Challenging Viticulture, Tourism and Climate Change
The 3rd and final part in our series about Don Germán Lopez and the story of his beloved Bodega Rubicon. Here we look to the future for Lanzarote wine.
Don Germán, owner and founder of Bodegas Rubicón, has dedicated the last decades to producing wine from Lanzarote’s unique wine region, helping to keep the traditional and cultural aspect of winemaking alive. In a place as special as La Geria, farmers are able to create wines that speak the islands’ authenticity and uniqueness. However, it is not easy, as they face harsh daily conditions that complicate the process and make each year uncertain.
La Geria is unique, Don Germán truly believes there’s no place quite like it. A special place, but also very fragile, which is why islanders have fought to protect it. Thanks to this, the wines of La Geria are now largely controlled and protected by the Denominacion de Origen, and there is now a growing curiosity and appreciation for the area and its’ produce, around the world.
The Canary Islands have increased in popularity over the years, and so has their volcanic wine and terrain. While tourism is the main economic driver in Lanzarote, this close connection has also pushed winemakers to try and increase production in recent years.
The biggest problem for Canary Islands’ agriculture, is the lack of water. Lanzarote has never been a wet or rainy place by any means, with an average of 150ml per year, but over time, as global temperatures rise, it has got even drier. Given its geographical position, wine making shouldn’t be possible on Lanzarote, it is only because of the volcanic ash that it is now possible. Not only is Lanzarote a dry area for vines, making the grape yield scarce (but with great quality) the vines also grow differently, meaning that they’re more challenging to care for.
La Geria wine region, as mentioned, is very fragile. Vines, unlike in other places in the world, are planted individually and grow crawling on the floor in deep hollows, occupying a lot of space. Due to the landscape, you will find as low as 300 vines per hectare in La Geria, bear in mind a typical vineyard has 4-7,000 vines per hectare!
With so many individually planted vines, much water is needed, but to maintain the natural and delicate landscape and wines, the Regulatory Council does not allow farmers to water their vines or use mechanical harvesting. In any case, due to the terrain, most of La Geria is impassable for machinery even to carry our basic tasks. Although this is of amazing help to preserve the unique region, the increasing demand and global temperatures are putting pressure on the industry to maintain levels of production, in terms of quantity. The rain has been especially scarce in the past few years, and without manual watering, countless vines haven’t received enough water.
Making matters worse, in todays’ technological society, these conditions and restrictions make viticulture and winemaking a lot less appealing for younger generations, leaving dedicated farmers like Germán, short-handed and overloaded.
This is why many wineries are trying to confront these challenges by converting to ecological winemaking, single parcel wines, promoting the industry, organising events and conferences, and in the case of El Grifo winery for example, trying to create a whole new cycle of cultivation and harvesting in late March! These are just some ways that Don Germán and other winemakers and farmers are trying to find a solution, with hopes of helping the workers, the land and the economy.
It has been thoroughly interesting hearing Don German´s story and perspectives first hand, and we hope you have enjoyed reading them. For those interested in tasting two of Bodega Rubicon's wines, we stock their lees aged Malvasia Volcanica, named Amalia after Don Germán's granddaughter, together with their Listan Negro Rosé.
Over the coming months we will be writing our own thoughts on the ever changing wine industry on Lanzarote. While it has its challenges, it remains as exciting as ever!
Photos courtesy of May Hay.