The autonomía of Illes Balears, or the Balearic Islands, is an island chain off the coast of Catalonia. The islands contain two DO (Denominación de Origen) zones, Pla I Llevant and Binissalem Mallorca, which were defined in the 1990s. Excellent Vino de la Tierra is also produced from all the islands in the archipelago.
The Romans began wine production here as early as the first century AD. Early wines were referred to as Felantix, after the southeastern area of Mallorca where they were produced. During the mid 19th century, Balearic wine production hit an all-time high as the region fulfilled demand no longer met by phylloxera-plagued France. When phylloxera finally reached the Balears at the end of the century, wine production ground to a near halt. It failed to recover for much of the 20th century, so much so that wine had to be imported to meet local demand. Beginning in the 1990s, local producers began reclaiming their land’s viticultural heritage, producing carefully crafted wines to rave reviews.
In terms of culture, the Balears is closely related to neighboring Catalonia. After King James I expelled the Moors from the archipelago in the 13th century, the newly-established Kingdom of Mallorca quickly became populated by Catalonian immigrants. It was not long before Mallorca was reclaimed by the kingdom of Aragón and joined what was to become a unified Spain. Though the practice of speaking only Castilian was enforced by Francisco Franco for decades in the 20th century, the native tongue of Mallorquí is still spoken today and the island maintains its distinct, Catalán-influenced identity.
Seafood is the mainstay of the cuisine here, not surprising given its proximity to the ocean. However, it might be surprising to learn that the Illes Balears are also the home of mayonnaise, which originated in the town of Mahón.
The largest Balearic island is Mallorca, which is where the acclaimed Anima Negra winery is found. Balearic land is rich in limestone and red sandy sediments, leading to brown or reddish soils. The climate is Mediterranean with moderate temperatures and rainfall.
Today’s Balearic wines are produced from a range of international and indigenous grapes, including Callet, Fogoneau, Manto Negro and Prensal Blanc (Moll), which produce wines with an intense color and red fruit aromas. They are full-bodied and strong with abundant tannins, suitable for aging.