Of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is the island closest to the African continent. The entire archipelago is of volcanic origin, having intermittently sprouted from below sea level over the last 20 million years or so. Viticulture here is an astonishing accomplishment, given the average annual rainfall of around 6″, complete lack of water in the subsoil, and up to 110°F dust-laden African winds. Workers dig holes (hoyos) in the volcanic sand to access soil nutrients and build stone walls around each vine to protect them from the incredibly harsh conditions, giving a visual effect to the vineyard that looks like it’s on another planet. Growing vines in the desert isn’t all bad news, though, as the island has never been hit by phylloxera, preventing the need for grafting onto American rootstock.
The cellar of Los Bermejos belonged to a prominent family for a few centuries before descending into almost complete inactivity near the turn of the millennium. New ownership reinvigorated viticultural activity and brought back international acclaim over the last fifteen years. Conversion to organics is nearly complete, and after a brief hiatus, the wines are once again available here in Massachusetts. This month we’re thrilled to offer both the still and sparkling versions of the local malvasia volcanica, and the red and rosé bottlings of listan negro, a grape with a surprising connection to the history of winemaking in the New World.