La Geria in Lanzarote is one of the island’s most intriguing tourist attractions, with the unique agricultural landscape being used to grow wine.
When thinking about vineyards, most people will conjure up images of luscious fields and colourful foliage; however, the vineyards of La Geria utilise a cultivating technique that is used solely in Lanzarote.
During the 1730s, around one-third of the island was covered in ash following a series of volcanic eruptions that also destroyed most of the crops at the time, such as cereal.
This meant the farmers who stayed in Lanzarote instead of choosing to emigrate to America had to come up with a way of growing produce in the ash that was present on a large portion of the land.
Fortunately, this ashy substance had a number of features that enabled the workers to formulate a process for making wine that proved very successful.
The granules of volcanic rock, called picon, could be used as a porous mulch as it was able to absorb moisture from the surrounding air and distribute it in the ground.
This not only prevented evaporation, but also overcame a problem farmers in the region had suffered over the years with all crops – a lack of rainfall.
Known as ‘enarenado’, this form of dry cultivation is used solely in Lanzarote, making the landscape a fascinating stop on any tour of the island.
In order to protect the vines from strong winds, each one is planted individually, with a small semi-circular wall named a zoco built around them.
These walls are made from volcanic stone, forming an added layer of defence against adverse weather conditions.
Each vine is also planted at a depth of 1 to 1.5 metres in order to ensure they are fully grounded when winds are high.
This spectacular agricultural landscape is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Lanzarote and provides some excellent photo opportunities.
Due to the nature of this viniculture, it is fairly labour intensive, with each vine needing to be planted manually, while each grape is handpicked come harvest season.
Around three-quarters of the crop in La Geria is Malvasia grape, resulting in a sweet wine that was once a favoured tipple of European aristocracy. Nowadays, the island is still famous for its dessert wines.
The remaining 25 per cent of the vineyards cultivate Diego, Muscatel and Pedro Ximenez grapes.
If you are keen to actually taste some of the local wines, there are a number of bodegas – small grocery stores – that line the main bumpy road in La Geria.
Here, you can find a vast selection of red, white and rose variants, enabling you to plan your own mini sampling tour fairly easily.
Those keen to learn more about the history of wine-making in Lanzarote should visit the Canary Islands’ oldest bodega, the El Grifo winery in Masdache.
Founded in 1775, it has a wine museum that extensively details the island’s long tradition in vineyards and agricultural pursuits.
Tourists can view authentic old presses, alembics, laboratory instruments, bottling tools, pumps and filters, as well as other farming equipment used during the production process.
Looking for wine to take home with you? There is also a sales room in the museum where you can find a large choice of some of Lanzarote’s best wines.