Wine is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the Canary Islands. The Islands are a popular European tourist destination but they also have a thriving wine industry.
Wine production has a long history in the Canary Islands, but the modern era didn’t start until about the mid 1980’s. Since then wine exports have been increasing as more people discover these wines.
The Canary Islands are in the Atlantic Ocean about 100 kilometres west of Morocco. The main islands, from largest to smallest, are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa. They are a popular tourist destination because of their subtropical climate. However, it is the distinctive volcanic wines that have been gaining global attention and critical acclaim over the past 3 decades.
Six of the eight islands, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera produce wine. The soils vary from island to island, formed by volcanic eruptions, landslides and erosion. The soil ranges from light stone to very heavy basalt rock.
The climate also varies across the archipelago. The eastern islands consist of older geological formations with lower, more uniform altitude and a dry, desert-like climate. The western islands are higher, steeper and have a greater variation of microclimates.
There are 20 unique grape varieties found in the Islands along with more than 20 new varieties that are currently being studied. Listán Blanco (aka Palomino) and Listán Negro are the most widely planted grapes on the Islands. Others include white wine grapes Malvasía Volcánica, Malvasía Aromática and Albillo Criollo, along with red wine grapes Negramoll, Vijariego Negro and Baboso Negro. There are a few plantings of international varieties, such as Syrah. Each of the Islands has its own specialities.
Dry, high-acid whites and light, fruity reds are typical of the Islands but richer, oak-aged options exist as well.
The wine industry is very focused on gaining international recognition based on the unique and ancient grape varieties grown. The aim is for these wines to reach markets where they can gain more exposure and have the opportunity to grow in popularity.
In 2020, around 15 million gallons of wine (51% red and 49% white) were produced in the Canary Islands.
Some of the grapes from the Canary Islands can be found in South America. They were brought there by Spanish settlers in the 16th century. One of the varieties was Listán Prieto, which can now be found in California (known as Mission), Chile (País) and Argentina (Criolla Chica).
Wine from the Canary Islands is occasionally available in the specialty section of wine stores in Canada. These wines will be included with the other wines from Spain.