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Wine from the Canary Islands

Spanish Wine

Wine from the Canary Islands. Each of the islands that make up the archipelago, with the exception of Fuerteventura, have their own Designation of Origin.

"But, i'faith, you have drunk too much canaries; and that´s a marvellous searching wine,
and it perfumes the blood ere one can say…"

William Shakespeare, Henry IV, part II, act II, scene IV.

Maybe it was the Roman god Bacchus, or the Greek god Dionysus, that has given it to us; or maybe it was Noah who discovered it, albeit by coincidence, but it really doesn't matter. Whatever the case may be, wine has been present on our dinner tables and in Mediterranean homes for centuries.

In Spain today, we are living an age of gourmetization which translates to a growing interest in everything gourmet related like gourmet cuisine and fine wine. Cooking shows abound on the television with great success and everyday there are more and more gourmet centered stores opening all over the country. In restaurants, you will find a proliferation of tasting menus (menú de desgustación) and weekly wine tasting courses. This socio-cultural trend isn't just found on the mainland it has also come to the Canary Islands, a fertile land for this type of trend to take off.

Even though the Roman poet Horace, half a century before our era, talks about the abundance of vineyards in these "fortunate islands", it is more likely that the cultivation of grapes for winemaking were introduced in to the archipelago by colonist or conquistadores between the 14th and 15th centuries. The fact that these "recent" arrivals to the islands came from all over the Iberian Peninsula as well as Portugal, France, Genoa and Flanders meant that there was a rich blending of cultures that is hard to find in other places around the world. Additionally, with fertile volcanic soil and the abundant rains that fall on the islands made it easy for plants to adjust to their new climate quickly.

The Malvasía grape, originally from the island of Crete, has adapted exceptionally well to the mild Canarian climate and since islands was virtually an obligatory stop along the marine routes to America as well as southern routes navigating around Africa. Wine from the Canary Islands became famous and the demand grew for its wines from different varietals. Thankfully, the Canary Islands were free from the phylloxera plague that decimated vineyards on the continent in the latter part of the 19th century. This geographic advantage meant that grape varieties that disappeared on the continent continued to be cultivated in the islands.

The limited productivity of the grape vines and the difficulty of introducing machinery into the process of cultivation due to the difficulty of the uneven terrain and the dryland farming are technique used here are not obstacles for this wine becoming known outside of the islands. The wines from the Canary Islands have been making headway in the difficult wine market with consistent growth year after year. One significant fact is that each of the islands that make up the archipelago, with the exception of Fuerteventura, have their own Designation of Origin which guarantees their quality, cultivation and production methods. Here you will find the designations  D.O. El Hierro, D.O. Gran Canaria, D.O. La Palma, D.O. La Gomera and D.O. Lanzarote. On the island of Tenerife, you can find five unique designations: Abona, Valle de Güímar, Valle de la Orotava, Tacoronte Acentejo and Ycoden-Daute-Isora. In Tenerife you also have the opportunity to get to know better the wines produced here thanks to the Casa del Vino de Tenerife Museum in the town of El Sauzal.

White wines are especially popular starting with the sweet white malvasía wine originally from Lanzarote to the sweet whites for the northern part of Tenerife and El Hierro. Rosés are also a very common wine produced in the islands especially those from the Orotava Valley in Tenerife. No wine producing region would be the same without excellent reds like those found from Tacoronte Acentejo and Gran Canaria. The wines from the Canary Islands will surprise the children of Bacchus (or Noah) with wines that are difficult to find outside of the islands due to their high production costs and small scale production. Only the best wines will find their way to bottles that will get corked for passionate residents and visitors alike.

Lovers of the wine from the Canary Islands know that the best place to sample the local vintages is at a guachinche (a small, family run shop that usually pertains to a local vintner who sells his own wine along with local culinary specialties) which are found in the northern part of Tenerife. These small business have been receiveing more attention lately with food and wine lovers taking note of the virtues of the everyday comfort food that is found in these small establishments.

Year after year, the demand for quality wine from visitors and residents alike has increased. Connoisseurs of wine from the Canary Islands know that this wine is not far from the quality of red wines found in the Rioja and Ribera de Duero regions of the peninsula. Also, the white wine found here has been able to stand toe to toe the finest white wines from France.