We at Despaña Vinos y Más feel as you do, not quite ready to let summer go. We can’t always be lounging on a Spanish island, but perhaps we’ve found a way to linger on the beach for just a bit longer.
The wines of the Canary Islands have never been more exciting. There's something transporting about uncorking a bottle of wine from the Canaries - the salty ocean, the extreme altitude, the volcanic earth. Visionary winemakers have been busy farming organically, working with the volcanic landscapes and unique conditions. The collective aim is to make authentic and pure wines that express the terruño of the islands.
The Canary Islands (Las Canarias) is a volcanic archipelago located off the coast of southern Morocco. Due to its natural isolation from mainland Spain, vines were not afflicted with phylloxera, and can be hundreds of years old.
In addition to some international grapes, most winemakers work with indigenous varietals such as Listán Negro, Negramoll, Tintilla and Baboso Negro for reds. Listán Blanco, Malvasía Aromática, Malvásia Volcánia, Albillo Criollo (Gual), Vijariego, Moscatel, and Marmajuelo for whites.
The six islands that are fertile grounds for wine are Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera. With dramatic mountainous terrains, high altitudes, and exposure to devastating winds, vineyards are managed in a variety of traditional and ingenious ways. Extreme island wines from ungrafted vines expressing volcanic minerality and wild, tropical personality.
Lanzarote, the easternmost Canary Isle, within a strong wind blowing from Africa, touched by a series of volcanic eruptions in the 1730s, is the place to be for ancient indigenous vines, traditional winemaking and nature’s miracles. Looking at the terrain of Lanzarote is like looking at a reflection of the moon under a clear blue sky. But a deeper look reveals a symbiosis between humans and nature.
These vines that have not only survived volcanic events, but continue to thrive in the human-made lunar landscapes dug by hand (hoyos). To provide nutrients, each vine must be planted in an hoyo, buried deep underneath the ash (picon), encircled by rock walls for added protection from the harsh winds. The volcanic nature of the soil is a good conduit for water absorption and distribution to the vine roots, while also providing protection from heat and direct sunlight. Vineyard work can only be carried out by hand. Only imagination and ingenuity could inspire grape cultivation in such a challenging terroir.
On the north side of the largest island, Tenerife, in the Valle de Orotava, where a majority of the pie franco (ungrafted) vines are trellis-trained using the cordón trenzado method, the vines stretch out several feet away in wooden braids while remaining tethered to the mother trunks. The braids of the oldest vines can reach up to 22 meters in length.
Many other wine projects are underway on the other islands.
By honoring tradition and refining innovation, the wines express their high elevation and oceanic influence revealing volcanic minerality and electricity. As a result of heroic viticulture, these native, pure island wines are singular and very limited.
We are very pleased to offer the wines of:
The wine importer Rayco Fernandez had his eye on Lanzarote, the island pearl of the ocean, for a long time. No man or woman is an island, so Rayco gathered around friends and grape growers to work the project that is Puro Rofe. The collective vision of making wines from such a dreamscape is a collaboration of humans, Rayco, Chicho Mota, Carmelo Peña, Vicente Torres, and Ascención Robayna, among others.
This cooperative is based out of La Geria where the cellar contains old school tools of the trade, baskets, concrete vats, clay amphorae and lagars. Vineyards are cultivated in many volcanic areas, digging hoyos and walls to protects the vines that produce a vital expression of the land.
Suertes Del Marqués
Suertes del Marqués is a winery in Tenerife dedicated to the unique viticulture on the north side of the island in the Valle de Orotava. Headed by Jonatan García Lima, over 11 hectares of heritage vineyards ranging from 300-750 m above sea level are cultivated. In addition, Jonatan works with other local grape growers in the continued development of the native varietals and the land.
Many of the vines are pre-phylloxera, with some ranging from 100 to 200 years in age. Jonatan is resolved in the preservation of traditional vineyard management on the slopes of Pico del Teide.
If the Beatles made wine and were working in some of the most challenging landscapes in the world, they might just reincarnate as Envínate.
Winemakers Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and José Martínez want you to wine yourself, and can think of no better way to do that than with the pure wines of Tenerife. The team is focused on exploring distinctive Atlantic-influenced (Vinos Atlanticos) regions like the Canary Islands. They farm organically – wild yeasts, whole clusters, foot-trodden, hand-picked – a natural approach seeking to bring out the defining characteristics of each parcel.
Dolores Cabrera Fernández
The D.O. of Valle de la Orotova was established in 1995, partly due to the mission of Dolores Cabrera, an evangelist for eco-responsible winemaking in Tenerife. She practices biodiversity, enriching the vines throughout the steep slopes that overlook the Atlantic. Fertile soils are the building blocks for earthy, textured wines that continue to make a magnetic impact.
Dolores Cabrera Fernández has been a long-time grape grower in the Valle de la Orotava, located in northern Tenerife. Her focus is to bring out the best potential of the native varietals, especially centenary Listán Negro and Blanco vines situated near the Pico del Teide, an active volcano with the highest peak in Spain relative to sea level (3715m).
It's no wonder Rayco Fernández of Puro Rofe in Lanzarote and Pablo Matallana of Taro Vinicola started a project to create Bimbache in 2018 with just 5 hectares spread among vineyards in Frontera, Valverde, and El Pinar in the smallest and youngest of the Canary archipelago, a spry 100 million years young – El Hierro. This little island is ripe with the most genetic and clonal diversity of vines in all of the Canaries.
The vines (only 167 hectares) face the same challenges as with the rest of its siblings – fierce tradewinds, little rainfall, and blistering heat. This is a maritime and volcanic terruño, soils rich with limestone and clay mixed into volcanic sands.
At Los Bermejos winery, Ignacio Valdera simply bottles the juice from the fermented grapes. Over the last twenty years Ignacio has sought to maintain successful, self-sustaining viticulture for the island.
All vineyard work is organic and hand harvested, with the bulk of the grapes cultivated by grape growers who have worked the land for generations.
Tamerán is a new project on the island of Gran Canaria financed by an ex-footballer named David Silva, a native. To manage and make wine from about six hectares of vineyards, David is working with Jonatan García Lima from Suertes del Marqués who oversees the vineyard management and winemaking.
You can find wines from these and many other Canary Island producers at our Soho shop or on-line.