The biddies continue the volcanic wine passport tour with the Canary Islands. A cool spot that was once an important stopping point for ships in the Atlantic wine trade, these islands were once well known for their sweet wine, and are now known as an up and coming wine spot making crisp, saline whites. Grab a glass and join us.



Study Notes:

*Please note some of these lines might be directly taken from sources noted above.


  • Form an Atlantic archipelago with seven major islands under the Spanish Flag
  • These oceanic volcanoes are the result of continental drift over a mantle plume “hotspot”
  • Follows the African plate that’s moving east towards the moroccan coast the so eatern island are the oldest *Fuerteventura and Lanzarote)
    • Emerged 20 million years ago
    • Took 19 million years for the plate to drift over the fixed hotspot where El Hierro rises up at the most western point
  • Volcanism is not considered extinct anywhere. La Palma and El Hierro still are above the hot spot while Lanzarote boasts the greatest concentration of “youthful” volcanism 
  • Biggest volcano is Tenerife’s El Teide – biggest of all islands volcanic cones and tallest peak both in the Canaries and Spain
    • Third highest volcano in the world
  • May 5 1706 erupted and spilled lava that flowed for weeks forevering changing the history of Canary wines
    • Closed all the principal port for all shipments leaving the Canaries and hampered exports
    • COnsidered a Decade Volcano – one of 17 in the world – worth keeping a close yes on even though its last eruption was in 1909


  • Canary Islands have been phylloxera free so they have very old grape vines
  • Discovered by the Spanish and the Portuguese in the 1300s – they were an important port of call before ships left for the Americas
  • In the 15th century when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, they hired soldiers from across Europe in exchange for land
    • Brought grapes from their home regions and established vineyards
    • Does this make the Canary Islands the last of the old world wine regions or the first of the new?
  • Originally the islands were cultivated for sugar for export, but Brazilian and Caribbean sugar plantations overtook them – by the mid 17th century the island agriculture had turned to wine
  • Like the island of Madeira, the Canary islands first focused on sweet wine made from white grapes. Made Malmsey for export – sweet white wine made from malvasia grapes
    • Originally had “vigorous wine trade” with Great Britain
  • Our friend Agoston Haraszthy visited in 1863, praised the Malmsey
    • This included the Malvasia wine which he found “of agreeable taste, sweet and spirituous” and the “Vidogne, which though keen and tart when new, gains by age.”  He notes the wines of Palma island were considered inferior.  
  • Did have powdery mildew in the 1800s


  • Due to immense biodiversity over 80 varietals of grapes grow on the Canary Islands
  • Wines are considered the “next greatest thing” as they once were 400 years ago
  • Listan Blanco aka Palomino Fino of Sherry – white variety with aromatic intensity
    • Originally planted to produce brandy
    • Most planted white variety
  • Listan Negro – most planted red grape
    • Indigenous varietal believed to be a cross of Listan Blanco and Negramoll (Madeira’s Tinta Negra)
    • AKA Mission in California, Pais in Chile, Criolla in Argentina
  • White Malvasia used for popular sweet and marmalade fortified wines of yore
  • Gual – most promising white variety


  • Six of the Canary Islands produce wine: Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera
  • Tenerife is the only island to have more than one DOC zone, and it is the most likely to export
    • Home to Spain’s tallest mountain, Pico del Teide, which also happens to be an active volcano
    • White and red grapes grow throughout
    • 5 designations
  • Lanzarote has always been an agricultural island but in the 1730s there was a month long volcano eruption that covered one third of the island in ash – fortunately grape vines thrived in the ash
    • Typically grow white wine
    • Use the technique of building walls around areas where the vines are grown to protect them – similar to the Azores
  • Gran Canaria known for its red wines, many of which aren’t exported outside of Spain
  • La Palma is a diamond-shaped island with irregular topography – has waterways running through it

Known for a red wine made with the Negramoll grape called vino de tea which is aged in pine barrels