Monday, February 18, 2013

MALLORCA: February Calms

In the middle of a blue sea it appears almost magically, this sparkling jewel. As seen from the air, the imposingly rugged Serra de Tramuntana mountains would seem to present a formidable barrier to the Iberian mainland to the north.  However, circling at 10,000 feet you notice how vulnerable this saddle-shaped island is on its western and eastern shores.  Here there have been prehistoric settlements, the Romans and the Byzantines, the Moors and Berbers, the Counts of Catalonia and the Kings of Aragon, all of which had influence and claim to this land.  Now I've arrived at the largest island in Spain's autonomous Balearic Island archipelago, anxious to taste and explore.
Along the Ma-13A Wine Road

It is the food and of course, the wine which are my beacon in mid-winter Catalonia. This islands beautifully rugged landscape is dotted with lamb, filled with aromas of roast suckling pig (lechona asada), and stewed in the mild flavors of turbot. Mallorca produces most of its wines within its two D.O. regions (Denominacion de Origen) of Consell-Binissalem, a corridor running from Santa Maria del Cami to industrial Inca along the Ma-13a wine road, and in the east of the island among the remote rural villages of the Pla i Llevant DO. Lower tiered wine production falls under the 'Mallorca Regional Wine' designation, most of which is produced in the western foothills of the Serra de Tramuntana's and Costa Nord region. What is produced here tends to be enjoyed here.

This crumbling limestone landscape in February is a sea of white almond tree blossoms, grey-green olive groves sprinkled with orange trees and scored with rock walls and terraces.  In its abundant sunlight we enjoyed the freshest sea foods, rich traditional dishes and bowls of the most delicious olives while in awe of the landscape/seascape that graced our views.  One day it was a glorious picnic lunch at the islands exposed northern tip of Cap de Formentor, followed on another by a pilgrimage to blustery Valldemossa(the island's highest village), where composer Chopin spent a notable monastic winter in 1838. Our quest was rewarded here with savory dishes of rabbit stew and roast lamb, paired with full bodied wines of the local Manto Negro grape.

Hanging on to the edge of the terraced north face along the Tramuntana's, we drove to Soller passing the most picturesque coastal hill towns.  Another sunny day, and we were dining on charcuterie at a prominent olive producers in Caimari, deliciously contrasted with a bright Premsal Blanc and Chardonnay blend from a local quality producer. With another brilliant sunrise, we were driving southeast towards Manacor, visiting ancient hilltop towns of Arta and Petra, both villages of the Pla i Llevant DO, and then on to enjoy the days fresh catch in sparkling Portocristo.

Another Alcudia sunrise and it's a quick drive across the island, recharged by an upbeat day in cosmopolitan Palma.  After a morning exploring the Palace(Palau) and the Cathedral(Le Seu), we dined across from the harbor at the superb Caballito Del Mar on Black Pallea and Turbot of two textures.  We chose a beautiful Verdejo from the mainland's Rueda DO to complement our dishes and make us thirsty for more.  But, that is how it is in Mallorca.  A little is never enough, so you want more.  Back on the east coast in picturesque Port d'Alcudia with its sprawling resorts and long white beach, I asked a local if our good fortune with winter weather is typical.  He replied, "in Mallorca we say, 'February calms'."

And so it was.  Our off-season visit to sunny Mallorca calmed our spirit as we walked along its beaches, wading in the cool Mediterranean. It slowed our pace, but not our absorption rate as compared to our Barcelona visit the week before. At the end of our visit we agreed that our time in Mallorca was not long enough and made plans to return.  Not when the northern Europeans invade, but when the island calms as it has this time fur us in off-season Mallorca. 
'Exciting' petanque along Bay of Alcudia

Registration for my next certification exam for Wine Educator has been confirmed for the end of February.  Results will be shared here as soon as available, but until then, I'll be inquisitive about the wines of the world and I'll try to stay Mallorcan  'calm'.