Meet the Winemaker – Tomas Mesa

This month Nieves caught up for a wine and a chat with Tomas Mesa, a winemaker, very much in demand in the Lanzarote wine world. Tomas has worked with some of Lanzarote´s biggest and most famous brands, currently Vega de Yuco, as well as offering consultancy services to smaller producers. He also regularly holds lectures on the Island. Here´s just some of his thoughts on wine from the Canary Islands as he shares both the tradition, skill and passion that goes into all of his work.

Why did you study enology (winemaking)?

It was easy, it is something that always inspired me. My father is a teacher, but has always been involved in the wine sector and he always instilled in me the love for viticulture and enology. He was one of the promoters of the D.O. Valle de Güimar, in Tenerife, and he founded the first winery with Denomination of Origin in the village we lived in, Arafo. I was always passionate about agriculture and all my studies have been about it. Besides, wine is an amazing product that involves biology, chemistry, landscape, edaphology, etc. I just got hooked on it.

Being Chicharrero (from Tenerife), why did you choose Lanzarote?

To tell you the truth, I almost didn't have time to choose! Right after finishing my degree, I was given the opportunity to work as the second in command in one of the oldest wineries in the Canary Islands, El Grifo.  I just couldn't reject the invitation, learning about viticulture here is something I had always been interested in.

I was so lucky to work with great professionals, who taught me the best way. In Lanzarote, I grew both as a viticulturist and winemaker.

Tomás Mesa | Vega de Yuco
Tomas working at home in his native Tenerife
Tell me about your family winery.

What can I tell you about it… It was my starting point; I have grown up seeing how my father and my grandfather have dedicated their entire lives to it. Being able to continue their legacy, together with my brother and sister is my biggest pride.

Bodegas Hermanos Mesa is a small winery located in Arafo, a village in the southern side of Tenerife. Under the brand "Locartas", we produce wine out of Canarian varieties such as Marmajuelo (I am in love with this one), Vijariego Tinto and Albillo Criollo. In the area, we develop high-altitude viticulture and it has lots of advantages. Both our farming and production are carried out in a sensible way, we like to innovate and to offer a final product that talks about our land.

Enoactiva, how did it come up and what are your plans for this project?

Enoactiva was born as a winemaking consultancy, whose main goal is to give advice and implement measures to increase productivity and competitiveness of the wineries. Thanks to this project, I can develop my two passions: winemaking and teaching; in this sense I also give courses specialised in the wine sector.

Viticulture in the Canary Islands is huge and I don't really want to work only in one area; my wish is to get to know other varieties, other soils and other methods, in order to provide different ideas to make things in a different way.

Recently, I had the opportunity to know about viticulture in the Island of Fogo, in Cape Verde. I have been lucky to cooperate with several winemakers in the last harvests. My plan for this project is to keep on learning and contributing to the wine sector. 

Wine Tours Lanzarote | Vega de Yuco
One of our groups enjoying one of Tomas's wines at Vega de Yuco

Vega de Yuco, Locartas Wines, Enoactiva. How do you find the time?

It is easy when you don't consider this a job. I consider every project as a challenge, so I dedicate each of them all the time they need. 

Enoactiva has allowed me to be fully dedicated to the technical development in the wineries, giving priority to the work in the field, laboratory and elaboration, and leaving behind other things that, while important for the businesses, I don't like much, such as promotion and sales.

I consider that dedicating my time to Vega de Yuco, who strongly bet on innovation and quality, is a real luxury.

Your favourite grape?

I don't have a favourite grape. Among the white varieties, I struggle between Malvasia Volcánica (Lanzarote) and Marmajuelo (Tenerife). Each of them has a unique style, so it is difficult to choose.

Within the red varieties, I'm in love with the Atlantic and fresh profiles of the Vijariego Tinto (Tenerife) and Listán Negro (Lanzarote).

With regards to the foreign varieties, I like Syrah, which has a powerful but at the same time delicate flavour.

The Lanzarote red wine still doesn't have a good reception in some circles. What can we do to convince the world that it is a really good one?

Did you know that, from more than a thousand grape varieties in the world, only 10 varieties occupy the 75% of the surface dedicated to growing vines?  People are bored of tasting the same varieties. We must be aware that we are dealing with something special.  Listan Negro can't be found in any other part of the world. Together with other local varieties, it helps elevate viticulture in Lanzarote.

We have to stop paying so much attention to other DOs and start to make our wines in keeping with the Listan Negro profile: fresh, personal wines, easy to drink. If we value this, the end consumer will also do, little by little.

What advantages does the D.O. Lanzarote, compared to larger ones?

Lanzarote advantages are obvious once you visit such an astonishing landscape as La Geria.   Lanzarote growers conceived a cultivation system that is still working after 300 years, and brings a special and unique character to the wines. The use of local varieties such as Malvasía Volcánica or Diego, provides a high value to our products. Exclusive, low production wines, with distinct personality. What else can we ask for?

Thanks for your time Tomas and we look forward to enjoying many more vintages in the future!

Nieves Justo

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