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Vines, Wines and Shakespeare’s Times


Vineyard, La Geria, Lanzarote

Vines in Lanzarote's volcanic region

As any thirsty visitors to the island will soon attest Lanzarote is home to a truly unique form of viniculture that is light years removed from the production process in other European wine growing regions.  Reflecting the testing weather conditions prevalent on Lanzarote  – with wind, scorching heat and a near total absence of rainfall all conspiring against the farmers and bodegas who seek to work the alchemy of transforming grapes into a drinkable glass of wine.

Canary Wine In Shakespeare´s Time

The Canary Islands have quite a history when it comes to viniculture – as for a while during the 16th and 17th centuries wines from the islands were amongst the most sought after in the world, gracing the top tables of European royalty and enjoying name checks in many of William Shakespeare’s best known works, such as Twelfth Night and The Merry Wives of Windsor.  Whilst also popping up hundreds of years later in the work of other leading literary lights such as Keats, who also referred to wines from the island as Canary.

The sheer expense of wine (it was something in the region of twelve times the price of ale during Shakespeare´s time) and England´s growing rivalry with Spain meant that Canary never really caught on with the masses though – and imports dipped markedly as a result during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Vines and Volcanoes

Lanzarote´s wine growers were also hit by the enormous eruptions of the 1730´s which decimated numerous vineyards and villages in the region that is now known as Timanfaya.  But over time local farmers and producers learned to adapt, finding that they could use volcanic chippings, called picon, as a type of mulch for their vines, so overcoming the lack of water on Lanzarote.  The corrosive effects of the Trade Winds were also negated by growing the vines within protective stone semi circles, a zocos, which are evident everywhere in the island´s wine growing region, creating attractive uniform patterns in the black picon fields.

El Grifo – Lanzarote´s Best Known Winery

Lanzarote´s oldest bodega is the El Grifo winery, which dates back to 1775 and which is also one of the longest established producers in the Canaries.  These days El Grifo is probably best known for creating an award winning range of boutique wines using the Malvasia grape, which is the most predominant variety on the island and just ideal for sweet and dry white wine production.

20 Plus Island Bodegas

There are also over 20 other bodegas of varying scale, such as Bodega Stratvs, Los Bermejos and Bodega Rubicon, most of which can be found in the main wine growing region of La Geria, which is located close to the Timanfaya National Park.  Indeed wine lovers can enjoy quite a tipsy tasting trail by following the wine route from El Grifo in Masdache down to Uga whilst enjoying small samples of each specialty on route.  Some of the bodegas, such as Stratvs, are also home to good quality restaurants too. 

Eagle eyed wine lovers will also notice vines being cultivated in many other areas of the island too (albeit in much smaller quantities) and leading local wines are available in most supermarkets on Lanzarote.  Although some of the small production bodegas supply local restaurants only.

To find out more about wine production on the island you can visit the official site of the Denominacion de Origen for Lanzarote wines which includes lots of useful information such as a map of the local bodegas.

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