In honor of National Drink Wine Day, we are featuring a deep dive into the world of wine on Spain’s Canary Islands!
As with many historic wine regions, vinification in the Canary Islands began because Catholic missionaries needed sacramental wine. Today, the Canary Islands’ remoteness have allowed for a number of indigenous grapes, such as Malvasía Volcánica and Marmajuelo, or those from mainland Spain, like Listán Negro and Listán Blanco, to evolve untouched and ungrafted over centuries, making it one of the most unique wine regions in the world.
Located approximately 100 kilometers west of Morocco, the Canary Islands comprise a significant part of Spanish, as well as American, history. During the Spanish Empire, the Canary Islands were the main stopover for Spanish ships heading to the Americas, which ventured south to catch the prevailing northeasterly trade winds to hasten the journey westward.
Spain’s highest mountain is located on Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, where most of the island’s vineyards are rooted in fertile, volcanic soils. There are a number of Denominacion de Origen (DOs) located on these islands, and while most produce very interesting wines, only a small portion make it to the US market.
Grapes To Know in the Canary Islands
Malvasía Volcánica – An extremely important native grape, Malvasía Volcánica is the predominant variety on Lanzarote, the easternmost island. The wines are intensely aromatic and have high salinity.
Marmajuelo – Only found in the Canary Islands, this grape is intensely floral, with exotic fruit flavors and high acidity.
Listán Blanco – Known in mainland Spain as Palomino Fino, the same grape that is essential to the production of sherry, it is the dominant white grape on the western islands, primarily Tenerife. Wineries produce the wine as a stand alone variety or in white blends alongside Malvasía Aromática, Marmajuelo and others.
Listán Negro – A dark-skinned grape that offers excellence on the Canary Islands. A medium bodied wine with hints of red cherry, strawberry, spice, and smoke. This wine pairs beautifully with a charcuterie and cheese spread.
Negramoll – Also known as Tinta Negra, is mostly cultivated on the Palma Island, located northwest of Tenerife. Negarmoll produces medium-bodied red wines that are full of cherries, raspberries and strawberry flavors and aroma.