In search of the best wine in the world, continued

We drive through a landscape of contrasts; soft pink blooming almond trees and life threatening assault plants that could very well be used to grow toothpicks. It reminds us of the planet Pandora from the movie Avatar.


Congealed lava, blooming almonds, lemons, tangerines, bananas… are we going to taste all this in the wine?

Over narrow mountain roads the hired car climbs higher and higher. Not without danger, because crossing clouds can suddenly envelop the road in a thick layer of mist. Out of which will storm, right in front of the hertz mobile, a pack of wild mountain pigs.

At the end of the day we find refuge in the only inn that the otherwise deserted village has. It is run by a warlike lady who takes even the most innocent questions as insubordination.

The restaurant that has been carved out in the rocks doesn’t have any heating its bloody freezing.
Perhaps they’re planning to make in into an icebar in the near future…
Huddled up in their winter coats the guests wolf down their meals. Only the clattering of cutlery breaks
the silence.

In silence Pablo, the nutty servant of Adolfina, serves the guests, who are shivering from the cold and out of fear.   The atmos is so gloomy that even a boringly ordinary herring turns into a Frankensteinfish.   Pablo provides a guest who has lost the will to live with a glass of homemade distillate to help deal with the cold.

Adolfina has put a bottle of wine of the same brand on every table. But after a firm protest by the wineboer he manages to order a wine bottle of his own choosing. The sunshine broke through…
Agala, AOC Gran Canaria, harvested less than a gunshot from here. A velvety red wine with a mysterious dark taste. With hints of blackcurrant, blackberries and softsweet as the sinking sun on a sultry summer’s eve.
The wine flows like magma through the veins, and directly takes the exit to your soul and warms up even the darkest and coldest corners of the freezing dining room. A portion of juicy fruit so impetuous that
you spontaneously want to jump on the table and start dancing the salsa. The modest 3 months of aging
in barrels prevents the oak pushing out the fruitiness. In short: a winner. Or as they say on this island:
‘Un Capitán!’

The next morning we call the maker: Bodegas Bentayga. Sandra, the daughter of wineboer Juan, tells
us that we are more than welcome to stop by. Only no address… ‘Its very easy, we’re on the highest mountain in Canaria. Drive as high as you can and look for a bottle shaped mountaintop, you’ll find it!’

In high spirits we wind to where the air becomes thinner, the scenery is ruthlessly beautiful.
Rugged, but mostly empty: plenty of mountains but no bottle.

After driving 2 hours, turning around and going the wrong way yet again, we go round a corner and suddenly… angels start to sing, thousand violins are playing: the wine bottle!

Now all that’s left to do is finding a way to get there. Because it seems like someone keeps moving
the bloody thing, no matter which direction we go, we don’t get the impression that its getting closer. Whatever we do, it stays ever as unreachable.

Then we happen upon a sign of intelligent life.

Caramba! Vineyards! Someone managed to tame these impassible mountain hills, carve out plateaus and plant vineyards. This man, this phenomenon, this hero, we must meet. Let’s go!


A mountain full of little vineyards of half a hectare, 1 hectare at most. Wineboer Juan Armas has managed to conquer dozens of these on the ‘Bentaiga’ over the years, 'High mountain' in the language of the islanders.
Rain is rare here, so Juan constructed water basins, enormous concrete swimming pools in which he saves up thousands of liters of spring water from the mountains for times of drought.

Unlike in the Bordeaux region, here you can water your grapes. The vines are connected by an endless plastic tube, which can provide water for every vine. With nets Juan protects his grapes from the wind and the vinobesitas of the mountain rabbits.

  Papá Juan is having a siesta, but he has been called and is on his way. While we wait we make a short movie.
‘Every morning at five o’ clock my father goes to his vineyards’, says Sandra.
‘How old is your father?’
‘This year he’ll be eighty.’
Astonished the wineboer beholds what the willpower of one man can do.


For a mini-reportage click on the image
on the left


Just like us, Juan vinifies the harvest of every parcel in a separate cuve. Because of the gnome size of these vineyards the cuverie consists of a merry collection of mini-cuves.  

The barrel cellar is carved
out in the rocks. 'Très eco', because cooling isn’t necessary: the temperature remains during winter and summer at 12 degrees.

Outside we hear hubbub. And here he is, or big little man.
‘What!’ he shouts quasi-mad, ‘already here for
an hour and still no wine?! Sandra! Vino! Rapido! Rapido!’
  Small problem, the corkscrew is nowhere to be
found. But this gives us time for an official portrait.
Juan is a man who you immediately enclose in
your heart. You’d want to make keychains of him.
And little stuffed wineboers that you could hang
from your rearview mirror.

A smile as wide as a wine barrel, a nose worth ten million and a wrinkle for every vineyard he has conquered on this mountain. Congratulations, Juan. We wish you another eighty years.

Again Juan’s wine tasted divine. A little too divine, because after an emotional goodbye the wineboer slides off the beaten path in such a way that the car is stuck in a sneaky ditch and has become an immovable object.
After both wineboers have studied the underside of the Polo for some time, looking for a hole to put a towing line though which doesn’t exist, Juan calls a servant with the four-wheel-drive to drag the Polo back on land.

A moment later the hertz mobile glides merrily downhill. But slipping though the hundredth hairpin curve, low hanging clouds suddenly encase the road with an impenetrable mist.

‘Merde!’ W a desperate tug on the steering wheel the wineboer manages to only just keep the Polo out of the ravine. Squeaking along the edge all through the corner.

Luckily we reach our port of call unscathed, where we managed to score a table at the edge of the village square with a view of the floating boats

With two grilled sticklebacks and a bottle of Faustino we still managed to make it into a nice evening.

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