Abandoned wine cellars: Es Sindicat

felanitx-wine1An astonishing abandoned building with cathedral like proportions, Es Sindicat in Felanitx was founded in 1919 as a wine producing cooperative and officially closed in 1991.  Boarded up and slightly hazardous.  It was like entering the Tate Modern in London to the power of 10 and seeing the most amazing installation art ever exhibited. I was rendered speechless.  My photos don’t quite capture the scale.

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The building was declared a historic and cultural site in 2001 and, as far as I understand, there was hope of it being restored or redeveloped as a museum or historical centre but the money has not been available for what would be a huge financial undertaking.

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felanitx-casksscale2felanitx-casksscale1You can see the height of the casks above in proportion to my 6′ tall fellow sleuth.

Below a historic photograph found online (no date provided) with two views below of the same room today.  It looks like the same wooden crates being pushed by the man on the upper level and perhaps grapes coming out of the spouts on the left?

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And of course, the usual graffiti which doesn’t add such insult in a gritty urban environment.   It is a shame that such a majestic building has been left to ruin which makes it all the more incredible.

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A brief history of the building and wine making in Mallorca…

The heady years of wine production in Mallorca were between 1865-1890 culminating in over 30,000 acres of vineyards on the island until they were destroyed by plague (phylloxera) in 1891.  France was a large importer of Spanish wine by commercial treaty from 1882-1892, seemingly they had their own plague going on.  Phylloxera created a huge crisis in the Mallorquin wine industry and the destroyed vines were slowly replanted with American strains that were more hardy.

Below a Wikipedia entry about phylloxera

In the late 19th century the phylloxera epidemic destroyed most of the vineyards for wine grapes in Europe, most notably in France. Phylloxera was introduced to Europe when avid botanists in Victorian England collected specimens of American vines in the 1850s. Because phylloxera is native to North America, the native grape species there are at least partially resistant. By contrast, the European wine grape Vitis vinifera is very susceptible to the insect. The epidemic devastated vineyards in Britain and then moved to the European mainland, destroying most of the European grape growing industry. In 1863, the first vines began to deteriorate inexplicably in the southern Rhône region of France. The problem spread rapidly across the continent. In France alone, total wine production fell from 84.5 million hectolitres in 1875 to only 23.4 million hectolitres in 1889. Some estimates hold that between two-thirds and nine-tenths of all European vineyards were destroyed.

The Cooperative ‘Es Sindicat’ was formed to rebuild wine production and encourage the many smallholders to continue growing wine after the crisis – the Cooperative had over 500 members at its peak. The building was designed by the architect William Forteza and construction was completed in 1922.  Today, Binissalem is considered the wine making capital of Mallorca, but in the early 1900s it was Felanitx.

There is a blog devoted to the protection of the building that hasn’t posted since 2009. 

Here’s a YouTube video about the Es Sindicat Cooperative with film clips from the 1920s.

 

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