Taking Hannibal on his winter hols is always a treat. Leaving the depths of winter in favour of the warmer climes of the Canaries this January proved not only a perfect break but a delve into some intriguing new wine discoveries.
Had we not opted to ‘dangle’ Hannibal off the end of a kite surf of the coast of Fuerteventura, or give him a daily trouncing in the plentiful surf around the island, we would still be in total Canarian wine ignorance. Yet the islands are alive with inexpensive wine curios that leave most of their imported counterparts for qualitative dust.
The Canaries, unsurprisingly import pretty much everything. Way down in the south Atlantic, a stone’s throw from Africa, you can rely on year-round warmth (the temperature never dips below 18 degrees, even at night!), but you cannot rely on the prawns and calamari – frozen, tasteless and a real disappointment*.
As for wine, it’s Senor Torres of mainland Spanish fame who has a handle on wine consumption here. There’s even Torres Olive Oil and Torres Balsamic vinegar to dip in your bread! But we opted for sampling the local grog and in so doing, not only saved money (Torres – you are getting unnecessarily pricey, Sir) but enjoyed an array of flavoursome dry whites made from the local and widely abundant Malvasia grape.
The Canarians know a thing or two about winemaking – they’ve been growing grapes for hundreds of years to worldwide acclaim. The sweet styles were highly sought after in 15th to 18th centuries and the likes of Shakespeare and Agatha Christie amongst others make reference in their respective novels.
We steered clear of the roses, fearful of the luminescence of many(!) and only sampled a handful of reds (the climate lends itself best to refreshing whites). Our two favourites by far were a mouthfulling Lanzarote Malvasia from El Grifo that packs a refreshing punch; and in particular a Listan Blanco (grape used in dry Sherry) from Bodega Tajinaste, farmed up in the high, cooler hills. Both were enjoyed with *home-prepared fresh prawns in garlic & chilli (thank goodness for self-catering) and both clearly favour fish dishes in a thumpingly well prepared garlic based jus.
Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are renowned for high winds, making both watersports and growing grapes a bit of a challenge. But Canarians masters at both and when not riding their very own Kahuna, hey’re busy protecting their vines from the elements to ensure clean, dry, impressively well valued wines. Check out Bodega Tajinaste here>