Although his family had been wine producers for years, Borja Pérez took the reins of this Tenerife winery in 2011. On that year, this ex-racing car mechanic and firefighter changed the name of the business to Ignios Orígenes and turned the style of the wines and the way they were being made, from the vineyard to the bottle.
For Borja, who worked with his father and uncle after finishing his Agriculture Engineering studies in 2007, the basis of Ignios Orígenes had to be the special features of their island: the volcanic soils, Atlantic climate and Alysian winds and local varieties such as white Marmajuelo and reds Listán Negro, Baboso Negro or Vijariego with low yields to obtain quality wines.
“Although Tenerife boasts a long wine history, it is pretty worthless because we have been making things badly for 20 years”, says Borja. His complaint refers to the fact that in the 1990s, in the boom years of the EU’s farming aid programme and the “enhancing” varieties, many hectares were planted with foreign grapes which were unsuitable for the island’s characteristics and with the absence of soil studies. Luckily, there is a growing trend towards recovering local varieties but the fact is old vines are few and far between in the island.
Borja's goal is to make clean, easy-to-drink but long-lasting wines, with no overt oak notes and “no fuss” but with character. A great deal of this work needs to start in the vineyard where Borja favours sustainable winegrowing ways using the “most empirical” part of biodynamics. “I’m not a Taliban”, explains Borja, who travelled to Mendoza (Argentina) in 2017 and 2018 to work the harvest and learn at Familia Zuccardi. “If the vines need to be treated, I’ll do it. And if I can clear weeds with a tractor, why would I do it by hand?”.
Borja owns 5.5 hectares and works with two more which are rented from local farmers. One of his own is La Vizcondesa, a plot over 1.5 hectares and awesome views of the Atlantic Ocean. It lies at 450 meters above sea level, has clay-limestone soils and was planted with Baboso Negro and Marmajuelo in 1998. “Baboso is tricky to work with: it has vigour and needs intensive green pruning but it can go from green to overripe in a matter of days. I picked 2,700 kg/Ha on the best year but in 2011 we only managed to harvest 950 kg/Ha”, he explains.
From this plot, one of the largest in the area (most are around 0.4-0.5 hectares), Borja sources grapes to make his Ignios Orígenes Baboso Negro (€40 in Spain, 2,300 bottles with vintage variations). He uses some stems in the fermentation as well as natural yeasts before leaving the wine to age for 12 months in French oak barrels. La Vizcondesa also supplies his Marmajuelo Blanco (€23, 2,100 bottles), a variety which produces fragrant but balanced wines with good acidity. Bottle time works wonders for this wine as it integrates the oak flavours.
At the small cellar in La Guancha, to the north of Tenerife, winemaking follows the same principles for the trio of Ignios Orígenes reds: native yeasts, each plot is vinified separately in stainless steel deposits, ageing in foudre or barrels and addition of sulphites only before bottling. For the time being, cement is used only for the whites although Borja plans to use it for his reds in the near future.
In 2012 he took control of Buenavista Norte, a 40-year-old vineyard planted with ungrafted vines of Listán Blanco and Listán Negro. With the latter, he makes Ignios Orígenes Listán Negro (€26, 3,500 bottles), Borja’s favourite grape variety. “If yields are kept under check, around 3,500 or 4,000kg/Ha, Listán produces alluring and very expressive wines,” he explains. Borja ferments with stems to balance the little natural acidity of this variety managing to make a deep and complex wine.
The Ignios Orígenes range is completed with Vijariego Negro (€32, 1,300 bottles), sourced from Casa Canales, a young vineyard planted in sandy loam soils with thick pebbles at 770 meters of altitude and views of Mount Teide. There is a pine tree forest and flat areas on the highest part of the vineyard; there used to be avocado plants but Borja’s idea is to plant more vines. “Vijariego is not very common in this area”, explains Borja. “It takes time to ripen and yields are low: I harvest around 1,000 kg/Ha here”. It is a vertical, direct wine with fresh, crunchy fruit and that volcanic character so typical of many Tenerife wines.
A more affordable range is Artífice, which aims to maintain old vines managed by local growers with small productions and to whom Borja purchases the grapes. His idea is to keep producing no more than 30,000 bottles priced around €16 to €20. Three wines make this range: Artífice Listán Blanco (4,100 bottles) is sourced from a sun-looking plot and it displays citrus notes and good volume; Artífice Tinto (4,000 bottles), an easy-to-drink blend of Listán negro, Baboso and Vijariego Negro and Artífice Vidueños (2,800 bottles), a blend of white varieties Marmajuelo (30%), Gual (30%), Albillo Criollo (30%) and Listán Blanco (10%) vinified separately and blended in foudre.
The labels of Artífice and Ignios Orígenes -now both under the brand Borja Pérez Viticultor- have been created by Borja’s brother, who works as a graphic designer.