Foods and Wines

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Islands of Spain

Spain owns two great groups of islands: the Balearics east of Valencia in the midst of the wide Mediterranean and the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa  in the vast Atlantic. The Balearics were a crucial port of call for sailors traveling east or west between Spain and the rest of the Mediterranean. The Canaries were an even more crucial outpost during the long voyages from the Old World to the New. Christopher Columbus’ father–in–law toiled there as a tobacco grower and trader. Balearic wines and the Canary Islands wines are more than curiosities and well worth seeking out.

The Balearics

Mallorca, the largest of the Balearics, had nearly 40,500 hectares of vines in the nineteenth century. Today there are about 550 hectares. Few Mallorca wines are seen outside Spain or even off of the islands; the tourists and residents are responsible for consuming most of them. But those wines that are exported justify the taster’s 10attention. Autochtone grapes include Manto Negro, Callet, Gargallosa and Fogoneu.

The Canary Islands

Though far away and off the coast of Africa, the Canaries are part of Spain and part of Spanish (and American) history. There are seven main islands and six much smaller ones. Lanzarote is the most easterly island, just 96 kilometers from the west coast of southern Morocco, while the most distant of the Canaries from the continent, El Hierro, is 480 kilometers to the west.

The Canaries were an important port on the long voyage to America, and it was from here that Columbus took sugarcane to transplant into the Americas. Spain focused upon sweet wine production for exportation from 1492 onward; sweet wines travel better. But Columbus arrived far too late to honor the islands with his name. Dogs (in Latin, Canis, hence the islands’ name) inhabited the islands at the time of Roman occupation in 50BC. The bird by that name is indigenous to the islands.

The islands remain phylloxera–free, and so grapes that may exist nowhere else still survive here. You will see new and strange white grapes such as Baboso Blanco, Bastardo Blanca, Bermejuelo, Breval, Bujariego, Burra Blanca, Diego, Forastera, Gual, Listán Blanco (Palomino), Malvasía, Marmajuelo, Sabro, and Vijariego Blanco. Reds include Almuñeco or Listán Negro, Baboso Negro, Bastardo Negro, Castellana, Listán Prieto, Malvasía Rosada, Malvasía Negra, Negramoll, Tintilla, Verijadiego Negro, and Vijariego, among others.

Volcanoes created these islands and their topography. Spain’s highest mountain, Mount Teide, is on Tenerife, the largest Canary Island, and most of the island’s vineyards are grown on fertile, volcanic soils. There are a number of DOs on these islands, and most are very interesting, but few wines are available in the Canadian market.

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Abona

Prepare for sunburn if you’re visiting the island of Tenerife. On the southern side of the island and crawling up Mount Teide, Abona’s vineyards are situated at elevations up to 1.7 kilometers (Europe’s highest vineyards), and they cool off precipitously at night. Volcanic soils can provide an intense mineral note.

For further information, visit DO Abona Website. (Only available in Spanish)

Wines from this DO are available in:

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Binissalem

The island of Mallorca grows some of the same grapes as across the water in the Levante or Cataluña, but the local Manto Negro and Callet are fascinating red grapes; the rules require that at least 50% of any red is Manto Negro. The Moll grape, also called Prensal Blanc, resembles Pansá Blanca, though the natives insist that it is unique to the islands; it accounts for 72% of the islands’ white grapes. Interestingly, one of the founders of early California viticulture, Father Junípero Serra, hailed from Mallorca.

For further information, visit DO Binisalem-Mallorca Website.

Wines from this DO are available in:

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El Hierro

This DO covers the entire island, with vineyard elevations from 200 meters to 700 meters. About two–thirds of the DO’s production is white wine.

For further information, visit DO El Hierro Website. (Only available in Spanish)

Wines from this DO are available in:

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Gran Canaria

This mostly red DO that covers nearly the entire island, the capital of the eastern province of the Canaries group.

For further information, visit DO Gran Canaria Website. (Only available in Spanish)

Wines from this DO are available in:

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La Gomera

The whistling native language of the Guanches is called the Silbo Gomero, and it’s still whistled today across the shrouded canyons of this small island. The landscape doesn’t leave much room for vineyards; there are fewer than 120 hectares on the island.

For further information, read this article on DO La Gomera. (Only available in Spanish)

Wines from this DO are available in:

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La Palma

Universally called the most beautiful of the Canaries, La Palma is defined by its volcano, the Caldera de Taburiente, looming nearly 2.4 kilometers above the sea with an important space observatory perched on its lip; the volcano’s last activity was in 1971. Most of the island’s wines are red.

For further information, visit DO La Palma Website.

Wines from this DO are available in:

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Lanzarote

Writer Jeremy Norman calls it a lunar landscape, and the winds are strong enough that vines are planted in holes in the ground or beside stone walls to protect them from the fierce breezes.

For further information, visit DO Lanzarote Website.

Wines from this DO are available in:

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Pla i Llevant de Majorca

The wineries of this a relatively recent DO (2000) with only about 500 hectares of plantings, sought a set of regulations without the production and grape restrictions of Binissalem. The name of the DO is even more bald–faced; it means “plain and east coast of Majorca,” and so it is. Nonetheless, there have been some interesting wines made here—whites, rosados, and reds.

The island of Minorca offers only a few wines; they’re good wines to be discovered in the Candian market. Better known are Mahón cheese and mahonesa, otherwise spelled mayonnaise, both from Minorca.

Fof further information, visit DO Pla i Llevant de Mallorca Website. (Only available in Spanish)

Wines from this DO are available in:

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Tacoronte – Acentejo

Located on the northern peninsular point of the island of Tenerife, this is primarily a red wine DO.

For further information, visit DO Taroconte-Acentejo Website. (Only available in Spanish)

Wines from this DO are available in:

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Valle de la Orotava

The DO sits on the main portion of Tenerife in the north–central part of the island and bears the brunt of the wet, blustery Alicios winds; the locals call it “horizontal rain.” Most of the wines are red.

For further information, visit DO Valle de la Orotava Website.

Wines from this DO are available in:

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Valle de Güímar

Also on Tenerife, this DO split off from DO Abona in 1996 and covers a portion of the eastern side of the island. Its vineyards are nearly equal in altitude to Abona, with many of them at 1,500 meters or so. The DO produces mostly white wines.

For further information, visit Valle del Güímar DO Website. (Only available in Spanish)

Wines from this DO are available in:

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Ycoden-Daute-Isora

Situated on the western portion of Tenerife, the DO is named for the three kingdoms of the Guanche native peoples. Two–thirds of the DO’s wine production is white, and Ruby Cabernet has experimental plantings here.

For further information, visit DO Ycoden-Daute-Isora Website. (Only available in Spanish)

Wines from this DO are available in:

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