By Shirley Roberts
Majorca has over 70 vineyards to its name and the autumn wine festivals are memorable. In my world, in the Soller Valley, vineyards are rare, which is why we are all watching the developments of Cas Fiols Wine. This virgin vineyard is in Biniaraix and winegrowers are watching the work. This week my ‘Nan’s Day Out’ trip took me out of the Valley to the very established wine lands of Binissalem.
To come off the motorway and head for town, you know already you are in the presence of all things wine. Vineyards to bottling plants and an area whose very heart is in the grape. Binissalem and all its pleasures were not for me as I was heading up the lane in the direction of Biniali. The empty lanes were alongside miles and miles of land devoted to growing the grape. The differences in the landscape of a small island like Majorca always amazes me. We have everything here from mountains to beaches to agricultural and farming lands to the production of wine.
If you live along the route into the heartlands of Binissalem your view of the world is different to mine from the Soller Valley. The seasons and the cultivation of grapes are all consuming for the families and workers of the vines. The vineyards are the kings of the region and an employer of size in the area.
As we travelled the route of the vines we dipped down on the road and were grateful to come up the other side. The road builders of Majorca hid that dip well. I am so glad I was prepared for it on the way back.
Our destination today was the village of Biniagual. Signposted and there it was, with all the cobbled streets laid out in front of you. We wondered if you were really allowed in. What is this place so beautiful, tranquil and empty? A film set, a throw back to a model village or a place that time forgot. I asked the only human I saw if it was alright to park and he said ‘sure’ and pointed me to the wall were one other car was parked. This man was the only person we saw as we began our magical mystery tour.
A church which chimed the hour and a fountain was at the centre of the two main streets. Immaculate houses and stunningly kept gardens were our delight. We entered an open gate, which I assumed was a public garden, and it was an empty glorious oasis.
Whatever was the history of this village? The answer lay in the Wine Bodega nearby where we learnt the story of the locals’ revolt when the village, in total was bought.
Biniagual was born as a farmhouse dedicated to horticulture and dates back to the Muslim era. In the 16th century it had become a small town of six houses, but it was depopulated due to the plague of the mid-17th century.
A hundred years later it was reactivated. Inhabitants returned to dedicate themselves to livestock and viticulture. And in 1734 the small oratory of the Immaculate Conception was blessed. The church remains to this day and has got to be one of the most amazing places for a wedding!
Life and work went on but eventually the little village fell into complete ruin and was abandoned.
Fast forward to 1968 when an important German business man arrived on the scene and wanted to buy the Village and make his own private kingdom. He had great plans for surrounding lands and was set on reviving the wine growing hectares which surrounded the village. He met fierce opposition from the church who were not selling him the Oratory. Local people were equally vocal and did not want a ‘private village’ to exist.
Eventually the deal was done, he was able to buy the houses, restore them to their original glory and maintain the area. It’s status as a public village in Majorca remained unchanged. Access was and still is, open to all, just like all the public lands of the island.
When the dust settled the cultivation of the farmland and vineyards began. These days the estate owns 34 hectares of vineyards and produces its own wines.
The immaculate houses of Biniagual are occupied largely with people with connections to the business. Occasionally the place is home to a film crew or two who can see the potential of a ready made film set.
This village is on the road to nowhere in particular so it is rarely found and appreciated. I was told about it by a local friend and had to go and see for myself if such a place really exists here amongst all the beauties of Majorca.
This ‘Nan’s Day Out’ can tell you, absolutely, that it does.