Canary Islands: discovering unique flavours

The Canary Islands are an authentic paradise, renowned not just for their breathtaking landscapes and delightful climate, but also as one of the world's prime regions for exceptional wines and cheeses.

There’s a culinary pairing that ranks among life’s greatest pleasures: wine and cheese. Each delightful on its own, but when brought together, they create culinary magic. And when you combine these two pleasures with the unique products of Canary Islands cuisine, you’re in for a treat like no other. So, wine lovers and gourmets, read on as we explore one of the world’s most distinctive regions for producing wine and cheese.

Diverse and unique delicacies of the Canary Islands

In the Canary Islands, both wine and cheese are as diverse and special as the individual islands in the archipelago. These delicacies, celebrated by influential food and wine critics worldwide, boast a total of fourteen Denominations of Origin, each with its own character and charm.

Discovering unique flavours of the Canary Islands.

Both wine and cheese here are crafted using traditional methods, acquiring unique flavors and subtleties from the islands’ microclimates, dramatic changes in altitude, volcanic terrain, specific geography, and endemic biodiversity.

A Heritage of Unique Grape Varieties

The tradition of grape cultivation in the Canary Islands dates back to the 15th century when the first grape varieties arrived with the conquistadors. In the 16th century, the internationally renowned Malvasia wine gained fame in European courts, even earning mention by William Shakespeare. Remarkably, during the 19th century, when the phylloxera aphid devastated European vineyards, the isolated Canary Islands remained unaffected.

Today, approximately 135 different grape varieties have been genetically identified on the islands. Among these, the volcanic malvasia stands out, but there are also native varieties like baboso, listán, and vijariego.

Currently, the Canary Islands boast eleven Denominations of Origin. Tenerife alone is home to five: Ycoden Daute Isora, Abona, Valle de Güímar, Tacoronte Acentejo, and Valle de La Orotava. Thanks to the technical evolution of winemakers and oenologists, Canarian wines have gained international recognition. Renowned wine authorities such as Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, Ferrán Centelles, and Josep Roca have praised Canarian winemaking for its exceptional quality and distinct originality.

Some standout wines include volcanic malvasia from Lanzarote and aromatic malvasia from La Palma. The unique reds of El Hierro, such as the baboso variety, and whites like diego or verijadiego, offer remarkable diversity. Gran Canaria, too, boasts distinctive productions based on listán negro, gual, and negramoll, among others.

A Bounty of Cheeses to Explore

Canarian cheeses convey unique characteristics that set them apart. From cheeses coated with paprika, oil, or gofio to fresh and soft varieties, cheeses made from raw milk, blends, and those aged in various ways, the options are abundant. The Canary Islands claim three Protected Designations of Origin: Queso Majorero PDO, Queso Palmero PDO, and Queso de Flor de Guía PDO, Queso de Media Flor de Guía, and Queso de Guía.

Queso Majorero, crafted in Fuerteventura using goat’s milk and paprika coating, was the first to earn PDO status in 1996. Flor de Guía, produced from Gran Canarian sheep’s milk (PDO in 2009), has earned worldwide recognition. La Palma became the second Canary Island to obtain PDO status for its cheeses, primarily made from goat’s milk.

Another delectable option includes the smoked goat cheeses from Tenerife, alongside artisan cheeses from El Hierro, which are typically made from goat’s, cow’s, or sheep’s milk. Lanzarote has also seen remarkable progress in producing quality cheeses, while on La Gomera, farmers create two types of cheese, blending goat’s and sheep’s milk.

Every island offers a diverse array of textures, acidity levels, smoked or aged options, reflecting the unique history of each region. These varieties have earned top awards at prestigious events like the World Cheese Awards.

The best way to immerse yourself in these flavors is to visit some of the wineries and cheese dairies scattered across the Canary Islands.

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