Tasting the Super Santorini Ancestral Vines “Assyrtiko 34” from Artemis Karamolegos…

Artemis Karamolegos is one of the most dynamic wineries on the unique volcanic island of Santorini. Led by his grandfather, who started making wine and cultivating vines as a hobby in the 1950s, Artemis founded the winery in 2004. The local variety Assyrtiko, which has become the flag bearer for quality wine across the whole of Greece, is at the heart of the estate’s production.

They own just over 3ha of vineyards (some over 100 years old) from many of the best villages to grow Assyrtiko – Pyrgos, Megalorchori, Exo Gonia, Akrotiri and Fira. Long-term leases on another 5 hectares allows them to manage and work with an amazing range of aspects, altitudes and local varieties. Their hugely talented young winemaker Lefteris Anagnostou crafts a small range of cuvées ranging from premium single vineyard wines though to multi-site blends using a marriage of modern and ancient winemaking techniques.

Assyrtiko 34 is the name of one of the Karamolegos winery’s top old vine cuvées that pays tribute to the 34 centuries that Santorini has been re-inhabited after one of the most awesome volcanic eruptions in the history on mankind. Throughout these 34 centuries, viticulture has continued uninterrupted, cultivating among other varieties, the noble and indigenous grape of Assyrtiko. Grapes for this cuvée are sourced from specially selected very old vine vineyards of Assyrtiko mainly from around Pyrgos, Megalochori and Exo Gonia.

I recently held a fascinating tasting with the winemaker at Artemis Karamolegos winery, Lefteris Anagnostou, who expertly outlined the fascinating history of viticulture in Santorini and the philosophy behind the superb wines of the Karamolegos winery.

Artemis Karamolegos Santorini Ancestral Vines Assyrtiko 34 2018, PDO Santorini, 14% Abv.

This delicious Assyrtiko 2018 is a really masterful exercise in mouth watering wine pleasure delivery. Classic white wine vinification is employed with a percentage of pre-fermentation cold soak with only the free-run juice used, fermented in stainless steel tanks under controlled temperatures with the use of selected neutral yeast but also some wild yeasts for different tanks in order to express the pure varietal character of Assyrtiko. The Cuvée 34 shows a minimalistic approach in the winemaking process using maturation on total fine lees for at least five months with frequent stirring (bâtonnage). On the nose, this white screams Assyrtiko typicity, displaying all the liquid minerality and basaltic volcanic rock intensity you’d hope for together with rich concentrated notes of crunchy white peaches, tart green apple, chamomile tea, pear drop and a rasping saline, briney, leesy flavour of the sea. The palate also shows piercing, well defined acid freshness, a fleshy intense concentration but also ample dry extract and palate weight to make this wine into a truly exciting proposition. Fabulously long, the finish is pure liquid minerality with a hint of savoury, almond piquant spice. Drink now or keep for 2 to 3+ more years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Artemis Karamolegos wines are imported into the UK by WoodWinters Vintners.

Tenerife Wine Odyssey – Jetting Off to Tenerife For the Bodegas Suertes del Marques New Cellar Opening Celebration…

When I last visited this island winery in August 2017, owner Jonatan Garcia Lima elucidated his grand plans for a new winery. Then when I caught up with him at subsequent tastings in London in early 2018, he asked me to put Monday 4th of March 2019 in my diary to make sure I did not miss his grand cellar opening celebration at the El Esquilon winery in La Orotava.

 

Roll on another year and before I knew it, it was time to jet off to Tenerife. I was accompanied on the same flight by Tenerife aficionado Daniel Primack, the UK Zalto glasses distributor, as well as jet setting wine journalist extraordinaire, Jamie Goode from www.wineanorak.com.

 

With Daniel Primack, Jonatan and Jamie Goode.

After a very quick hotel check in, we were whisked straight off for a comprehensive barrel tasting of all the 2018 red and white cuvees in the grand new cellar. Suertes del Marques produces around 55 different cuvees which are then blended into around 17 different wines. However, their Vino de Parcela (single vineyard) wines are easily the most important component of their range.

 

The lower vineyards at Suertes del Marques planted on clay loamy soils.

Vidonia 2018 was still completing malolactic fermentation when we tasted it but all the wines, almost without exception, showed an attractive accessible purity and opulence akin to the excellent quality 2017 vintage, another warm year with plenty of moisture. Almost all the wines produced are from the La Orotava Valley, however, there are of course a couple of interesting experimental barrels lurking in the cellar like the excellent Sortevera Amogoje 2018 white blend from the Taganana area and also the Taganana Margalagua red 2018. Both show excellent potential.

 

The 200 to 250 year old Listan Blanco vines on the property trained in the Cordon Trenzado method.

I wrote an extensive description of the vineyards and winery in 2017 which you can read here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/08/22/the-tenerife-wine-odyssey-exploring-the-wines-of-suertes-del-marques/

 

The Stockinger barrels in the new cellar.

The basic terroir of the La Orotava Valley on the North coast of the island revolves around the Listan Negro red wines from vines grown on the more Easterly aspects, with their heavier clay / sandy soil components. In the West, vineyards are dominated by sandy stony basaltic soils which have proved more suitable for white varieties, primarily Listan Blanco, otherwise known as Palomino Fino.

 

As the El Esquilon Estate of Suertes del Marques sits in the middle of the La Orotava Valley, approximately 80% of the vineyards are planted to red varieties and 20% to white, with lower slopes dominated by loamy clay and the higher slopes basaltic sandy loam. Their main grape Listan Negro is a cross between Listan Blanco (Palomino fino) and Tinta Negro Mole, a variety better know in Madeira.

 

Tasting 2018s from barrel with owner Jonatan in the new cellar.

New 2017 Vintage Tasting:

Suertes del Marques La Floridita 2018, 12.5 Abv.

Pale cherry red, this wine is still very reductive but shows delicious strawberry pith and raspberry fruit underneath with a smokey basaltic mineral core.

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques Suertes Cool 2018, 11.5 Abv. (NatCool presented in the 1 Litre bottle)

Listan Negro from 450m mid-slope vineyards. This new addition to the NatCool international offering shows a lovely fresh nose balancing crushed red berries, basalt minerality and bramble berry notes. Palate is sleek, ripe but noticeably lithe and elegant. Not challenging at all but retains wonderful complexity. A really pleasurable glassful best served slightly chilled.

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes 2017, 13 Abv.

A fine Listan Negro parcel blend with the majority aged in concrete tanks. Jammed packed full of smokey volcanic minerality, strawberry and crushed raspberry fragrance, illustrating the plush elegance and accessible balance of the vintage. Sappy and fleshy, this red is already showing very well.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes El Lance 2017, 12.5 Abv.

Fine sappy nose with hints of whole bunch and resinous black berry crunch. Quite finely textured, harmonious balance and a chalky, mineral powder tannin finish. Very friendly wine with impressive mid-palate depth.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques La Solana Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13 Abv.

Fresh sappy nose packed full of leafy bramble berry fruits, subtle hint of reduction and a basaltic mineral undertone. Finely embroidered texture, chalky dry tannins and a smokey graphite finish. Pop this in the cellar for 5 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques Candio 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13.5 Abv.

Very attractive nose of red bramble berry fruits, lavender and crushed rose petals. Super elegant with a creamy texture embellished by a lick of classy oak spice. Really harmonious and balanced, this is a class act. Crack into these on release!

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques El Chibirique 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcel, 13 Abv.

Dark and broody nose, this shows railway yard reduction, coal smoke, blackberry confit and a sappy leafy complexing aromatic edge. Medium bodied, suave and elegant but noticeably more restrained and mineral in style with a graphite, stony bite on the finish. Still very youthful, this is one for the cellar.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques El Esquilon 2016 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 12.5 Abv.

Rich opulent forward vintage showing plenty of verve and vigour. Displays a lovely melange of chalky, stony, basaltic mineral tannins and dense, concentrated black berry fruits. Lovely accessibility, classy balance but real drive and intensity. Very impressive cuvee.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques El Ciruelo 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13 Abv.

100% Whole Bunch and foot trodden in concrete. This has a fabulously complex nose with just the right amount of complexing reduction, struck match and smokey, sappy black bramble berry fruit. Very youthful at the moment but this shows as much potential as the epic 2016 I reviewed recently. Such balance and class. Shows everything that’s great about premium Tenerife Listan Negro.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques Los Pasitos 2017 Vino de Parcela, Baboso Negro. 12.5 Abv.

Lovely nose full of gun powder smoke, graphite and crushed bramble berries, wet leaves and sap. Crunchy and fresh with taut glassy acids and a tightly wound finish with fabulously polished tannins. Very serious.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques Cruz Santa 2017 Vino de Parcela, Vijariego Negro, 12.5 Abv.

Grown on clay soils. Soft sweet sappy and cool with plenty of base and treble. Pure black chalky fruits, fine minerailty, sweet and sour black plum hints and finely polished, tight grained tannins. Wow! Not a wine / cuvee I know very well but this is very impressive indeed.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques Vidonia 2017 Listan Blanco Vino de Parcela, 12.5 Abv.

Alluring aromatics of white citrus, wet chalk, crushed green apples and pear purée. Lovely pure smokey note balanced by sweet quince, white peach and a spicy, lemon and herb complexity. Creamy and cool on the palate, this Listan Blanco parcela wine shows a lot of similarities to a fine slightly reductive white Burgundy. Really delicious but also quite a serious glassful!

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting Vidonia Parcela Listan Blanco 2018 from barrel.

 

Suertes del Marques Trenzado Listan Blanco, 12.5 Abv.

This Listan Blanco 6 parcel blend reveals a more lifted, exotic, fragrant nose than Vidonia brimming with yellow citrus pastille, waxy lemon peel, struck match reduction, maritime salinity and a wet chalk mineral note. Lovely fleshy concentration and depth with real class and complexity. Not quite the same textural delineation as Vidonia but wow, this wine packs a punch for a super price!

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Looking South up the hill behind the winery.

Looking north down past La Orotava to Puerto de la Cruz.

The Suertes del Marques wines are imported into the UK by Indigo Wines.

A Summer of Island Wines and Mineral Whites – Tasting the New Release Envinate Benje Blanco 2017…

The white 2017 Envinate Benje Blanco is produced from Listán Blanco (Palomino) grapes from the Santiago del Teide region in the northwest of the island, with old vines grown on the burnt volcanic slopes of Mount Teide at 1000 metres altitude.

Ungrafted and grown in the gobelet system, the vines are sourced from up to 15 different terroirs from 70 to 100+ year old vines, 60% of which were fermented and aged in concrete tanks and 40% fermented and aged in neutral barrels of 228 litres with a portion of the grapes fermented with skin contact. Production is small and demand high, so you’ll need to act quickly to secure a few bottles.

Envinate Benje Blanco 2017, DO Ycoden Daute Isora, Santiago del Teide, Tenerife, 12 Abv.

An expressive mineral wine, these old vine grapes are grown on black volcanic soils around Mount Teide which produce pronounced aromatics dominated by crushed gravel, dusty basalt, bruised apples, pear skins and maritime oyster shell salinity. The palate is pinpoint and focused with a very fine textural mouthfeel, crisp pithy white pear, dry white citrus, and freshly sliced Granny Smith apple fruits. The acidity is super bright and mouth watering and reinforces the steely character of this wine. In many ways a wine that challenges the senses and finishes with the sensation of sucking wet river pebbles with metallic pur sang bloody nuances. Perhaps not for novices, but this wine certainly ranks very highly among the world’s most intriguing mineral whites. Drink now till 2024+

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting the Suertes del Marques Parcela El Ciruelo…

Suertes del Marques is one of the most successful wineries on the Island of Tenerife, not only because of the sizeable production of excellent wines like their Listan Negro blend 7 Fuentes, but primarily because the of the overall high quality of their entire range. But it’s when you start tasting the single parcel or single vineyard wines, that you realise that these are truly world class fine wines in any context.


The Suertes del Marques Vino de Parcela El Ciruelo Listan Negro 2015 at 13.5 Abv, was 100% whole bunch fermented, being foot trodden for one day and then gentle pump overs employed there after. The 2015 is a fantastic vintage and shows a rich expressive nose of liquorice, black berries, black cherry and sappy sweet leafy spice notes. This is an intense, vibrant wine with wonderful complexity, a sappy, saline cassis and bramble berry laden palate, crunchy acids, a deep concentration, and ripe lush fruit notes on a long finish. Incredible intensity and depth make this a very serious offering and one of the best benchmark quality reds on the island. Drink this now with a little decanting and over the next 10 to 15+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting the Second Vintage of Cult Wine Envinate Benje Tinto 2016 Ahead of Its Release…

This is only the second release of the Benje Tinto, made from grapes assembled from 15 growers on the same terroir as the Benje Blanco, in the vineyards of Santiago del Teide. The vineyards have both white and red varieties interplanted, so they are picked separately at optimal ripeness. The red varieties in the vineyards are mostly Listan Prieto (90%) otherwise known as Pais in Chile or Mission in California. The rest of the grapes are Tintilla (aka Maturana de Navarrete in Rioja). 


The grapes from 15 terroirs are vinified separately in concrete tanks and small open top fermenters. The wine is then aged for 8 months in neutral 228 litre barrels and the 2016 was only just bottled in July 2017.



Envinate Benje Tinto 2016, Ycoden-Daute-Isora DO, Tenerife, 12 Abv.

What strikes you instantaneously about this wine is how opulent and expressive it is on both the nose and palate, showing the real generosity of the 2016 vintage. The Taganan 2016 Tinto was also a thoroughly attractive expression, however, the Benje Tinto 2016 is an altogether more serious affair. The nose is rich and opulent with raspberry confit and sweet red cherries personified. Everything about this wine indicates the volume turned up to 10. Such pretty fragrance of violets, sweet cherry blossom and cherry kirsch liquor notes abound. The palate is so noble, elegant, supremely balanced and fresh, with such sour red plum vibrancy, red cranberry and sappy bramble berry red fruit nuances. The wine is both linear, tart, intense and severe, and yet so deliciously attractive and seductive, willing you back constantly for another sip. Probably slightly less crunchy than the 2015, lighter weight but more fleshy and finessed in style, thoroughly ageable and certainly collectable. Drink now to 2030+

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Will be available to the UK trade from Indigo Wines and from selected fine wine stockists. 

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting Envinate’s New Premium Volcanic Benje White…

Earlier this year, I received a hard fought allocation of the “new” Benje Tinto 2015. It was sold out before I could even tell my customers about it. The wine somehow acquired a life and organic PR machine of its very own. 


A year later, the release of the first Benje Blanco is suddenly on the horizon. But as they say, life is all about timing, allowing me to taste the wine one month after bottling while I’m visiting the vineyards of Tenerife. Where ever you may buy your Tenerife and Envinate wines from, request an allocation for this new White wine now and you may get a few bottles and avoid disappointment. It’s sure to be a future unicorn.


Envinate Benje Blanco 2016, Ycoden Daute Isora DO, Tenerife, 12.5% Abv. 

Benje Blanco 2016 is made from vines grown at Santiago del Teide at 1000 metres altitude. Ungrafted and grown in the gobelet system, the vines are sourced from up to 15 different terroirs from 70 to 100 year old vines, 60% of which were fermented and aged in concrete tanks and 40% fermented and aged in neutral barrels of 228 litres. 15% of the grapes were fermented with skin contact. This Benje Blanco 2016 was bottled in July 2017 and judging from the serious aromatics and fruit concentration, will benefit from further time in bottle before showing at its very best. This highly anticipated release is similar but also different to both the Taganan Blanco and the Palo Blanco. They all share elements of intense crushed granite minerality, volcanic basalt notes, rasping salinity, chalky aromatics, and taught linear white citrus tension. The Benje Blanco however seems to have an extra degree of crystalline purity, precision and white citrus fruit intensity, that manifests itself on the palate with greater concentration and a denser, fleshier textural breadth. Picante and pithy, with beguiling dried tangerine peel, the palate has, to use a fellow wine trade colleague’s term, “mesmerising mineral austerity”. A truly beautiful creation, this wine will probably be sold out almost before it’s even released. Drink now to 2030+.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ The Volcanic Mineral Whites of Envinate…

It was at a tasting in London, 5 or 6 years ago, that I was first introduced to the “new wave” wines of Tenerife. Roberto Santana Envinate was working as head wine maker at one of the other top island wineries, Suertes del Marques, based near La Orotava, and I remember the white wines based around Listan Blanco just blowing me away.


Roll the years forward and Roberto, along with young guns Laura Ramos, Jose Martínez and Alfonso Torrente, are continuing to make some of the most fascinating white wines on the island. Táganan is the old local name for this rugged vineyard area, located on the northeastern side of Tenerife, where vines are planted on primary volcanic rock on cliffs just above the Atlantic.


The white wine is a blend of the many different native varieties, which are vinified separately, with some parcels undergoing skin contact. A truly unique and characterful white wine that is deliciously pithy, saline and smoky with refreshing acidity is the result. Varieties include Marmajuelo, Malvasia, Listán Blanco, Gual y Forastera and Albillo, grown organically at between 100 and 500 metres altitude.


Envinate Táganan Blanco 2016, Vinos Atlanticos, Tenerife, 12.5 Abv.

This Táganan white was only bottled in July  2017 and is already showing nuanced complexity. A pale straw yellow, the nose is vibrant and bristling with notes of pear purée, white peach, and baked apples. As expected, this wine is full of intrigue and possibly asks as many questions as it answers. The salinity again rises to the fore with real maritime notes of oyster shell and sea breeze together with subtle smoky oxidative, briney fino sherry complexity, enhanced by the 30% portion of grapes fermented on their skins. The palate too shows fine mineral detail, pithy pear skins, honied white citrus, lemon biscuits and the most faint wood spice hints. There is plenty of fruit concentration interwoven with the intense crushed granite, volcanic basalt minerality that underpins every sip. Pithy with slightly grippy phenolics, this wine has a long, tart, salty finish. Ready to go now, I would probably give this wine another 3 to 4 months in bottle to find its inner yin and yang. 

(Wine Safari score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Envinate Palo Blanco 2016, Vinos Atlanicos, Tenerife, 11.5 Abv.

Palo Blanco is the new white project Roberto and colleagues have been working on in the La Orotava region in the north east of the Island. Made from Listan Blanco grown on cordon trenzado from ungrafted vines over 100 years old from an area called Palo Blanco. There you can find a terroir with the highly reputed black volcanic soils which Roberto feels give the most interesting characteristics for white wines specifically, with intense minerality and linearity, or vertical wines as Roberto says. Fermented without skins, in concrete tanks, the wine was then moved to 2500 litre oval foudres from Friuli for further aging.

This barrel sample is being readied for bottling towards the end of 2017, along with the Táganan Tinto 2016. What immediately strikes you about the aromatics is the intense, extra lifted dusty minerality, a melange of crunched gravel, wet grey slate and volcanic basalt, laced with tart green apple, crunchy green pears, sour plums, spicy lemon grass notes and smoky wet hay. On the palate is where the majestic old vine concentration elevates this wine to another level. Compact with racy acids, there is ponderous mid palate concentration and depth, all finely tailored together with such harmonious texture and a supremely saline, pithy fruit balance. The finish is fleshy and broad with mouth watering lemon pastille, green peppercorn, oyster shell, lime peel and wet river pebble terroir notes. An absolutely stunning expression, this could end up being one of the highlights of my Tenerife white wine tastings. Drink now to 2030+. 

(Wine Safari Score: 95-96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Tasting the Benchmark Envínate Táganan Tinto 2016 From Barrel…

Envínate is the inspiration of Spanish young guns Laura Ramos, Jose Martínez, Roberto Santana and Alfonso Torrente, four friends who met while studying oenology at the University of Miguel Hernández in Alicante. Their work is currently focused on exploring the ancient, Atlantic-infused terruños (terroirs) of Ribeira Sacra, Canary Islands, Extremadura and Almansa. 

Taganan Tinto 2016 Barrel Sample
 

Their philosophy is simple: let each single parcel fully express itself through old-fashioned farming and winemaking methods. Currently, there are four different projects under the Envínate umbrella on the go, including the exciting Táganan range made by Roberto Santana and the rest of the Envínate young guns in Tenerife. 

Roberto Santana in London last year
 

Táganan is the old local name for this rugged vineyard area located on the northeastern side of Tenerife, where vines are planted on primary volcanic rock on cliffs just above the Atlantic and grown organically at between 100 and 500 metres in altitude. 

This wine is a blend of different native varieties, vinified separately in a mix of concrete tanks and small open top containers, resulting in very juicy and utterly drinkable red wines with focused acidities, and plenty of spicy, fresh, red and black berry fruits, at moderate to low alcohol levels, circa 12 to 12.5 Abv on average. 


Envínate Táganan Tinto 2016, Vinos Atlanticos, Tenerife, Spain

A sample taken from one of the 228 litre barrels the wine is currently being aged in, the 2016 Tinto vintage is due to be bottled at the end of 2017. Produced from a blend of mainly Listan Negro and Negramoll, with small amounts of Listan Gacho, Baboso, Mulata, Black Malvasia, and Vijariego Tinto. The nose is reminiscent of a young, earthy, brambly Gevrey Chambertin, showing raisined sweet cranberry, wet grey slate minerality, and a lifted sappy, sweet spice complexity. The palate is sleek, saline and supremely elegant, with subtle hints of crunchy blackberry and cassis berry, but is at no point raw or angular in its youth. Beautifully textured, elegant and incredibly salty, showing the magnificence of both the volcanic terroir and the expression of these indigenous varietals on this coastal peninsula. There are hints of liquorice, black berry, red cherry and sour plum on the long, saline finish that shows so much promise. This tantalising wine might tighten up a little before bottling, but rest assured, this is going to be another superbly accessible, balanced, mouth watering edition of the Táganan Tinto. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93-94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Tenerife Wine Odyssey ~ Exploring the Island and Its Wines…

It has been said many times… That some of the most beautiful regions in the world to visit are also some of the greatest wine producing areas. As if tasting and drinking fine wine is not enough, you get to do it in aesthetically majestic locations all around the world. 


This summer, the vinous compass was set to the Canary Islands and in particular, Tenerife. The last time I visited this barren, desert-like volcanic island was in the early 80’s on a 2 week family holiday. While I have fond memories of this trip, and in particular the black volcanic sand beaches and the impressive El Teide volcano, in the Parque Nacional de las Canadas del Teide, wine and vineyards certainly did not feature in any way.


About 5 or 6 years ago, the wines from Tenerife started to turn heads in the UK market in a serious way. Stylistically often slightly reductive, crunchy, intensely mineral, saline and fresh, these wines, both reds and whites, are often produced from 80 to 100+ year old vines grown in rugged, exposed volcanic vineyards.


I have it on good authority that the Elizabethans knew more about Tenerife’s wines than current consumers. Indeed the Bard, Shakespeare himself, referenced the wines of the Canary Islands in several of his plays, including a barrel of Canarian Malmsey in one of them. The modern resurgence of interest in wines from Tenerife has gone hand in hand with a massive improvement in quality and there are now over 70 bodegas on the island and several more garagist producers.


These bodegas are spread over five separate areas, each of which has been given a Denomination of Origin to certify the quality of the wine. These are:

Tacoronte Acentejo: The best known and largest of the wine growing areas covers the lush slopes along Tenerife’s north east coast. Vines stretch from near sea level to 1000 metres, producing mainly reds. This is the area that most award winning reds come from.

Valle de Güímar: Again vines are planted from just above sea level, but this time they reach the 1500 metre mark. The sunny Güímar Valley is best for new whites (dry, semi-dry and fruity).

Valle de Orotava: Even though it’s next to the Tacoronte Acentejo area and is also on the north coast, the Orotava Valley is known for its white wines as much as for its reds. The famous Spanish historian and botanist Viero y Clavijo called the valley a ‘great vineyard of malmsey’. But then he was born there.

Ycoden Daute Isora: The vineyards in the north west of Tenerife were originally cultivated by the Portuguese, Flemish and Genoese (some village names around this area give an obvious clue to who settled in the area post conquest). Ycoden Daute Isora is known for its distinctive whites.

Abona: The area that many think of as little more than an arid rock, Tenerife’s southern parts, produces some very good whites, and even the occasional decent red. Vines are planted at two levels, between 200 and 800 metres and then as high as 1700 metres, the highest altitude for vines in the EU.

Because of the diversity of terrain and even climate, vines are planted in a variety of ways. There are five main methods. In some parts the vines are planted in low-lying rows and held up by forks. In others vines are supported by wide frames. Sometimes vines are tied to wires or cut back to form a small bush. Probably the most attractive method is when the vines are plaited together, creating gnarled natural supports up to eight metres long.

Over the next week, I plan to review some of the finest examples of red and white wine on the island, focusing on producers available in the UK market already.