Just Google “where are the Canary Islands” and you would quickly agree with me that it doesn’t seem like a typical wine producing area. We were surprised to learn about Canary Islands wine as we were planning our trip to Gran Canaria Spain. I was expecting mangos and avocados and pork. But wine? During our Canary Islands tour, we learned a lot about Gran Canaria wine that was surprising. Particularly when compared to the wine from other Spanish destinations.Check out more tips in our Ultimate Spain Food Guide – How To Travel in Spain
In this post, we will help wine travelers learn about Gran Canarian wine and a little about Canary wine in general. We will offer recommendations on a few Canary Islands wine bodegas to visit. And, we recommend other places to try some of the best wine on the island. If you are looking for lesser-known and off-the-beaten path wine destinations, this is the one for you.
The Canary Islands Spain and Wine
The Canary Islands are a group of islands off Spain, which are actually closer to Africa than to the Spanish mainland. Although the Canarias are islands off Spain, they are only 100 kilometers from northwest Africa. Morroco is the closest point. There are seven islands that form the Canarias, including Tenerife, Lanzarote, and Gran Canaria Spain, among others. Tenerife and Lanzarote are very popular Spain destinations for northern Europeans, particularly for Brit and Irish travelers. We visited Gran Canaria, though, to taste great Canarian food and to learn about wine.
When it comes to wine-making regions in Europe, the Canary Islands has to be one of the most extreme regions. It sits at 28-degree latitude, just about the same level as Miami. Imagine decent wine being grown in South Florida? Combine this latitude with a very rugged and mountainous terrain, volcanoes, winds, and lack of water, and one would be surprised to know that decent (and in fact good) Spanish wines are produced here. One of the reasons why it offers so much for wine tourists is that few people really know about the wines of the region.
Looking for More Information on Travel to The Canary Islands?
Check out this list of the Top Canary Islands Wineries on Gran Canaria
Or, check out our Ultimate Gran Canaria Food Guide – What to Eat in Gran Canaria
Looking to explore the islands in a different way? How about Canary Islands Cruises?
Canary Islands Vineyards
When thinking about the Canary Islands and wine, many wine travelers tend to think first and foremost about Lanzarote wine, then Tenerife wine, and perhaps then Gran Canaria wine. For sure, the Gran Canaria wine production is small and very few wineries export out of the Canary Islands. There are, however, a few similarities that link all of these wine producing areas to each other. All of the wine regions are well known for being volcanic vineyards. That means rough soil and little water. The Lanzarote vineyards are perhaps some of the most famous because of the unique way they plant the vines and irrigate them, leaving a large cauldron of soil around the base of the vines to help capture what little water there is.
The Gran Canaria vineyards are unique in their own right. One thing I noticed when learning about Gran Canaria is how arid the land is. The soil is extremely dry and volcanic. Not only with wine, but even with other produce, like avocados, mangos, and bananas. Part of me wondered how anything grows on Gran Canaria at all. Much to my surprise, not only do the vineyards grow in this gravely, volcanic soil but the wine has such a unique character due to this Gran Canaria microclimate.
Where to Stay in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Many people flock to the all-inclusive resorts in Gran Canaria, and once they get there, they kind of stay there. We had a different goal in mind. We wanted to learn all about Gran Canaria food, so we stayed in Las Palmas and took day trips to explore the island.
We recommend the AC Hotel Iberia by Marriott. They have a rooftop pool with a view of the water and are only a few minutes walk to the tapas restaurants and bars in Triana. They also have parking, making them a great option to explore the city. If you don’t rent a car, they offer a shuttle from the airport too. We’ve been staying at AC Hotel properties all over Spain, and find they are a great mix of contemporary design and value. Check the best rates at the AC Hotel Iberia Gran Canaria.
Canary Islands Wine Varietals
Some of the most common grape varieties grown on Gran Canaria include Malvasia, Listan Negro, and Listan Blanco. We are familiar with Malvasia. It is a common Emilia Romagna grape grown predominantly around Parma. The version grown in Gran Canaria is different, though. It is less sweet than in Parma, and a lot more crisp, due in part to the effect of the volcanic soil. Listan Blanco is more commonly known as Palomino elsewhere in Spain. It is the grape used to make sherry in Andalusia, in Jerez, Spain. The Listan Negro is the dark-skinned version of the same Palomino grape.
One other interesting note for people who love wine history. There is a history of wine production in the Canary Islands since the 16th century. Because of its island location, the Gran Canary wine regions were never touched by Phylloxera, the awful insect that destroyed the European wine industry in the 1860s. We know this quite well because of the devasting effect phylloxera had on the Emporda wine region in the Costa Brava, close to where we live in Girona. This is why the Canary Islands wine regions host some of the oldest vineyards in Europe. But what does all of this mean for the wine traveler?
Most of the vineyards on Gran Canaria are old. Until the last decade or two most winemakers produced only for family consumption. The increase in wine production and wine tourism can be attributed to the younger generation, who see a future in Canary Island wines. This means there are small, boutique wineries to visit, and unique wines to drink.Do you often purchase wine when traveling and then stress about how to bring it home? Check out our guide on How to Travel With Wine – The Best Wine Travel Bags
Gran Canaria Wine Bodegas
We visited a few Gran Canaria wine bodegas during our stay on the island. It was great to meet the winemakers and to taste some truly unique wines. We also visited a few restaurants or wine bars where we were able to taste other Canary Islands wines from bodegas we were not able to visit. Overall, I was expecting the wines on Gran Canaria to be heavy and minerally. Instead, I was surprised that both the white and red wines were crisp and refreshing.
Bodega Los Lirios
Several of the wineries on Gran Canaria surround the area known as the Caldera de Bandama. The Bandama Caldera is a large cauldron-like hollow reservoir that forms after a volcanic eruption. Many of the typical Gran Canaria tours will visit the caldera and its visitor center. But, the area is also known for wine.
Some of the vines are well over 100 years old at Bodega Los Lirios. Their bodega is one of the oldest on the island. Los Lirious only produces about 6,000 bottles a year, which for Gran Canaria is on the larger size. For many typical wine regions, this is tiny in comparison. They offer a lovely wine tasting, outdoors, with local Canarian cheese.
Bodega Los Lirios in Bandama is open Monday through Friday for tours and tastings, which generally take around two hours. The winery is only about 15 minutes by car from Las Palmas.
Bodega San Juan – Wine Museum and Winery Gran Canaria
Cristina’s great-grandfather started Bodega San Juan in 1912. Recently, Cristina and her husband started to breathe new life into what was really just a family farm. They opened their family’s historic wine museum to the public and have started to use a unique process for producing organic Gran Canaria wines. In 2017, they only produced 800 bottles, meaning if you want to learn the history of a small wine producer, this is the place to visit.
Bodega San Juan at Finca del Mocanal offers tastings and tours of the winery and the small wine museum with prior arrangements. The winery is located about 15 minutes drive from Las Palmas.
Bodega Los Berrazales – Winery and Coffee Plantation Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria is one of the few areas within Europe that has a coffee production. Coffee beans need warm and dry weather year round. That’s exactly what a coffee plantation in Gran Canaria offers. Agaete coffee has been produced around the town of Agaete for generations. A handful of families continue to own and operate Gran Canaria coffee plantations, most of them continuing to harvest by hand. One also produces wine.
Finca la Laja in Valle de Agaete is in the Northwest corner of the island, away from the Caldera Bandama Gran Canaria on the east. This Agaete coffee plantation is a working tropical fruit farm and Gran Canaria winery as well. Finca La Laja is a 5th generation coffee-producing family. You can tour the plantation, farm, and winery, and enjoy a little light lunch at their restaurant, which features Gran Canaria cheese, meat, produce and of course their own Bodega Los Berrazales winery. Unlike the wineries on the east side of the island, they grow their grapes in the traditional way, under canopies to protect the grapes from the sun.
There are about 50 or 60 wineries on the island. Other wineries to visit include Bodega Las Tirajanas Gran Canaria, Fronton de Oro, Bodega Hoyos de Bandama, Bodegas Mondalon. Of these wineries, Fronton de Oro is the one you would be most likely to find at wine shops in the US.
Other Places to Taste Canary Islands Wine
If visiting a Gran Canaria bodega is not in the cards, there are a few other places to check out that specialize in local Gran Canaria wines, as well as wines from Lanzarote and Tenerife. First, La Tienda de Paco in Tejeda is in the center of the island, in a cute little village. They carry a selection of Gran Canaria cheeses and wines all served in their tiny bar or on their terrace.
I’m also a big fan of restaurants that are worth a drive. La Trastienda de Chago in Galdar certainly falls within that category. Galdar is an adorable little down about 30 minutes drive from Las Palmas. Las Trastienda is the brainchild of Carmelo and Nereida. They took a local bar and transformed it into a restaurant with a one-track mind – fresh, local ingredients. This also includes one of the best selections of Gran Canaria and Canary Island wines we saw on the island. A definite must-visit wine destination.
FAQs – Gran Canaria Trips
Yes! Despite how close it is to Africa, the Canary Islands are part of Spain.
Because it is part of Spain, and therefore part of the EU, they use the Euro as the currency in the Canary Islands.
We’ve only been to Gran Canaria (so far). I have to say for someone interested in food and wine, who is looking to go off the beaten path, and to avoid the all-inclusive resorts, Gran Canaria would make a great destination.
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.