Sunday, December 25, 2016

Canary Wines: Volcanoes, Terroir and History in A Bottle

I am tasting wines, in a place with a view on the seaside and behind me there is a volcano. I ask myself: How will these wines taste, being mostly from grapes I never heard before? I had little background on Tenerife's culture and history. I have previously tried two Tajinaste wines in London, in the wine bar where I used to work. Agustin lets me try all of his wines: I can really taste the volcano. Great minerality in the whites, and smoky notes on the reds. Probably Shakespeare, who was a great connoisseur of Canary Wines, would have very much enjoyed Tajinaste wines. Located in the northern part of Tenerife, in one of the five appellations called Valle de la Orotava, this is one of the few wineries of the island that exports to UK and US. However, if we go back to the 17th century, the Canary Islands used to sell wines around the world and most of the islands were planted with vines. Phylloxera did not enjoy the volcanic soil, so we still have today ungrafted vines all over. The vine tendrils of this area are also special as they spread for up to 10 meters from the trunk and the plants give fruits only at the end of the cane. This a very singular training system called Cordones Multiples Trenzado.


A Cordones Multiples Trenzado vine at Tajinaste



Volcanic terroir and old vines going deep in the soil


Tajinaste is a small family-owned business and is managed by Agustin Garcia. He makes use of many of the 80 indigenous grapes of the island and strongly believes in expressing the unique characteristics of the terroir. He has a vast range of wines, quite surprising for the small size of the winery. Listan Blanco and Listan Negro, once famous in the Castille region, are among the most popular grapes. I have really enjoyed the Tajinatste Tradicional Tinto 2015 for its concentration, very good length and its complexity: black fruits (blackberry, black cherry), licorice, dark chocolate, coffe and smoky notes. Very much enjoyable with aged cheeses and lamb. It remains fresh and it's very easy drinking. If you want something more full-bodied, try the CAN, which has been also highly praised by Jancis Robinson and offers even higher concentration, with more secondary and tertiary aromas. The whites are also quite unique. The Listan Blanco 2015 is a great aperitif wine, with good acidity, hints of stone fruits and exotic notes of pineapple.


Agustin and myself at the winery's shop


A trip to Tenerife would be poor without a visit to the seaside. In Tenerife, do not expect sandy soil everywhere. Instead, you will find stones and difficulty in sun bathing. Also, the waves are quite frequent and strong (mind you: it's in the middle of the Atlantic!). It's better to look for the natural swimming pools, located along the coast, and a place for locals too.



The rocky seaside



A Natural Swimming Pool



High Cliffs in the Northern Tenerife



A Panoramic Point in Northern Tenerife


So what's the best time to go to Tenerife and where one should stay? First, June is great. Low season means good prices and temperatures that are not too hot. Otherwise, January is good for those looking to escape from cold winters. The northern part of the island is more rural and so it's great if one is looking for calm and tranquility. Also, a perfect spot for foodies because here there are several good restaurants and guachinche, small taverns offering local food and wine at good prices. The very southern part of the island, especially Los Cristianos, is more crowded and an area of mass tourism. Eating in Tenerife can be a great experience if you know where to go. One of the best spots, called Guachinche El Patio, offers quality food, in big portions and at great price. The owner, from Venezuela, is also very friendly.


Montaditos de Patata con Bacalao at El Patio



Myself and a friend at El Patio


If I had to find two special reasons to go to Tenerife I would say hiking and wine tasting. The highest point in Spain is just here, as the Teide Volcano measures more than 3.700 metres. The more experienced hikers will be able to climb it without any issues. For the rest, there is plenty of trails available immersed in nature. On the slopes of the volcano one finds the highest vineyards in the Abona DO. Here the vines go up to 1.800 meters high! Tasting wine at high-altitude has never been better here, with a unique view on the Atlantic.  

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