Spicy, Captivating Wines from Tenerife in the Canary Islands
Tenerife captivates with its charm and history, spicy food and wine, and scenic beauty all around the island. At the center of Tenerife is Mt Teide, a (dormant) volcano, the peak of which is at ~12,198 feet (the highest point in Spain). There are now more than 8,000 hectares of grapes planted in rich, fertile volcanic soil here. The mountain range, coastal influence, trade winds and span of altitudes provide a wide array of micro-climates on this sub-tropical volcanic island (the largest of the Canary Islands); it is well suited for cultivating grapes.
Wines in Tenerife are crafted primarily of varieties that are rarely, if ever, grown in North America. There are five unique Denominaciones de Origen (designation of origin regions) here. Tacoronte-Acentejo was the first DO to be recognized in 1992, however grapes have been grown here for hundreds of years. Grapes planted in Tenerife include Listán Blanco, Listán Negro, Negramoll, Tintilla and Vijariego Negro. Grape growers and vintners ardently tend to their vineyards and winemaking, and the results are impressive. The Monje family was one of the first to plant grapes. Felipe Monje, a 5th generation winemaker, exudes the family passion and tradition that he carries on. Additional talented vintners and I had the pleasure of meeting and sampling wines with include Borja Pérez González (Ignios), and Jonatan García Lima (Suertes del Marqués).
Be adventurous and expand the repertoire of wine varieties that delight your palate! The following Tenerife wines are among many worth seeking out:
Bodegas Monje 2013 Tradicional; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife: A field of wild flowers and hints of gunpowder on the nose are unleashed onto the palate with tinges of earth, blackberry and Black Amber plum fruit, and savory spice highlights. This red blend of Listán Negro (Listán Prieto), Listán Blanco (Palomino) and Negramoll (Tinta Negra Mole) is vivacious and elegant. Soft, round tannins caress the palate, and lead to a lingering aftertaste. www.bodegasmonje.com
Bodegas Monje 2003 Events Listán Blanco; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife: Just released three years ago, this aged, golden-hued white wine delivers scents and flavors of candied pineapple, notes of toast, honey and spice-dusted roasted almonds. It is smooth in texture, powerful and deep, with hints of herbs and earthiness on the intense finish.
Bodegas Monje 2014 Hollera; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife: This easy to quaff 100% Listán Negro opens with dark berry and cardamom spice on the nose. Allspice and cardamom notes meld with black plummy fruit, crushed pink peppercorns and nice oak integration throughout; balanced and pure.
Bodegas Monje 2012 Tintilla; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife: This blend of 90% Tintilla Castellana and 10% Listán Negro (with eight months French oak aging) showcases deep, dark berry and plummy fruit with spiced oak nuances on the inviting nose. Spicy fruit compote and toasty nuances continue as the wine fills the mouth and heads to a warm, satisfying finish.
Bodegas Suertes del Marqués 2014 Vidonia; Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife: Plenty of minerality here with this sleek, citrusy Listán Blanco. Perfumed floral aromas lead to bright flavors of grapefruit, apple skin, banana chips, and spiced oak. The thread of minerality remains focused throughout, and a splash of lime lifts the finish brilliantly. Complex and well defined with racy acidity, this youthful wine promises good aging potential, too. www.suertesdelmarques.com
Bodegas Buten Crater 2008 Magma de Crater (Crianza); Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife: Take a good whiff of the alluring scents of earthiness and Friar plum preserves; intoxicating. This luscious blend of Negramoll and Syrah continues to entice with concentrated dark fruit, anise seed, hints of spiced meat, seasoned leather and nice toasty elements (from the French oak aging) dazzling the palate. Intense and finely balanced with a well-honed backbone of tannins, I envision this wine aging impressively for years. www.craterbodegas.com
Bodegas Marba 2014 Blanco Barrica; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife: Tinges of earth and tropical fruit rise from the glass as this engaging Listán Blanco greets the nose. Bright and lively with interlacing layers of lemon curd, candied pineapple wedges, lime peel and spicy pear chutney. Elevated acidity balances the juicy fruit, refreshing the palate through the pulsating finish. www.bodegasmarba.com
Bodegas Ignios Origenes 2013 Vijariego Negro; Ycoden Daute Isora, Tenerife: Here is a beautifully textured Vijariego Negro. Exotic aromas of potpourri and spice are enrapturing. Fanning out onto the palate are rich layers of blackberry jam, freshly ground pepper spice, raspberries, flinty accents and nicely integrated oak from new and seasoned French oak aging. Round tannins and a noteworthy level of acidity harmonize with the lush fruit, and the aftertaste is deep and persistent. www.igniosorigenes.com
Bodegas Altos de Trevejos 2014 Mountain Wines Vijariego Negro; Abona, Tenerife: Perfumed fragrances of violets, earth and spice scintillate the senses. Layers of red-fleshed plums, currants, minerally notes and spice elements framed by firm tannins swirl scrumptiously on the palate. Well-placed oak management adds further dimension, and the wine finishes with style and depth. www.altosdetrevejos.com
Cumbres de Abona 2015 Testamento; Abona, Tenerife: This delightful white wine crafted of 100% Malvasia offers up mouthwatering aromas. Enlivening the palate are layers of juicy guava and pineapple fruit accented with citrus and mineral notes. It is sleek and steely with a pretty texture, and boasts lively acidity that keeps the wine fresh and energetic throughout. www.cumbresdeabona.es
Some Canarian wines are imported into the USA, check with your local wine shops. Even better, visit Tenerife yourself, there is plenty to explore there within the world of wine and food, and beyond.