Lanzarote: Heroic Winemaking On The Volcanic Soils
What comes to your mind when we hear of the Lanzarote Island? Perhaps soft climate, vast beaches, holiday atmosphere? Few would associate this place with the winemaking, and even fewer would be able to imagine the heroic process of planting the vineyard in this part of the globe. Lanzarote belongs to the group of Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean, right at the strategical point between Europe, Africa, and America.
The archipelago has quickly become a central hub for trade since the 15th century, when wine was among the most important and well-known products. Yet harsh winds, hard soils for planting, and the proximity of the nearby volcanoes could make winemaking impossible in the area, if only the first winemakers of the past would not develop their hardworking attitude and innovative solutions.
What makes Lanzarote unique:
Geologically extreme Lanzarote is synonymous with volcanoes, lava fields, and rocks in impossible shapes. Approaching the vineyards gives me the feeling of approaching another planet and not less!
The road goes among thousands of cones, each looking like a small crater diameter of 2-3 meters, additionally protected by the circular stone wall and created solely for one vine planted in the center. This unique way of cultivating grapes was created to protect the vines from incredibly strong trade winds.
Images by Darya Boronilo ©
One of the world’s most spectacular types of vineyards has been created more than 250 years ago and all with human hands only.
The history goes back to the 1730s when the massive Volcanic eruptions took place, and the entire region was covered in ash. Hectares of fertile farmlands were lost, but turning weakness into strength, people saw the ash as a blessing and started to plant vines.
The strategy quickly paid off with great results – volcanic soils brought particular mineral notes to the island’s wines, while the climatic conditions with good temperature contrast between day and night, which is so important for the quality of grapes, brought additional benefits such as particular freshness and complexity. Today these vineyards are part of ‘Paisaje Protegido’ – a culturally protected landscape, that should not be changed or damaged in any way.
A Fusion Of Art, Wine, and Nature
As soon as I step foot on the island, I can notice the unique colors of its volcanic landscapes, contrasting with the blue of the Atlantic. Here nature lives side by side with art.
The island of Lanzarote as a place of immense beauty owes much of its character to the artist César Manrique. A painter, sculptor, and architect, Manrique devoted himself to preserving the island’s unique environment through his art. As I move along the way with black and red earth, I spot houses, restaurants, and even wineries – all completely whitewashed. Martinique’s architectural idea was to contrast them with all the dark soil of the moonlike landscape.
Thanks to his efforts, visitors can experience a range of atmospheric locations, from the Casa del Volcán (Manrique’s own home) to the Mirador del Río - the viewing point with its stunning views of La Graciosa Island. Other highlights include the lava tubes at Jameos del Agua, the cave of Los Verdes where you can attend concerts, and a garden with over 7000 Cactus plants .
Everywhere you go on the island, you get a sense of the fusion of art and nature that Manrique achieved. It’ s also a pleasure to discover the traditional lifestyle of Lanzarote, with its art galleries and charming towns like Teguise, full of artisan workshops. Time seems to stand still, and travellers here can relax, visiting the island’s museums, caves, and empty beaches, tasting its exceptional wines, and learning about the local winemaking traditions that make this place so unique.
Unique Grape Varieties
An interesting fact to know about Lanzarote is that due to Volcanic soils, Canary Islands have avoided phylloxera disease. This way a lot of the varieties that were lost in Continental Europe were saved here since the 15 th century, many of which has mutated and produced new ones.
Lanzarote’s dominant varieties noted for the particular mineral character and freshness are Malvasia Volcanica, Moscatel, Diego and Listan Blanco. Malvasía Volcánica is a white grape variety that is characteristic of Lanzarote wine.
The Malvasía grape made its way to Lanzarote after the eruptions in the 18th Century, adapting perfectly to the landscape and growing into its own distinct variety. The grape variety is a cross of Malvasia and another Canary Island variety, Marmajuelo, and you will only find it on our volcanic island. Thanks to Malvasia Volcanica, recognised by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine as a unique variety, the Canary Islands’ wine was first put on the global wine map.
Wineries Beyond Expectations
I started my Lanzarote wine journey at Bodega Rubicon, an estate with a long history that is among the best wineries on the island. The site has roots in farming dating back as far as 16 th century, and the current owner, Don Germán López Figueras purchased it in 1979 with a dream to devote himself to his great passion: making wine. Spinning the glass with emblematic semisweet Rubicon, I had a chance to admire the breathtaking landscape from the large terrace of the winery.
My next stop was El Grifo, that is the Canaries oldest winery and among the ten oldest in Spain. The winery has some grapevines from the19th century, which are planted in lava cracks, surrounded by high hand-made walls for wind protection.
As I go through the historical property, the guide tells us the words she once heard from the visiting winemaker “I thought I was a good winemaker but now I understand I wasn’t, I have everything I need to easily produce wine. The great winemakers are here.They manage to produce wine with so many difficulties”. My visit finished at El Grifo’s big wine museum and cactus garden!
Unveiling the Delights of Lanzarote’s Wine Tourism
Lanzarote's climate and geography result in some truly unique characteristics in its wines which are recognised around the world. With their own denomination of origin, the island’s wines have created considerable interest in wine tourism on the island.
The island’s bodegas are very close to each other, which is ideal for those who like to explore or want to take a day to discover a specific wine route in Lanzarote. I suggest two wine routes: The first one takes you through La Geria, where you'll learn about the traditional way of local winemaking. During the tour, you’ll learn more on how underground water can be reached, early harvests that start already in August and the important hardy helpers – the camels!
The second route takes you to the north of the island, where you can visit the Bodega de las Nieves and taste some of their award-winning wines. And don't leave the island without taking part in truly unique local wine tourism experiences such as underwater aged wine tasting, participation in the night harvest, and camel harvest with traditional celebrations.
A Testament To Life's Pleasures
Nestled amidst breathtaking landscapes and adorned with sprawling vineyards, Lanzarote is an enchanting haven for wine enthusiasts and culture aficionados alike.
Embark on a journey unlike any other as you explore the depths of its rich gastronomy and immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of its unique culture. With every sip of its exceptional wines, meticulously crafted from the island's volcanic soil, you'll discover a symphony of flavours that dances upon your palate, leaving you yearning for more.
Each moment spent here is a testament to life's pleasures, an invitation to savour every sip, every bite, and every interaction. So, do not delay, for this extraordinary destination beckons you to embark on a soul-stirring adventure. Travel to Lanzarote and immerse yourself in the unparalleled charm and allure of this unique wine destination.