Imagine a place where an emerald ocean sparkles delightfully in the high afternoon sun, a place with sharp peaks rising into the sky, and where the mystic, mountainous landscape stretches out before your very eyes. Miles of gray-ash sands, towering cliffs, surfing waves, colorful flowers, and warm air with a salty breeze—welcome to the Canary Islands. You’ve discovered the hidden gem of Spain.
Though far away and off the southwest coast of Morocco, the Canary Islands are a part of Spain, and a part of Spain’s unique viticulture heritage. Geographic isolation has kept these islands Phylloxera-free to this day, allowing unusual grape varieties that exist nowhere else to thrive; Albillo, Bastardo Blanco, Breval, Gual, Listan Negro, Marmajuelo, Preto, Tintilla, and Vijariego are a few that continue to grow here.
Volcanoes contribute hugely to the dynamic winemaking scene, as well. The Islands’ soils are entirely volcanic, providing the grapes with a natural high acidity, as well as bringing a unique minerality to the wines. These wines are often smoky and a bit flinty, with great salinity. The volcanoes reach up to 12,000 feet, making some of the vineyards among the highest in the EU.
The most easterly island of Lanzarote, however, is much flatter, and black-ash desert covers the land. A unique vineyard trellising is, therefore, practiced on this island. The vines are planted in holes in the ground, or beside stone walls, protecting them from the coastal fogs and brisk winds.
Today, there are a total of 10 DOs and nearly 10,000 vine growers, providing grapes to over 200 wineries in the Canary Islands. It is still relatively rare to find these wines outside of the Islands, and their international recognition is long overdue. Nonetheless, their distinctiveness and depth of flavors are definitely worth seeking out. Go hunt for these treasures. You will be well-rewarded.
Dry sparkling wine from Lanzarote made using the Champagne method. 100% Malvasia grown on the island’s dark, volcanic soils, the wine expresses true terroir. It is lean and fresh, with yeasty aromas and mineral flavors. Nine month sur lie and 12 month bottle-aging add richness and creaminess to the texture.
Juan and his family own two tiny hectares on the island of La Palma and produce traditional-style wines. Sourced from two vineyards at over 1,000 meters above sea level, this Albillo Blanco is highly floral and elegant, with herbal tea and poached fruit flavors.
Founded in 1990, Viñátigo specializes in 100% single native varietal wines. Boal in Madeira, this white wine from the Gual grape is richly textured, with exotic fruits and a smoky, mineral touch.
A blend of Tintilla and Listán Negro that is light and meaty. Sourced from elevated, terraced slopes at 1,200 meters, this wine is reminiscent of Nebbiolo. Elegant, yet boldly structured, with red fruits and floral notes, followed by leathery and smoky minerality on the palate.
Late-harvest Malvasia that is aged in French oak using the solera system. Deliciously sweet, with honeyed fruits and nutty flavors. Pronounced aromas of fruits, spices, herbs, and minerality, with a long finish.