Some of the world’s most extreme winemaking regions make us stop and think. Why the heck would anyone think to plant grapes there in the first place? Considering that some vineyards are located on near-vertical slopes, or in the range of an active volcano, it’s remarkable that pioneers had the wherewithal to start growing grapes.
Spain’s most inhospitable conditions lie on the Canary Islands. The archipelago is actually located outside the optimal latitude for grape growing, closer to Africa than to Europe. Thankfully, over the past five to 10 years, these wines have started arriving on our shores, giving U.S. wine lovers access to these interesting wines. While many are in limited quantities, there are a few that make themselves slightly less scarce, such as the Viñátigo Tinto Listán Negro 2015.
Six of the Canary Islands produce wine. Each has a different climate, terrain, and winemaking style but, in general, the region is known for mountainous geography, volcanic soil, and high-elevation vineyards that combat the area’s latitude. The largest island, Tenerife, is responsible for most wine coming from the Canary Islands, and it comprises most of what is exported. The Canaries produce white, red, and rosé wines from indigenous grapes, and the region’s most widely planted red grape, Listán Negro, makes the kind of red wine that one might want to sip on a tropical island: light, juicy, and best suited to a bit of a chill.
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The Viñátigo Tinto hails from Tenerife’s Ycoden-Daute-Isora DO, located in the northwestern corner of the island. Made by a husband-and-wife team, who practice sustainable viticulture and work to preserve the Canaries’ indigenous grape varieties, along with the local university, it is 100 percent Listán Negro and aged for three months in used oak. The nose is exceedingly lively, with a bouncy, juicy maraschino cherry quality, almost like Oregon Pinot Noir. At the same time, it’s reminiscent of Nebbiolo, with violet and rose accents, peppered with a touch of Syrah-like spice. The palate is light and fresh but not thin, with a bit of bitterness on the finish. The latter isn’t off-putting, but rather encourages the drinker to pair it with some cheese and charcuterie.