Guide to Wine from the Canary Islands
Canary wines lived their golden age from the 16th century when they sailed the seas en route to the ports of Northern Europe and the Caribbean.
Writers and poets of the time would frequently praise the Canary, a wine of the Madeira, Marsalla, Oporto and Sherry lineage which was capable of lifting the spirit and livening the heart.
Although the Phylloxera plague never reached the archipelago, which explains why the plants are grafted onto local bases, at the end of last century two successive plagues (oidium and mildew) severely damaged the vines, to the extent that they took nearly a century to recover.
The great variety of climates and soils partly explains the diversity of grape species of the Canary vines. The 1980´s marked the re-emergence of the Archipelagos wines which now have 8 Designations of Origin including:
- Tacoronte-Acentejo – the first region of the Canary Islands to acquire DO recognition. See below for more info
- Ycoden-Daute-Isora – DO recognition in 1994. See below for more info
- Abona – DO 1994
- Valle de Güimar and Valle de la Orotava (on the Islands of Tenerife, Lanzarote, El Hierro and La Palma)
The vineyard is an integral part of the Lanzarote landscape which is crowned by the summit of the Timanfaya volcano. Around La Geria region the vines grow from within holes dug out of the black volcanic rock and surrounded by a small round, stone wall .
The intervention of man helped to defend the vine from drought and the scorching Saharan winds which blow across this most western of the Islands. The white Malvasia species of grape dominates the vineyards and provides unmistakable sweet and semi-sweet wines.
This is the oldest Designation of Origin of the Canary Isles and maybe also the most developed in technology and the art of wine making. It is also the first region to acquire DO status (1992). The vineyards are planted at altitudes of between 100 and 1,000 m (above sea level) in terraces built into the slopes of steep hillsides.
The area includes various municipalities on the northern tip of the island of Tenerife, located half way between Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s capital and the tourist resort of Puerto de Santa Cruz.
The vineyard is a showpiece of the rich variety of species of grape on the islands and contains the majority of the white Canary grapes (Malvasia, Vijariego, Gual, Listan Blanca, Verdello, Moscatel) as well as the main red grapes (Listan Negra and Negramoll). It is the latter which predominates and produces the most interesting wines.
This recently created Denomination of Origin from the far western side of Tenerife is appropriate recognition of the ancient wine growing pedigree of this region with recognised centres of excellence such as like Icod de los Vinos and La Guancha, producing wines of a singular aromatic quality.
The whites obtained from the Listan Blanco and Malvasia species predominate but the red, made mainly from Listan Negro and Negramoll are velvety to the palate with a unique character.