Posted by: tomciocco | November 20, 2013

SOMETHING LIKE A COAL MINE IN THE CANARIES

Wine can come from some funny places, and the Canary Islands is definitely one of them. The first question that might arise is “Where the hell are the Canary Islands?” Well, if you didn’t already know, I’ll tell you. The Canaries are a string of seven volcanic islands situated in the Atlantic Ocean not too far off of the extreme southwestern corner of Morocco. Once occupied by a Berber people called the Guanches, the Canaries was the place where the Spanish began to cut their imperialist teeth (pre-New World) beginning in the early 1400s. Soon after vanquishing this aboriginal culture, the Spanish quickly injected a range of Iberian flora and fauna, and the vine was one of them.

And being that  the Canaries (this wine hails specifically from the island of Tenerife) are decidedly volcanic in origin, the grape vines introduced into this sunny and windy archipelago immediately took to their new home, and with these first plantings, a very peculiar viticultural tradition had begun. Today, because of the extreme isolation of the Canaries, an almost exclusively autocthonous range of grape varieties continue to thrive on the islands’ high altitude vineyards and bear names like Gual, Listan Blanco, Marmajuelo, Verdejo, Vijariego Blanco, Baboso, Negramoll, and Tintilla.

But it’s not just the peculiar range of grape varieties and the singular terroir that make Canary Island wines incomparable. Because these islands are so isolated and the soil is so poor and sandy, the ravaging effects of the phylloxera louse that plagued most of the rest of the world’s vines could not survive here or perhaps never even made to the islands in the first place. This means that all of the Canary’s vineyards still sit on their original, un-grafted, non-American rootstocks which means that the wines from this peculiar place are the source of a whole lot of very deep and  intense wines. This evening’s wine is made exclusively from the Listan Blanco variety grown at nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, and on that incomparably vine-friendly volcanic soil that lends all of the grapes grown on it an almost charcoal-y vein, and a tanginess that makes them a perfect companion with the earthy and pungent cuisine that prevails here.

So with all this in mind, I matched this very spunky little wine with a Canarian classic first course called patatas arrugadas (“wrinkled potatoes”  – boiled whole and unpeeled, drained, and then cooked in a dry pot until they begin to shrivel) with the local sauce called mojo verde made from avocado, cilantro, cumin, garlic, oil, and Sherry vinegar. The main course was a tomato, onion, garlic, tarragon, and parsley stuffed omelette called a tortilla canaria with some chewy bread to go along with it all.

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Vinatigo Blanco Tenerife Ycoden Daute Isora D.O.C. 2012

Almost water-white, ultra-pale straw color. Tarry, smokey, minerally pear, white currant and gooseberry fruit, with notes of white spices, sawdust, cut grass, pale honey, and a touch of frankincense. The body of wine is light and very dry but still powerful with a slightly austere and razor-sharp acidity with flavors of salted lemon, pineapple, kiwifruit, sour cream, and roasted peanuts. Long tangy, bitterish finish.

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