Locals Only Canary Islands | Lanzarote Wines and Bodega Tours

One of the memories that I constantly go back to about my travels through Spain is our visit to the island of Lanzarote. I had no idea what I would expect when I booked our flights, and once arrived, I was met with such fascination, that within a few months I had returned for round two. The Canary Islands in general are unique "Spain." In fact they actually show a completely different culture, heritage and attitude than the peninsula. The people are incredibly friendly, so much so that it makes us city slickers seem like irrational and barbarous folks if we don't quickly adapt to their pace of life - yes, that means acknowledging strangers, smiling at random and driving under the speed limit, no honking please.

I would argue that the range of wines available from Lanzarote are much like its inhabitants, warm, sweet, different and getting used to the world's interest in them. You see, low cost airlines have started dumping flights onto the islands, bringing a whole bunch of Brits, Irish and some Spaniards as well to the lunar-esque shores. On the other end of the spectrum, wine importers have caught wind of this sea caressed grape and have begun introducing them outside; articles by the New York Times about Canary Island wines don't hurt their new-found fame either.

Sure it carries a made in Spain label, but these series of islands are almost about as far from the stereotypical Spanish cliche one can think of. No paella, no bull fighting, no metro. As one would imagine, island life moves differently, yet they work their fields as hard, if not harder than on the mainland, and one of the things that continuously proves itself to grow are the grapevines - even considering its harsh growing terrain. It is thought that the islands have a wine history of 500 years (initally brought by conquerors), while Lanzarote shows evidence that vines were introduced to the land around the mid 18th century.

Since their distance to Europe is so grand, the grapes on the islands never suffered the plague of Phylloxera, those little buggers that completely destroyed European wine production in the 19th century. Instead these ungrafted grapes must deal with trying to survive rooted in volcanic soil (in the case of Lanzarote), long periods of drought, and although a primarily mild and warm climate engulfs them, there are the trade winds to deal with from the north-east, that cast sea mist upon them, adding another element of their durability and complexity.

Amidst a national park (Timanfaya), jaw-dropping architecture from Lanzarote's own artist Cesar Manrique, and the bizarre yet beautiful symmetry of stark white facades and green doors against the black and red land, like me, you'll probably go crazy for Lanzarote. Did I mention the wines?

Climb down the rabbit hole with me.

First let's get familiar with the...

Domination of Origin, Lanzarote:

Look for this, one of Spain's 70 D.O.s


Some 60 miles east off the coast of Africa. As far as the archipelago is concerned, Lanzarote is the furthest West of the islands.

Blue skies, blue water to swim in all year, this is typically Lanzarote. 

And yet a few turns of the corner later and we appear to be on another planet. Hard to imagine life forms on Lanzarote, right? 

Grape Varietals:

Malvasia - one of the most common and rare (worldly speaking) grapes found on the island. Produces dry and semi-sweet wines

Moscatel - I was the dummy that thought this was only from Málaga

Listán Negro - produces award winning reds on the island, a black-skin version of Palomino (used for making sherry)

Negramoll - together with Listán Negro makes up the second red variety on Lanzarote

into this.

Amazing, isn't it? Bodega El Grifo in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain

Tastings and Tours:

Most bodegas are open year round, offer tours, or simply the opportunity to stop in, have a drink (starting around 2 euros per half-glass), and decide to buy, pack-up for the airplane ride home, or simply mosey on. We had the time, and endurance, for two wineries and one shopping trip. If you have a couple days and a rental car to explore the island of Lanzarote and its Martian terrain, you can make a bigger dent (be sure to use my Lanzarote Wine map below!).

Bodegas El Grifo The oldest bodega on the island, family run since 1775.

In their museum they had labels dating back from popular Spanish wines, vermouths and Anisette, or anise liqueurs. 

The griffin of El Grifo Bodega in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain.  

Volcanic soil lends to the wine's minerality, as the soil is rich in iron, magnesium and calcium. Another important factor is the speed at which the volcanic soil delivers water to the roots of the grapevines, at a slower rate than traditional dirt; which can be a helpful factor in the dry months/years. 

Second stop at Bodega La Geria, which reminded me of a large saloon out of a Western movie set, but the wines pleasantly surprised. 

La Geria Bodega, winery in Lanzarote, Spain. 

We thoroughly enjoyed the Malvasia Semidulce, semi-sweet by Bodega La Geria; young, refreshing, slightly acidic. 

The booty:

We took "home" a bottle of Malvasia from El Grifo. It didn't make it to the peninsula however. 

The coveted (by American fans of Jose Pastor Selections - who has been called an importing genius) Brut Nature by Los Bermejos. An interesting sparkling wine made of 100% Malvasia. If you make it to Lanzarote buy directly from the bodega, 10-12 euros. 

Map of Lanzarote Wine by Sobremesa In Spain

View Lanzarote Wine in a larger map


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