Diurnal Shift in Lanzarote

By Dan Priestley

The island of Lanzarote sits about 80 miles off the coast of North Africa and the Sahara Desert, it is one of 8 Canary Islands.  The Canaries have a high-pressure trade wind system constantly blowing cool air across the land from the north.  This wind is known as the Alisios, and we have much to thank it for! 

On the same day, you can be on a hot beach in shorts and then when the sun sets, you can be in a thick jacket as night-time temperatures quickly decrease.  In the “wine world” this is referred to as diurnal shift, or diurnal range. This is the difference between day and night temperatures within a 24-hour period.  This is not to be confused with the term continentality, which is the difference between continental and marine climates and that over land versus water.

Lanzarote is famed for its sun and beaches, not just its wine

Depending on where you are on the Island (and particularly in the wine region of La Geria), temperature ranges between day and night can be up to 17°C.  This type of range is common to desert climates!

While many wine lovers know that big swings in temperature in a vineyard generally translates into lively, crisp and fresh wines, few know how and why it happens.  Much has to do with diurnal temperature shifts as it has major implications for a wine’s structure, balance and quality.

Grapes with high sugar yet freshness.  Typical of diurnal temperatures.

High mid-day temperatures in a vineyard foster sugar development in grapes, but the cool nights can help the vine recover from a long day in the heat, while slowing down grape maturation, and importantly preserving aromas and natural acidity.  This translates into freshness, and this is one reason why vineyards in hot climates can still produce fresh (acidity) and aromatic wines.

Lanzarote wines are a great example of what a high diurnal range makes possible.  Dry white wines of 13.5% or even 14% abv (thanks to the natural high sugars) while still possessing a great freshness.  Of course, you will find many great options on our UK based online store, particularly these Malvasia Volcanicas.

Fresh wines and relatively high alcohol, a typical characteristic of diurnal temperatures

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This article was researched and written by Dan Priestley

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