Pla i Llevant is a DO winegrowing zone on the island of Mallorca, in Spain's Balearic Islands. It occupies the south-eastern half of the island. The name Pla i Llevant is Catalan for 'plain and east coast', and aptly sums up the area covered by the designation. Although better known for its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters than for its wine, eastern Mallorca has been producing wine for many centuries. The booming tourist trade which developed in the latter half of the 20th Century brought fresh investment to the region, and has steadily brought the island's wine industry into the modern era.
As is the case with Mallorca's other DO (Binissalem), Pla i Llevant's wine traditions are steeped in history. Viticulture and wine production here date back to at least 123 BC, when Mallorca came under Roman rule, and Pliny the Elder is known to have praised Mallorcan wines in the 1st Century AD. The region's location along traditional trade routes nurtured wine production here. Unfortunately, in line with the rest of Europe, in the latter half of the 19th Century the island was struck by phylloxera. The louse had a profound effect on Pla i Llevant's vineyards and economy, and it took more than a century for the local wine industry to be revived, assisted by the booming tourist industry.
A warm Mediterranean climate, low altitudes (no more than 330ft / 100m) and lime-enriched clay soils shape the region's wine styles. The soils retain moisture – essential for the hot summers – but are also permeable and provide good drainage. These conditions create wines that are often described as fruit-driven and mouth-filling, with smooth tannins. The biggest threats to vine health here are the hot, dry summers and the occasional heavy downpours and violent winds in winter.
Mallorca's native Prensal Blanc (Moll) grape is responsible for the majority of white Pla i Llevant wine, although Moscatel, Macabeo, Parellada and Chardonnay are also used. Most red wines are based on local varieties such as Fogoneu (which once dominated the island's vineyards), Callet and Manto Negro. Better-known international varieties are now being increasingly used, among them Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
Most Pla i Levant wines are designed for early consumption and therefore experience little if any barrel aging. That said, some exciting barrel-fermented Chardonnays are emerging, as are red crianzas (barrel-aged wines) made from Tempranillo and the Bordeaux varieties.
Still a young designation, Pla i Llevant is considered to show a lot of potential for distinctive whites and reds.