Lanzarote is an island of many wonders. Built around its volcanic landscape, its raw beauty captures the visitors from moment one. To the already widespread known and before mentioned highlights, it is worth adding that Lanzarote is home to the oldest winery in the Canary Islands, as well as one of the 10 oldest in Spain, Winery el Grifo (Bodegas el Grifo). Surprised? So was I! We had to stop by during our Lanzarote trip, to see with our own eyes. And of course, we couldn’t leave without a Lanzarote wine tasting session. But first let me tell you a bit about wine in Lanzarote.
WINE IN LANZAROTE & LA GERíA REGION
Given its dry and windy climate and the volcanic rock soil, one would assume it’d be almost impossible to grow anything in the island. La Gería was covered in volcanic ashes between the eruption of 1730-1736. Years later they’d discover that this volcanic sand “Picón” left by the eruptions worked wonders on the soil, helping keep the ambient water underground for up to six months at a time. That, in combination with their stone build-ups around the vines -protection against the constant trade winds that brush Lanzarote- have made of wine-making in this island a form of art worth checking out.
Besides that, Lanzarote is one of the few places where the old Malvasía vine wasn’t completely whipped out by the philloxera parasite back in the 19th Century. That means that some of the vines at Bodegas el Grifo are more than 200 years old, an impressive sight!
As you drive along La Gería, you will see row after row after row of carefully placed and cared for vines of all shapes and sizes. Some walled up, some free as birds, some high, some low. For example, the old Malvasía vines have to be placed far apart from each other due to the size of their roots. These plants in Lanzarote can’t grow their roots down but sideways. That is because the fertile soil is sandwiched between 0.5 and 3 meters of picon above and volcanic rock below. Also, the closer they come to the volcano the deeper the vines have to be planted which translates into manual harvesting. As I said, a form of art!
BODEGAS EL GRIFO & LANZAROTE WINE TASTING
Bodegas el Grífo, as I mentioned previously, is the oldest winery in the Canary Islands and one of the 10 oldest in Spain. Founded in 1775, Bodegas el Grifo has belonged to two families since its start, the most recent of the two has run it successfully during five generations.
El Grifo is one of the first wineries to start their wine harvest each year. With the reds beginning some time in July and their sweet whites staying in the vine longer, up to September. Always weather dependent of course.
Every year they complement the produce from their 60 hectare of prephilloxeric vines, with high quality and highly regulated produce from local farmers. This way they also help small local producers. Once per year between July and September, these local farmers bring their produce to the winery, where it is weighed and sorted for production. Bodegas el Grifo has a production capacity of about 1 million liters per year (Red, White, Rosé and sparkling). Some of it will be exported to the Peninsula and sold at big supermarkets like El Corte Inglés, but the immense majority of Lanzarote’s wine stays in the Canary Islands.
Besides its incredible wines, Bodegas el Grifo also has one of the most visited wine history museum in Spain with original pieces from the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. In addition to that, its priced library is known for the over 4000 first editions, some of which date back to the 17th century. And its logo, a Griff, was designed by the famous local artist and close family friend Cesar Manrique. This greek mythological creature was Baco’s wine guardian, which makes of it the perfect symbol for a winery with such long history.
Bodegas el Grifo receives around 60.000 visitors each year. They organise daily tours and Lanzarote wine tasting sessions throughout the year for a small fee. A highly skilled guide takes you along the winemaking process and the history of the winery, followed by a walk along the vines. Most of the tours include one or two Lanzarote wine tasting options. But if you don’t feel like visiting the facilities, you can skip straight to the juicy part. My personal favourite was a sweet dessert Malvasía wine. If you like any of their wines you can buy it directly there, whether you can take it with you or not. You won’t regret it, they deliver to your doorstep for less than what you pay for a Ryanair 15 Kg bag! We ordered six bottles and paid 17€ for delivery to Germany! Score!
So, whether you are a wine fan or not, I would highly recommend stopping by Bodegas el Grifo during a trip to Lanzarote for a different experience. It wasn’t sponsored in any way, I just really loved the people, place and history behind the place and think you’d love it too. Only down side, you’ll need a car to get there.