This Is Your Tenerife Wine Tour
The island of Tenerife. Every ecosystem makes its home here – jungles, deserts, tropical beaches, and mountains.
By definition, Spanish.
Portuguese by influence.
From a geographical point of view, a stone’s throw from Africa.
Tasting the wines of Tenerife is like tasting the diversity of the island. Its flavors range from the northern herbaceous taste of the volcanic soil, almost resembling the ash, to the sweet white wines derived from the sunny south.
Only a few places can display their diversity through the taste of their wine.
1. The Story of Wine and Tenerife
The island of Tenerife reaches so high above sea level, that a wide variety of microclimates can be found here. There are so many microclimates that locals usually say the weather changes every 100 meters! The wide variety of climatic conditions makes these vineyards ideal for planting different grape varieties. This accounts for Tenerife’s five distinct wine areas, half of all that can be found in the Canary Islands.
Perhaps this is why the south is known for thin-skinned white wines, in particular listán blanco, whereas the north features both reds and whites. There are more grape varieties on Tenerife than on any other Spanish island. There is an entire category devoted to the unique grapes of the island.
Wines from Tenerife have a fresh taste, are light, and have a hint of saltiness to them. Compared with wines grown at the same latitude, they taste nothing like reds and (especially) whites from any other island. The cooler climate, especially in the island’s north, as well as the widespread volcanic soils, are said to be contributing to the distinctive character of the wines.
2. Brief History
Tenerife began producing wine in the 15th century when the Spanish introduced vine grapes to the island. Catholicism helped spread Canarian wines across the globe and the Europeans consumed Malvasía from Tenerife in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The main importer back then was England. The Canaries exported millions of liters of wine to London and William Shakespeare even talked about Tenerife wine in some of his works. According to him, even the royalty of the Swedish-Finnish court enjoyed an occasional cup of canary.
Tenerife is one of the few places in the world where ancient wine varieties still exist. During the 19th century, Europe’s vineyards were decimated by an aphid plague: a root-destroying insect called phylloxera. But because of the Canary Islands’ remoteness, Tenerife and surrounding islands survived untouched and are now among the few places where Malvasía and other ancient varieties are grown.
3. The Wine Regions – Home to Tenerife’s Wine Grapes
Tenerife has five wine regions: Valle de la Orotava, Ycoden-Daute-Isora, Abona, Tacoronte-Acentejo and Valle de Güímar. This is very unusual and special for such a small area: these five regions make for 8 000 hectares of vineyards. In most places, Mount Teide shapes the landscape, and vineyards are located on the lower slopes of the mountain. Volcanic soils give the wines a distinct flavor.
Let’s begin the wine tour through the beautiful wine regions of Tenerife…
The Orotava Valley
As we sip our first glass, we’ll be strolling through the lush Orotava Valley, which makes about 9% of the island’s vine acreage. This wine region starts by the northern shore and winds its way up to the mountains. Every 100 meters, the temperature drops, and the topsoil gets shallower, revealing black volcanic rocks beneath.
A warmer climate and coastal winds allow this region to produce both white and red wines. On the island, it’s one of the oldest growing areas. Among the planted grapes, listán Blanco makes up the majority but other native grapes are included, too, using a trellis system called “the braided cord”.
It is one of the largest, oldest, and most well-known wine regions on the island, having received its status in 1992. Grapes grow well on the steep slopes and deep valleys of the region. The grapes grown in Tacoronte Acentejo wines include Listán Negro and Tinta Negra Mole; the wine imported from Tenerife usually comes from this region. Tacoronte Acentejo is known for terraced vineyards and easy-going red wines.
Valle de Güímar
Its climate is almost the opposite of Tacoronte Acentejo, and it is located towards the southeast. A dry coastal climate makes for crisp, clean white wines. One thing that makes this region interesting is the dramatic rise in elevation from the sea level to 1800 meters over just eight miles. Wine plants can be found as high as 1500m. Listán Blanco, Gual, and Malvasía Blanco grape varieties can be found here.
Because of its location, Abona has the driest climate on the island – more desert than tropical jungle. There is a dramatic elevation change in this region, and many of the vineyards are planted on terraced slopes; in fact, some of the highest in Europe can be found here. It’s mostly listán Blanco, Malvasía, Gual, and Marmajuelo that are grown in Abona, but also some red grape varieties. These wines are meant to be consumed young and are mostly drank by tourists who stay in resorts in the region.
Ycoden Daute Isora
Let’s finish our wine tour on the northwest side of the island where Ycoden Daute Isora, one of the most humid areas on the island, lies. In this region lies the town of Icod de los Vinos (“of the wines”), once inhabited by the indigenous Guanches. At the end of November, the town celebrates the new wine with a festival called Tablas del San Andrés. Aside from roasted chestnuts and plenty of wine, planks of wood are used to fly down the sloped streets. A major feature of this region is the winemakers’ ability to combine both new and old techniques to produce exceptional wines. Listán Blanco is the most popular grape, but there are over 20 different varieties.
4. Tenerife’s Most Popular Wine Grapes
One key to the success of Tenerife’s wines is the different native varieties of ungrafted vines that grow on the Island and which are not found elsewhere in Spain.
The grapes mostly used to produce white wines are listán Blanco, Malvasía, Gual, Albillo Criollo, Vijariego, Moscatel, Marmajuelo and Verdello. Rosés and red wines are mostly made from listán Negro, Negramoll, and Tintilla grapes.
Malvasía is the most notable variety of white grapes. The berry is very aromatic and one of the oldest varieties known, which was used in the past to make the famous Canarian wines that were so popular in Europe. The wines from Tenerife are historically sweet, but you can also find dry, semidry, and sometimes even tannic ones today. This aromatic, fresh taste complements both cheese and sweet desserts. The Malvasía grape is mainly white, but there are also red varieties.
The grape variety Palomino, which is very common today on the island, is also used to produce listán Blanco. With oysters and grilled fish, it makes for a delightful pairing.
Listán Negro’s dark, medium-sized clusters and its strong character make it a very classic variety, producing unique aromatic and fruity wines. Besides its taste, the Negramoll grape is also popular for its velvet texture.
5. Where to Enjoy Tenerife Wine?
Visit local restaurants
Whether the establishment is called “guachinche”, “tasca” or “bodega”, you can be pretty sure you’ll find some great wine in there! They usually serve “vino de la casa” (wine of the house) for very good prices. The only challenge might be the language as these restaurants are usually owned by locals who, very often, only speak Spanish.
No Spanish? No problem! Sign up for Spanish courses in sunny Tenerife HERE.
Wine tour with a professional
If you don’t know Spanish well, booking a professional wine tour is the best way to see the bodegas. A full-day winery tour or just a stop at one winery are both possible. A guided tour will free you up from making appointments, driving yourself around, or attempting to be your own translator.
See it yourself!
Visit one of the famous wine houses on your own and organise the day for yourself. In Casa del Vino, for example, you can see the exposition dedicated to wine growing in Tenerife. In Bodegas Monje, for a change, you can book a picnic in their vineyard.