A few weeks ago I travelled to Mallorca, Spain to check out an organic wine estate called Can Axartell [can-ash-ar-tye], a few kilometres south of Pollença on the northern side of the island.
Now, for the sake of imagery and association I want you to try something. Just close your eyes for a few seconds and think about the word ‘organic’. What comes to mind?
Is it rolling fields and sunshine? The color green? A farmers market or a logo you know from your local grocery store? Maybe.
What probably doesn’t come to mind, is an enormous state of the art complex engineered with such precision and perfectionist design that it literally disappears into it’s surroundings from all but one magnificent side. Not to be found with the help of your cellular GPS, or any signage off the main road, and certainly not easy to locate from above (…should you decide to arrive via parachute for some reason) as it is literally built into the side of a mountain.
The contrast between the rugged beauty of the surrounding landscape and the inventive, boundary-breaking architecture that makes up the main building is breathtaking. The cave-like entrance to the cellars on the left side of the building reminds me of something from Star Wars’ planet Tatooine, and the enormous glass wall that makes up the front of the building floods light onto the playfully designed staircase that connects the laboratory to the offices and entry-way inside. Oh, and the mountain goats click-clacking along the roof during my visit definitely added an element of charm!
The place is legitimately Bond-worthy and, although I could imagine James appreciating a sustainably sourced diet and good glass of red, I suppose I just don’t envision the guy as being an advocate for organics. Ya know? It’s almost contradicting. But don’t get it twisted. Organic farming has been a part of the Can Axartell philosophy from the very beginning.
There is a lot more to the estate than meets the eye though, and thankfully for us wine-lovers the attention to detail doesn’t end ‘merely’ with aesthetics at Can Axartell. The functionality of the cellar, built entirely around the idea of working with gravity, is incredibly impressive and made being there during harvest such a treat. A giant port-style crane, like you would see along the container piers in Hamburg, is built permanently into the ceiling so that tanks can actually be lifted from one level to another easily and at anytime – it’s fascinating to watch!
But, why use gravity?
The ‘Mètode Gravetat’, or gravity-flow winemaking, is a process that allows the grapes/mash/wine to flow with natural gravitational force from different levels in the cellar through the entire vinification process. The goal is to achieve finer flavour nuances in the wine by extracting color, flavour and tannin more gently than you would by using the mechanical force of pumps.
The slides above show grape must flowing from the bottom of a steel tank into a hanging vessel. The vessel is then lifted and driven into position above the original tank so that the must can be poured back inside. This is Can Axartell’s version of the ‘Punch Down’ process – a process that usually takes place 1-3 times a day during fermentation in order to prevent the cap (layer of solid grape material that forms at the top of a tank during fermentation) from drying out. It promotes the extraction of tannins and color in high quality red wines.
The shear level of investment that must have gone into starting this project is astonishingly transparent. Buildings aside, with 60 hectares of vineyards, nearly all of which were bought and planted at the same time, founder Hans-Peter Schwarzkopf and his team would have had to have known from the very beginning what would grow well on that land and what style wines they wanted to create as a result. A daunting investment indeed, but one that I see a lot of potential in.
I tasted through nearly the entire range of wines, and enjoyed them all, but my favourites were:
So next time you decide to pop over to Mallorca, make sure to check out Can Axartell …if you can find it 😉
Interested in tasting the wines without buying a plane ticket? If so check out Alsterhaus in Hamburg, KaDeWe in Berlin or online at Il Casa.