A Beginner’s guide to wine in Tenerife
A brief history
Wine production in Tenerife started in the 15th century after vine grapes were introduced to the island by the Spanish. Today there are several grape varieties that are completely unique to the island, thanks to a plant epidemic called phylloxera, which destroyed many European vineyards in the 19th century.
Wines made with the Malvasía grape were very popular in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. England was the main importer and there are numerous references to Canary wines in literary texts of the era. Shakespeare is known to have been a fan and mentions them in many of his plays.
The Catholic church further helped spread the Canarian wines around the world. Arguably, even kings and queens at the Swedish-Finnish court enjoyed the occasional “cup of canary” as Shakespeare liked to call it.
Wine in Tenerife today
In mainland Spain wine is nowadays harvested with machines. However, due to the altitude differences this needs to be done by hand in Tenerife. This is why local wines tend to be more expensive than the ones from the mainland.
There are certainly enough grape varieties to keep wine lovers occupied for a while. Arguably, the most famous one is the aforementioned Malvasía. This is also one of the oldest grape varieties on the island. Historically, these wines tended to be sweet, although nowadays you can find many dry or semi-dry products. The fresh, aromatic taste goes well with cheese but can also be paired with sweet desserts. Malvasia grapes are mainly white, although red varieties also exist.
Listán Blanco is a dry white wine made from the Palomino grape variety, widely cultivated on the island today. The fruity aromas are a perfect companion for oysters and grilled fish.
Possibly the most popular red grape variety in Tenerife, Listán Negro has been grown on the island for centuries. Although originally from Spain, very little cultivation exists on the mainland these days, which makes it a must-try for any wine-loving visitor. The wine derives its unique character from the island’s volcanic soil and complements paella, cheese and grilled meats beautifully.
Originally from Portugal, the Negramoll, also known as Tinta Negra, is another red variety that has thrived on the Canary Islands for centuries. Although not unpleasant, these wines are noted for their fairly high acidity and somewhat metallic taste. However, wineries on the island are producing some wonderful results with it, particularly when mixed with other grape varieties, such as Listán Negro.
The island’s vineyards can be divided into five regions: Valle de la Orotava, Ycoden-Daute-Isora, Abona, Tacoronte-Acentejo and Valle de Güímar. The most important areas are located in the North Tenerife. Most of the regions are shaped by Mount Teide, and many of the vineyards are placed on the mountain’s lower slopes. The volcanic soil in which the grapes are planted lends its own special character to the wines.
Wine tasting, usually accompanied by lunch or tapas, is offered at many of the local wineries.
A family-run winery located in El Sauzal in the northern part of the island. The Monje family knows a thing or two about wine production since they have been cultivating grapevines for five generations. The winery specialises in red wines made from Listán Negro and Negramoll grapes.
You can visit Bodegas Monje as part of our northern Hike & Wine Tour every Tuesday and Friday.
A winery located in Vilaflor, South Tenerife, 1300 meters above sea level. Both red and white wines are produced here, with the most notable varieties being Listán Blanco for the whites and Listán Negro, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. A guided tour to the vineyard comes with wine tasting along with a selection of homemade tapas.
Casa Del Vino
A beautiful, rustic farmhouse located in El Sauzal houses a wine museum where you can learn about the history of winemaking in Tenerife. Wine tastings are inexpensive and take place daily, with a varied selection that usually changes every fortnight. The on-site restaurant has a terrace with wonderful panoramic views and is the perfect place to stop for some tapas or dinner.