Visiting the Island of Volcanoes and Vineyards by Sinéad Smyth

Exploring Lanzarote with Wine Tours Lanzarote

Before we dive in, let’s start with a little background into Lanzarote. In 1730 the island experienced volcanic eruptions for six years, which covered the land’s most fertile areas and caused mass migration of the people living near the volcano. Today you can visit Timanfaya National Park and see the otherworldly landscape and the dramatic scenery that has been left behind. So now you’re probably thinking, what does this have to do with wine? Well, you must know by now that if there’s a wine tour on offer, I’m the girl to find it.

I’d hazard a guess that when they think of a vineyard will picture long straight rows of lush tall vines, or steep valleys overlooking rivers. But here in Lanzarote, things are quite different. My first visit to the vineyards was in winter when there was no fruit or leaves on the vines. My second visit was during summer, so the plants were growing nicely and bursting with green leaves. Yet when you spy a vineyard in Lanzarote you may not think it’s a vineyard at all.

Lanzarote Vineyard

Dark black picon covers the landscape. This volcanic rock covered about 30% of fertile soil after the eruptions so many years ago, and it is vital to viticulture in the region. This small porous rock allows water to be absorbed down to the root of the vine and prevents it from evaporating in the heat. Therefore you won’t see growers watering their crops, as they don’t need to. Each vine is planted deep down past the picon into the rich fertile soil that lies below. However today, water is scarce, and the island is facing yet another year of drought - a deadly effect of climate change. A recent visit to Priorat uncovered the same issue. Some growers in the region have resorted to pulling up vines, in the hopes that the vines they leave intact will have some chance of survival and bear fruit.

Forget about uniform rows of vines you may have seen before, here you will see semi-circle stone walls each encasing a single bush vine. These walls or ‘zocos’, protect the plant against the strong winds on the island, yet small holes in the wall allow some air to pass through to cool the vine. Otherwise, the climate would simply be too hot for it to survive.

La Geria Vineyards

The main grape of the island is Malvasia with Listan Negro, Moscatel and Diego regularly appearing. To learn more about the wine of the island we booked a trip through Wine Tours Lanzarote. We had previously done a tour with them a year before so we knew we were in safe hands. Our guide Dan was the perfect host, driving us around in an air-conditioned minivan (a welcome treat in the Lanzarote heat) and giving us tons of facts about the island.

The first vineyard on our vino adventure was Los Bermejos, a winery using sustainable practices to make their wines. The largest of the three we would visit but still a calming spot full of beauty.

At Los Bermejos we sampled two delicious drops, 2018 Listan Rosado and 2018 Malvasía Volcaníca Seco. The Listan Rosado is a beautifully made rose, with hints of strawberry, ideal for sipping in the sunshine or enjoying with some grilled prawns. The Malvasía Volcánica Seco is an easy-to-drink, everyday wine that is full of refreshing acidity. We picked up a bottle to take home with us, some things are just too good to leave behind.

Bermejo Wine Uk
Next we arrived at Bodeguita el Tablero (2024 Update - El Tablero is no longer producing wine). This family-run vineyard has been passed down from father to son and retains that small close-knit vibe. Bodeguita del Tablero is the closest to Timanfaya of the three wineries we visited, therefore its soil is more densely covered with that precious picon, giving the wines a richer minerality.

We sampled some goat’s cheese and local jams that were sublime. Goat cheese is one of my absolute favourites and Lanzarote is famed for it (lucky me!). Cactus jam is a common find here, and we polished it off at record speed, along with pumpkin jam which we devoured with our cheese. We even took a pot of this pumpkin deliciousness home.
The towering mountain beside the vineyard is littered with forgotten vines where you can see the remnants of the old ‘zocos’. Vines sitting on the steeping slopes are simply too hard to maintain, and the owner (this land isn’t owned by Bodeguita del Tablero) can’t fight against the forceful winds that blow the picon into the vines.
La Geria Wine
These strong gusts of wind are both a blessing and a curse to Lanzarote winemakers. While they allow the vines to be cooled in the stifling heat, they also sweep heaps of picon over the vine. This means growers must tend to each vine to shovel out these black stones, unveiling the vine underneath.

An interesting point to remember when you’re sipping on a glass of Lanzarote’s delicious wines - there’s a massive amount of work that’s gone into each bottle. We even got to see vines that were nearly 100 years old which was quite incredible.
Lanzarote Vines
We sampled two fabulous wines here, a light and summery rose and a 2018 Listan Negro Tinto. A bottle of the latter may have found its way home with us too. By far this was my favourite red of the day. Full of minerality, earthy notes and a hint of warming spice.

Today the owner’s son makes incredible woodwork pieces such as wine bottle holders that you can find dotted around the property.
Lanzarote Wine Tour
Our last vineyard was just beautiful. The property is so pretty it was like walking into a postcard. At Bodeguita Vega Volcán they grow native Lanzarote grapes but are also experimenting with growing newer varieties such as Syrah. This family-run vineyard is such a gorgeous place, I could have stayed here all day.
Lanzarote Wines

They have a swimming pool, lots of outdoor seating areas and a beautiful exposed brick room with large windows overlooking the vineyard which is where we had our tasting. We tried a red and white along with a huge plate of goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, hello heaven…..we may have bought another bottle here to bring home to the Emerald Isle.

Wine Tours Lanzarote

Having been on the tour before during the winter it was great to see the vineyards in the summer, see the fruit growing on the vines and enjoy a chilled vino while doing so. Lanzarote is a beautiful island full of history, scenery and some really interesting wines. My advice is to make sure you have space in your luggage because you’ll certainly want to purchase some bottles. Or even better, save yourself the hassle of carrying heaving bags and visit and have your favourites delivered straight to your door in the UK & Ireland, VAT included.

If you are lucky enough to visit this sunshine paradise then a trip with Wine Tours Lanzarote is a must, whether you’re a wine buff or novice! They also do craft beer tours, if you fancy a few sips of the local beer.

Sinéad Smyth
(Original text written in 2019)

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