to their new fields. The bodega is now impressive, boasting a great space for fermentation and an underground space for ageing.
They now produce 3,500 bottles per hectare. Their winemaker Alain Bramaz manages the process, from the moment of planting new vines, to the ageing of the wine, to its bottling. 6 different wines are produced each year and our favourite is the very pale White – Blanc de Merlot.
Biniagual Winery boasts 33.7 hectares of vineyard and 148.000 vines. The flat land used for the vineyard has been historically used for cultivating vines and the area was used for viticulture as far back as the 13th Century.
In keeping with tradition, they cultivate typical Mallorcan varieties; the Mantonegro variety is indigenous to the island and the red and rosé wines are based on it; another indigenous variety is the Prensal grape, a variety used in the Biniagual white wine. They also grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Muscat of Alexandria.
Rather than using chemicals, they use natural methods to take care of the vines and protect them against disease: their fertiliser is natural fertiliser, supplied by their sheep; the rose bushes on the end of the rows, alert them to the presence of any diseases before they affect the vines. 7 different wines are produced and for me the star wine is the Finca Biniagual Gran Verán – a combination of the native Manto Negro and the international Shiraz grapes
Castle Miquel – www.castellmiquel.com
You can’t miss the German-owned and prize-winning Bodega. Located in a picturesque setting in one of the most beautiful regions of Mallorca – between Alaro and Lloseta. From its elevated position the vines are said to have an increased exposure to the sun and references to the cave can be found in the original plans of the castle.
Castell Miquel was once created for viticulture: So… the story goes… that an angel appeared to a Majorcan farmer and advised him to plant a vine on this spot. The farmer followed the advice and the vines developed. But when Majorca was ravaged by a serious plague of phylloxera, around 97% of the former wine-growing areas were converted into almond plantations and farmland – and the fertile wine of Castell Miquel were forgotten.
Prof. Michael Popp discovered the run-down Castellet in the middle of the nature reserve in the 1990s. The bodega was in a poor state, but the old vines on the centuries-old dry walls were still flourishing. Today, Castell Miquel has become precisely this small Garden of Eden which Prof. Popp had envisioned. He acquired the winery property, he took care to unravel the mystery. Recultivation of the ancient lands of the Mallorcan farmers on the slopes blessed by the angel, developing the terraces… the ” Stairways ”
The vineyard produces about 10 wines a year, the Stairway to Heaven & Monte Sion ranges along with some Special Editions. It also sells a range of gourmet products that include Olive Oil, Balsamic vinegar, Almonds, Salt & Orange Marmalade. The best wine we tried one was one of their Special edition reds…
Dan Marsh – Founder