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A new level of identity for Canary Island wines

The Denomination of Origin Islas Canarias adopted an updated pliego de condiciones (by-laws) on 27 July, 2021. Amongst many revised items were changes to their overall structure, permitted varieties, and the addition of a single vineyard classification called, "Vino de Parcela".

“Origen 1989” by Bodega el Lomo is a wine made from the certified parcel of, “Los Laureles”, a 12ha vineyard at 600m of altitude that holds centenary bush vines. It’s the first wine certified under this new system, having just arrived to market this month with others to come in the near future.

While the DO Islas Canarias covers the entire territory of these eight Spanish islands off the western coast of Africa, there are 10 other DOs that govern the wines of certain areas of the Canary Islands. Five DOs alone completely cover the individual islands of: El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Gran Canaria, and Lanzarote. The island of Fuerteventura next to Lanzarote doesn’t have its own DO and while Tenerife has five within the island, there isn’t a single one that’s for the island as a whole but only of parts of it.

DO Islas Canarias in contrast is an umbrella DO that is relatively new, having been created in 2012, but it’s become rather important as it allows a “subzone” indication for the islands of Tenerife and Fuerteventura thus giving them a renewed identity. Additionally, they’ve also established a “Vino de Municipio” level to showcase wines produced from a single town or village area.

Aarón Alonso, a member of the technical team of the DO Islas Canarias, told Decanter: ‘We’ve been working on the various aspects of the new pliego for a year and a half prior to its introduction. It was very important to make these changes and allow for more flexibility within the DO. We needed it to become a foundation for the identity of wine in the islands.’

In talking with Francisco Borja de Mesa, the director of Bodega el Lomo, he told Decanter that the changes are crucial both from the global perspective for the visibility of Canary Islands wine all the way down to the individual vineyards.

‘All these changes are quite important but it’s the introduction of cross-production between islands that’s going to really benefit the viticulturists. Previously those with vineyards in more far-flung islands had difficulties finding places to sell their grapes if they didn’t want to or couldn’t start up a winery of their own.’ he said.

‘This was a big problem as they would then usually tear out vines to plant avocados or other non-grape crops and so countless hectares of vineyards have been lost this way. But now we can make wines from these grapes anywhere in the islands while still stating their point of origin from the islands, at a DO level, and give new value to our heritage vineyards and thus protect them from disappearing.’

There are over 200 wineries in the Canary Islands making wines from vineyards that are actually at the highest altitudes in all of Spain, due to the sharp ascent of the volcanoes at the core of each island. Mount Teide at the centre of Tenerife is in fact Spain’s tallest mountain at 3,715m with vines grown up to 1,700m. Producers are rightly excited about being able to showcase their individual vineyards as while they’ve been doing this in an unofficial capacity for years, the new legislation allows a legal certification to establish their most unique sites on the labels.

Thanks to the work of producers such el Lomo and many others as well as the backing of a stronger, more viticulture-driven legislation from the DO, it’s now allowing the Canary Island wines to be seen by more than just those who pass a European winter on their shores.

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