Canary Wine: Shakespeare’s Favourite Tipple

Wed, August 17th, 2011 - By Linda

One of the joys of living in Tenerife, has been watching the regeneration of the wine industry…. not to mention the pleasure of sampling the products! Tenerife caters to people from all over the world these days, but still more Brits come than any other single nationality. What many Brits today don’t realize, however, is that links between the two places date back hundreds of years, long, long before mass tourism.


That wasn’t always the case, Canarian wines are mentioned by Shakespeare (no less than 134 mentions according to one source), Ben Johnson, Robert Louis Stevenson and Keats.

The volcanic soil, rich in nutrients and the fair climate combine to create conditions perfect for both red and white wines. There are now no less than five Denominación de Origen on Tenerife alone Abona – which includes the tourist areas of Arona and Adeje; Tacoronte-Acentejo – on the lush northern coast, just past La Laguna; Valle de Güimar – on the east coast close to Candelaria; Valle de la Orotava – the fertile lands behind Puerto de la Cruz; and Ycoden-Daute-Isora – in the hills beyond Playa San Juan and Los Gigantes, and over to the northern coasts around Garachico and Icod de los Vinos. In fact, just think about the name Icod de los Vinos. Non-Spanish speakers often know that that “vino” means wine.


From a vibrant export trade in the seventeenth century, wine production had fallen off dramatically by the 19th, and there are several theories as to why. Whatever the reasons, the recent rise has been spectacular. Towards the end of the 20th century Canarian wines began to win international awards, putting the island’s production firmly back on the international map.



Those famous malmseys or malvasías of history were mainly sweet and white, but modern Tenerife produces both red and rosé as well. If you’re in luck, when you visit there might be a wine fair going on. Last year I went to fairs in both El Médano and in Los Cristianos. Under balmy evening skies, for €5 you buy a glass and five tickets, which allows you five tastings from the stalls at the fair.  Food is usually offered at very low prices so you can sample which wine you like with what type of meal.


To combine sightseeing and wine there is the Museum of Wine in El Sauzal (which has a nice little tribute to its historically famous English fans).  It also has a beautifully restored wine press, although you’ll find examples of these in other locations too, such as those in Garachicio or Santiago del Teide. Throughout the regions you will find the bodegas of different producers open for visits and tastings. It’s cheaper to buy from them than in the shops. Canarian wines are not cheap plonk, but they aren’t horrendously expensive either. As you drive around you’ll also spot vineyards around the hillsides, especially picturesque in Autumn when the grapes hang ready to be picked. Several towns, most famously Icod de los Vinos, have celebrations to welcome the new vintage on November 30th, on St Andrew’s Day.

And the last word to Keats:
“Have ye tippled drink more fine”
Than mine host’s Canary wine?”

Posted : Wednesday, August 17th, 2011 at 9:20 am
Category : days out
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3 Responses to “Canary Wine: Shakespeare’s Favourite Tipple”

  1. […] expensive than mainland Spain wines due to the smaller yields. But choose wisely and you can enjoy Canary wine without breaking the holiday […]

  2. […] around Plaza de la Pila has been tenderly restored and converted into a museum dedicated to the canary wine and its many celebrated fans in […]

  3. […] the prominence of Canarian wine 500 years ago (Shakespeare was a huge fan, in case you missed the post about that), I’ve found it […]

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