Travel Tales of the Unexpected: Lanzarote’s ‘Miracle’ Vineyards

Ahh…Lanzarote!  Sun, sea, charming villages and…volcanich ash vineyards?

With a lot of us Brits probably heaading to the Canaries this summer, next time you’re tempted to order a cold beer for lunch, you might want to ask for the wine list.

Because believe it or not, within the island’s famous lunar landscape island lies La Geria, a unique region where semi-circular stone “walls” protect the new shoots of young vines from the strong trade winds.  Amazingly,  grapes flourish here in a ground fed by none other than black volcanic ash.

This method of cultivation was a breakthrough discovery for the islanders, especially as it hardly ever rains there. The vines were first planted about two and a half centuries ago and these days each vine produces around 25 kilograms of grapes a year in this most unlikely wine-growing region.

To date, around 3,000 acres of volcanic ash land have been cultivated here after local farmers realised that the lava ash – called lapilli – proved to be surprisingly fertile ground for planting vineyards.

After a series of volcanoes ceased erupting in the 1700s, the locals planted vines and fruit trees and instead of the ashen “earth” proving a barrier to cultivation, they discovered it actually helped produce great grapes.

Despite its arrid conditions, and with barely any rain, the early morning hours in Lanzarote are humid so that allows the ash to absorb and “store” the morning dew – nature’s secret technique.

So next time you’re visiting, maybe pass on the beer and try one of the local “volcanic ash wines” instead? They’re not just famous, they’re really very good.

La Geria produces Malvasia, Listan Negra and Moscatel and if you can find one, we’d recommend a bottle of the Manto (2007) – look out for the label.  It’s excellent.


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