Bien de Altura
Gran Canaria, Spain
From Gran Canaria to the world – and back!
Carmelo Peña left Gran Canaria to study chemistry but soon found his other, true passion: wine. After graduating in oenology and working with iconic producers in Spain and Portugal, he returned to his home island to save historical vineyards from oblivion and neglect. The result are wines with incredible purity and full of soul.
Location: San Mateo, Gran Canaria, Spain
Working with us since: 2020
Viticultural Standards: Organic (non-certified)
Our pick of the best wine from this producer: Tidao
Interesting fact: Carmelo has his talented fingers in many pies. In addition to being resident winemaker at Bodega San Juan and the force behind Bien de Altura, he makes the Puro Rofe wines in Lanzarote. He has also developed the El3mento project with friend Luis Pedro Cándido da Silva, whom he met in University and worked with at Niepoort, with the goal of producing ‘twin wines’, one in Gran Canaria and one in the Douro, with fruit from old vineyards, natural fermentation and long maceration with minimum punch downs. We are incredible proud of importing the El3mento project as well!
Bien de Altura Wines
Without a background or family tradition in winemaking, Carmelo Peña left Gran Canaria to study chemistry in mainland Spain. He did dream, however, of one day opening his own restaurant and therefore started taking informal courses on hospitality and wine. It soon became apparent that the latter was his true passion and he quickly changed academic careers to study oenology.
After completing his degree, he worked under iconic producers Dirk Niepoort, in the Douro, and Raul Perez, in Bierzo. Along the way he also built a solid practical knowledge through experts such as terroir-legend Pedro Parra. But in the back of his mind was the incredible, untapped potential of his homeland’s vinicultural treasures. When, after meeting Cristina Millán, owner of Bodega San Juan in Santa Brígida, Gran Canaria, the opportunity presented itself to go back, he did not think twice.
Working as resident winemaker for Bodega San Juan allowed Peña to start his own project, Bien de Altura, with the aim of rescuing old abandoned vineyards in prized terroirs. Peña decided to focus in the area of San Mateo, in the island’s northeast, both due the large number of incredible vineyards subject to neglect and to the region’s unique characteristics. Sitting between 1100 and 1460 metres above sea level, the vineyards remain above the bed of clouds that covers the island. This means that while there is enough humidity for the vines to be dry-farmed, the disease pressure is incredibly low, thus allowing for minimal intervention in the vineyard and very low use of sulphur in the cellar – where his wines are also bottled unfined and unfiltered.
This low-intervention approach puts focus on the expressiveness of the fruit itself. Peña is working with 80 to 100-year-old vineyards that are incredibly adapted and deep-rooted (quite literally) in the island’s volcanic soils. Bien de Altura wines are currently made from Listán Negro, Listán Prieto, Tintilla, Vijariego Negro and Vijariego Blanco, but Peña is already recovering plots with other varieties, all of which pay tribute to Gran Canarias’s fascinating history.
His work goes well beyond wine though – Peña has been instrumental in establishing the local ‘land bank’, through which (abandoned) vineyard owners can be matched with people wanting to farm the plots. This is part of his greater effort to bring Gran Canaria’s wine and history to the forefront and foster a local community of passionate winemakers, growers and artists.