A Field Without Trees
Is Like A Plant Without Flowers.
Son Alegre used to be run as a dairy farm. During the Eighties, the property was sold to an investor who wanted to convert the fertile land into yet another project of investment, applying for planning permission for an urbanization. Thanks to Miquel Manresa from Calonge, the land has since been converted into a hortus organicum of natural farming.
Since when do you run Son Alegre?
I bought Son Alegre in about 2002 from a German who wanted to create an urbanization with 20 plots of land, which luckily did not go down well with the authorities. Before that, an almond plantation existed here and for the last 20 years, Son Alegre was a dairy and sheep farm.
What did you plant there?
Land without trees is like a plant without flowers. I planted a vineyard as well as olive and carob trees. I wanted the trees to do well and for that I planted them in the traditional Mallorcan 8x8 pattern. I had the idea to create a small forest of trees that would eventually allow the land to become self-sufficient: our experience of the land would be what is inside of us.
Had you been a farmer?
I was born into a peasant family in Calonge (Santanyí). But for the first 16 years of my professional life I worked in tourism. Then I realized that money is not everything and that I wanted more quality of life. My idea is that by the time I am gone I will have helped to create a space that will be beneficial to our society.
What type of vineyard did you create?
So far, I have planted 3 hectares of red grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot, together with
some white grapes, Chardonnay and Malvasía. In the near future we want to plant Callet as well as some other native varieties. This year we have started to make our wines with the bodega of Armero i Adrover in Felanitx.
What else have you done?
Altogether, our estate has 51 hectares and we want to continue to plant more olive trees and some more vines. We also have some 60 sheep and a dozen Mallorcan goats. Everything is organic. We have sown Santanyí Xeixa wheat and some barley and legumes for our own natural animal feed.
How are your olives and how is your olive oil?
Our olives are of the Arbequina variety and I have started
to produce some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This year I began
to bottle the ‘Sileo’ olive oil, a name which comes from the
Latin phrase Sine Sole Sileo, that is found on our sundial
meaning ‘Without the sun, I am silent.’ Without the sun we
would be dead.
Has it been easy to make this product?
It actually takes a lot of work to make oil. We have planted
olive trees on 6 hectares of land and have harvested
10,000 kg of olives to yield no more than 1,100 litres of oil.
One either goes for volume or one aims for quality. The olive harvest has to be done at the best moment. It is quite hot here in Mallorca and by mid-October the olives would normally be ready to be harvested, but then the olive is still too water-logged. The later the crop is harvested the better the yield, but then there comes the risk of more oxidation and more acidity. We tried to make an olive oil of low acidity, fully aromatic and very fruity.
Have you had any problems with pests of any kind?
Mallorca is one of the places where it is difficult to grow olives organically because of the olive fly. We tried to combat the fly with bottles of Diammonium phosphate. With that we caught quite a few flies. During the flowering period we used Kaolin (a soft white clay) which has some effect on the fly. During the night, we washed the leaves with a natural product and if the fly is harmed by this it dies, but the following day the product no longer has any effect.
We try to protect our crop this way, but it requires a lot of work.
How do you see agriculture in Mallorca?
Mallorca is like a big garden. In spite of everything Mallorca is a massive orchard. Hoteliers should see this because we are all sitting in the same boat. If this garden no longer existed there would not be nothing at all. It would be nice, and important, if some of the resources generated by tourism would be reinvested in this garden. By the time our products reach the end-consumer there, all too often, is no margin left for the producers. The farmers of Mallorca have disappeared because the parents wanted their children to go off to do different things. Now we have land devoid of people, and this proves to be wrong and we have to change.
What can we do to change all this?
There are 12 million people coming to Mallorca every year and still, we cannot sell our almonds to them. With the almonds you could do so much and with the carob too. We have become too entangled. We have no sense of valuing what we have and where we live. And we are surrounded by a garden. If only we could sit in a plane and see our island from above. We would marvel and value this land. Tourism has to join forces with the rural world and its products. That is the solution to revive farming and the land.
What do you think of public subsidies?
In the absence of any general profitability of farming land, some form of public funding would encourage young people to stay on and work the land. This could fulfil an important function. The future of our land is in the hands of young people, and some financial incentive would allow young farmers to get ahead of the game.
(The above article is from an interview with our Miquel Manresa, held by Mateu Morro for dbalears.cat, April 2nd, 2011)
Our wine is the result of our love for our land.
Nature helps us make a better wine.
Winemaking in Mallorca goes back a long way. The Romans brought vines with them two thousand years ago and planted them, here.
In his treatise of Naturalis Historiæ (Natural History), Gaius Plinius Secundus (23 - 79 AD), better known as Pliny the Elder, elaborated on Mallorca’s art of winemaking. He emphasised that the island’s wines were equal to the best wines of Italy, his home country.
When King Jaume I conquered the island in 1229, Ben Abbad is said to have given the invading king grapes of excellent quality.
In the region of Santanyí (Mallorca), wine was grown as early as the 13th century. During the 1880s, some 580 cuarteradas of land (approx. 420 hectares) were cultivated there with vines. Sadly, the phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae), a tiny sap-sucking insect, destroyed virtually all of Mallorca’s vineyards, including the ones in Santanyí, around 1893-8.
At Son Alegre, we planted vineyards in 2004 in a field traditionally known as Sa Vinya, and produced wines in 2008, for sale in 2010. Son Alegre is the first wine from the Santanyí region in more than a hundred years.
Sine Sole Sileo is a Latin phrase meaning ‘Without the sun, I fall silent’.
Without the sun there is no life.
Our deep regard for nature rewards us with a truly beautiful harvest,
always true to the land.
Antoni Manresa and his wife Maria Capó were our great-grandparents. They were simple farmers. They practised agriculture the organic way, because that was the way agriculture was done in those days anywhere in Mallorca; no other option was ever contemplated. Then, working the land was always done according to biodynamic standards because agriculture was generally done this way on the island.
In the early nineteenth century farming was based on the phases of the moon, as was a large part of the way of life in general. The land was cultivated according to the seasons and always with respect for nature. For a farmer at that time there simply was no alternative. Unfortunately, what was normal then was lost over time due to so-called progress, and because globalisation put profit before sustainability.
Nature helps us make a better wine.