Benje Blanco 2020 from Envinate is not a wine for people who only like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Nor is it going to charm those who like their Chardonnays buttery and rich. Benje Blanco 2020 will offend drinkers of those wines; you know them? Ordinary people!
Benje Blanco 2020 is the fighting label from the Tenerife-branch of the organisation of Spanish winemakers who call themselves Envinate. They seek to make wine using traditional methods and grape varietals of the regions they work. Tenerife has some odd varietals, but there is more oddness going on than varietal.
The volcanic soils in the vineyards of Tenerife, most of which have been planted decades and decades ago, contain virtually no organic material at all. The vines have to survive on photosynthesis and whatever volcanic compounds they can possibly use. This has some odd effects on the wine, that we shall get to presently.
The grape is Listan Blanco, known on the mainland as Palomino Fino – that is right, the great grape that makes Sherry. There are similarities. Of a type.
When I said this was not for conventional wine lovers, I’m damned serious. If you like to stay in your comfort zone, stop reading. If you recognise that quality can be alien to your normal experiences, keep reading. It is edgy. It is tense. It is aggressively good. I mean seriously, properly good.
To infinity and beyond!
People have said this is quite reductive, I do not get that at all.
What I get is an edge of Vulcan; brimstone, gunpowder, sulphur. It is not hidden by reduction, it shows these with the confidence a Manzanilla shows its salty tang.
And, indeed, there is something of a salty Manzanilla on the nose. Mixed with inox Grand Cru Chablis and a slug of volcanic spring water. Wow, what a nose!
As far as fruit goes there is preserved lemon, quince and a hint of olive. It smells complex, powerful and intense. It rips up your nostrils, leaving the GPS location of the vineyard etched in volcanic minerals on your sinuses before you exhale thinking you have to be a bit more careful in future.
You certainly do not have to be careful about the alcohol. From volcanic soils on the hot Atlantic island of Tenerife, this is a mighty… 12%, that’s it. That is just fine.
The palate is incredibly austere, with a seriously high acid level. That is in balance with the salty minerality and waxy fruit. If you open your mind it is really attractive and yummy!
Whilst it is austere it is quite weighty, with heavy, waxed citrus fruit and aged Sherry power. That weight is not from booze, or from new oak, it’s the grape on those soils.
The finish is extraordinarily long, with scintillations of acidity, stone, gunpowder driven by a core of powerful fruit and dense, fresh Sherry class. I can still taste the mouthful I had twenty minutes ago… no… more, feel the mouthful; and it is feeling me… Mmmmm…
Very complex, incredibly long, with peerless balance and terrifying power. This is a white wine for proper people. Fuck, yeah!
From The Sourcing Table.