Posts Tagged ‘Tenerife’

A Canary Island delight: 2016 7 Fuentes, Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife

October 16, 2018 1 comment

The 2016 Suertes del Marques, 7 Fuentes, Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife  is a fine wine whose light color is reflected in the lightweight body but not in the amount of flavor it delivers.  The lighter weight body, ethereal ripeness, and lively acidity remind me of an old-school style of wine that I particularly enjoy.  It drinks well now but should improve over the next year.  I recommend you grab a bottle or two from MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Suertes del Marques, 7 Fuentes, Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife – $20
Imported by European Cellars.  This wine is mostly Listan Negro with a small amount of Tintilla fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel vats and concrete vats.  It was aged in French oak demi-muids and concrete.  Alcohol 13%.  A light to medium cranberry ruby color. Lifted on the nose. Round yet lightweight body with almost lively acidity that zips through the middle of the wine. It develops surprising ethereal ripeness with notes of stone and tartness on the sides of the tongue.  A satisfying glass of wine!  ***(*) Now – 2022.

Tenerife and Ribeira Sacra from Envinate

July 2, 2018 1 comment

There are some rather interesting wines produced by Envinte and of the most recent vintage I particularly like the 2016 Envinate, Lousas, Vinas de aldea, Ribeira Sacra.  It needs air to come into balance but then there is a tension between the high-toned, acidic flavors and the oily, ripe citrus fruit.  Cool stuff.  I could not coax the same complexity out of the 2016 Envinate, Taganan, Parcela Margalagua, Tenerife.  I often feel these Tenerife wines need short-term aging and that is my impression of this wine.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Envinate, Taganan, Parcela Margalagua, Tenerife – $28
Imported by Llaurador Wines.  A field-blend of Listan Negro, Listan Prieto, Baboso, Negramoll, Malvasia Negra, and more from 100+ year old vines.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Brighter, lighter, tarter, with dry tangy middle and watering acidity.  Finishes with fresh tannic service.  Needs time.  ** 2020-2025.

2016 Envinate, Lousas, Vinas de aldea, Ribeira Sacra – $32
Imported by Llaurador Wines.  This wine is 100% Mencia sourced from 60 year old vines.  Alcohol 12.5%.  High-toned and yeasty flavors to start but by the middle a gentle ripeness spreads through the mouth with an old leather note by the finish.  The acidity is almost sharp but with air the oily, ripeness contains it, bringing balance to the orange citrus and dry floral flavors.  Needs some air to show best.  *** Now – 2020.

Even more recent drinks

January 11, 2018 Leave a comment

I cannot seem to shake a consistently busy work schedule which eliminates any free time I have.  Hence my sporadic posting.  Of the lot of wines featured in today’s post the 2007 Domaine de la Mordoree, La Reine des Bois, Lirac is my favorite.  I was a bit underwhelmed until several hours in when it completely transformed for the better.  Of the wines which are currently available the 2012 J. M. Rimbert, Carignator is a good value.  It is Carignan so it is a bit firm in a way but the flavors have taken on good bottle age.  The 2016  Viticultores Emilio Ramirez y Envinate, Benje, Ycoden-Daute-Isora, Tenerife does not offer up the excitement I experienced with the 2015 vintage.  The profile is still there but this vintage is not as expressive.  I will try another bottle in case there is bottle shock.  Finally, I was underwhelmed by the 2016 Domaine A. Clape, Le Vin des Amis.  A strange evergreen incense marked the wine for days.  Coupled with bitter black fruit it did not become enjoyable until several days in.  I will broach my second bottle several years down the road.

2006 Domaine du Clos des Fees, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Roussillon Villages
Imported by Simon n’ Cellars.  This is a gravelly wine with maturing blue fruit, watering acidity then flavors of garrigue and strawberry liquor candied near the finish.  it develops a spiced berry cote becoming drier towards the end where the strength of the wine shows.  It wraps up dry.  *** Now – 2023.

2007 Domaine de la Mordoree, La Reine des Bois, Lirac
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils. This wine is a blend of 34% Grenache, 33% Syrah, and 33% Mourvedre. Alcohol 14.5%.  There is a maturing core of fruit but there is still plenty of spicy structure surrounding it.  The wine is thick with black fruit and a bit of bitterness towards the end.  After 2-3 hours in the decanter it rounds out and the components come into balance quite well.  There are racy blue flavors, watering acidity, wood box, baking spices, and a luxurious marshmallow body.  **** Now – 2028.

2012 J. M. Rimbert, Carignator – $15
Imported by Dionysos Imports.  This is 100% Carignan largely sourced from 70+ year old vines.  It was aged for six months in old neutral barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  A medium opaque, bricking cherry color.  This is a dry, textured wine that is maturing in the bottle.  There are wood notes, a little balsam, and textured tannins left on the gums.  **(*) Now – 2023.

2015 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso – $17
Imported by deGrazia Imports. Alcohol 13.5%.  There are lifted aromas of tar.  In the mouth are somewhat black and red fruit, mineral on the sides of the tongue, and minimal fine tannins which give it some grip.  The wine tasted polished, focused, and modern.  With it it becomes more mineral, which is attractive, and takes on a touch of cocoa.  Solid but not moving.  **(*) 2018-2020.

2016  Viticultores Emilio Ramirez y Envinate, Benje, Ycoden-Daute-Isora, Tenerife – $22
A Jose Pastor Selections imported by Llaurador Wines.  This is a blend of high-altitude 70-120 year-old Listan Prieto with some Tintilla that was foot trodden, fermented in concrete and tubs with indigenous yeasts then aged 8 months in neutral oak barrels.  Alcohol 12%.  This is a high-toned, bright wine which mixes white pepper and potpourri incense right from the start.  The focused red fruit matched the polished wood note.  There is a very gentle ripeness. **(*) Now – 2021.

2016 Domaine A. Clape, Le Vin des Amis – $32
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a mix of Syrah from near the Rhone and young Cornas.  It was aged for six months in cement and 6 months in foudres. This is a completely opaque, grapey purple color.  Followed over many nights the nose is incensed with primarily evergreen aromas and floral notes.  For the first few days there is a similarly incensed, evergreen flavor to this wine.  It is bitter with very fine structure through the firm, polished, bitter black finish.  The evergreen aspect eventually reduces with the wine showing focused, floral black fruit in the finish.  ** 2021-2026.

Another interesting Canary Island wine from Envinate

The 2015 Envinate, Taganan Tino, Tenerife, Vinos Atlanticos requires being open at least one day ahead.  It is made from very old vines of both known and unknown varieties grown in parcels tended by 15 different families!  These are wild vineyards, literally, with no training and vines popping out between rocks.  There are some compelling parts to this wine: the incensed fruit, mineral middle, and aftertaste which clings to your mouth.  At this stage you must coax the wine in your mouth so I recommend you cellar it for another year or two.  If this wine blossoms then it will desire higher marks.  The Taganan is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Envinate, Taganan Tino, Tenerife, Vinos Atlanticos – $28
A Jose Pastor selection imported Llaurador Wines. This is a blend of Listan Negro, Listan Gaucho, Malvasia Negro, and other varieties from very old vines.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts in plastic tubs and and concrete tanks then aged for 8 months in both tanks and used oak barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  After extended air a subtle depth comes out on the nose.  In the mouth are bright, incensed fruit flavors followed by a mineral middle of perfumed black fruit.  The flavors become savory towards the end as the structure of very fine drying tannins is soon matched by dry flavor.  The structure is supportive.  The aftertaste brings good, clinging flavors of delicate ripe fruit.  *** 2019-2025.

A Canary Island wine for the cellar

I continue to enjoy the Envinate wines selected by Jose Pastor which are available in the Washington, DC, area.  From the same portfolio Phil recently brought in the 2015 Dolores Cabrera Fernandez, La Araucaria, Valle de le Orotava, Tenerife.  I tried this bottle over the course of two days and I will admit it is a bit shutdown, making it hard to drink. I do like the tangy red flavor and unique profile of the wine but it is best revisited some time next year. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Dolores Cabrera Fernandez, La Araucaria, Valle de le Orotava, Tenerife – $20
A Jose Pastor selection imported by Llaurador Wines.  This wine is Listan Negro.  Alcohol 11% – 14%.  It is a grapey, cherry color in the glass.  Tasted over two days the flavors offer up wood notes mixed with tangy red fruit.  The tang is very much present on the tongue tip with the structure apparent throughout at this stage.  It finishes a bit astringent.  It comes across as closed at this point so maybe give it another year before trying again. ** 2018-2022.

Pepper notes from the Canary Islands

February 12, 2015 Leave a comment

Wine from the Canary Islands is currently available in Washington, DC, in the form of 2013 Suertes del Marqués, 7 Fuentes, Valle de La Orotava, Tenerife.  It was only last year that I tried this wine in the form of the previous vintage.  You may read about it in my post “Very rare liquors”; Centuries Old Tasting Notes and A New One of Tenerife Wine. This particular bottle was locked down tight for the first few days.  It developed an attractive pepper not but not the exotic spices of the previous vintage.  Perhaps it just needs some quiet time.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 Suertes del Marqués, 7 Fuentes, Valle de La Orotava, Tenerife – $20
Imported by Eric Solomon European Cellars Selections.  This wine is a blend of 98% Listan Negra and 2% Tintilla sourced from 10-100 year old vines from three parcels located at 400-650 meters.   The fruit was separately fermented in stainless steel then aged for eight months in concrete and French oak casks.  Alcohol 13%.  The color was a medium,  youthful looking cranberry grape.  The nose took about two days to shake off some funk before it finally revealed balsam and pepper.  In the mouth was a fruited start with grapey flavors mixing with pepper.  The flavors were clean, had a cool aspect, and were delivered in a not-quite firm but rather linear manner.  It finished with tart flavors, acidity, and some fine tannins before the tangy aftertaste.  Needs time in the cellar.  ** 2017-2021.


“Very rare liquors”; Centuries Old Tasting Notes and A New One of Tenerife Wine

July 18, 2014 2 comments

I am always on the look out for a wine from the Canary Islands but I rarely spot a bottle for they have not caught on in the Washington, DC market.  This might be due to the slight premium in price, no doubt aided by the extra shipping logistics.   I am willing to pay this premium because I find the flavors unique.  Jancis Robinson wrote about these wines in her February article The Canaries – where vines, and wines, creep up on you.    She even noted that Canary Island wines were “hugely popular in Britain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries” as evidenced by their inclusion in Twelfth Night.  But what was it that made those wines so popular?

Isle Canaries. 1700-1799. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE DD-2987 (8476)

Isle Canaries. 1700-1799. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Cartes et plans, GE DD-2987 (8476)

During the 17th century the most popular wine from the Canary Islands was the sweet, white Malmsey.  John Paige was a London merchant who developed a trade during the 1640s and 1650s importing “luxury wine from Tenerife”.[1]  Amazingly, his business letters with his trading associate William Clerke survived from the years 1648 to 1658.  These letters provide fascinating details about the Canary wine trade.  John Paige wrote on May 28, 1649, that of the 11 pipes he received the “Rambla wines proved white and green, but the Orotava wines proved the richest Canaries that ever came to England”.[2]  In a previous letter he noted the Orotava vintage was “extraordinary rich but high colour.” Unfortunately the vintners were afraid to purchase them because they believed they had “put molasses in them and that they were not natural from the grape.”  John Paige continued to his agent that “now our vintners are grown so curious in their tastes that none but rare wines will serve their terms.”  He noted the price difference “betwixt ordinary and very good wines ” exceeded “£4 or £5 per pipe.”  That is a significant difference given that he had sold the 11 pipes at  £20 5s ready money.  One well received parcel was later described as containing “gallant rich wines”.[3]  Two years later John Paige wrote that the wines of Mr. Rouse and Mr. Audley respectively sold for £27 and £29 per pipe.  This was a suitable price given that “they were the best wines” he had ever tasted.

Not every wine that John Paige imported was well received.  On January 8, 1652, he noted that other merchants were selling at £29 and £30 per pipe.  He struggled to sell his wine at £18 per pipe for “no man’s prove [so bad as] mine, insomuch that no man will taste them.”[4]  We may guess what these unfavorable wines tasted like based on other comment by John Paige.  These bad wines were “generally green”, “small, hungry wines”, and even “mean wines, green and thin bodies and flashy” [5]  Even “better bodied wines…were bad enough both, being very green”.[6]  When John Paige could not sell merchandise he wrote of the “goods here are drugs, no vent at all for them”.[7]  He received bad wine from William Clerke on a number of occasions writing him that “You are not fully sensible” for the good wines were “a precious commodity” and “bad wines as great a drug.”

Today, it is the dry, red wines that I look for.  In Jancis Robinson’s article she comments that “most interesting was a visit to the painstakingly assembled” vineyards of Suertes del Marqués.  Just a few days ago Jenn and I tasted the introductory blend from this estate, the 2012 Suertes del Marqués, 7 Fuentes, Valle de La Orotava, Tenerife.  I was immediately drawn in by the exotically spiced nose that echoed through in the flavors.  It really was curious.  This wine was purchased at the Wine Source in Baltimore.


2012 Suertes del Marqués, 7 Fuentes, Valle de La Orotava, Tenerife – $20
Imported by Eric Solomon European Cellars Selections.  This wine is a blend of 98% Listan Negra and 2% Tintilla sourced from 10-100 year old vines from three parcels located at 400-650 meters.   The fruit was separately fermented in stainless steel then aged for eight months in concrete and French oak casks.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose bore exotic aromas of scented red berries.  In the mouth the red fruit had mineral undertones and was enlivened by a lot of acidity that made way to a spicy finish.  There were tightly-ripe raspberry flavors, minerals, and a dry finish.  The persistent aftertaste carried finely ripe flavors.  *** Now-2017.

[1] ‘Introduction’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. IX-XXXIX. URL: wine Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[2]’Letters: 1649′, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 1-8. URL: Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[3] ‘Letters: 1650’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 8-31. URL: Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[4] ‘Letters: 1652’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 57-82. URL: Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[5] ‘Letters: 1653’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 82-99. URL: Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[6] ‘Letters: 1651’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 31-57. URL: green Date accessed: 18 July 2014.
[7] ‘Letters: 1651’, The letters of John Paige, London merchant, 1648-58: London Record Society 21 (1984), pp. 31-57. URL: Date accessed: 18 July 2014.

A Brief History of Wine from the Canary Islands

December 28, 2012 4 comments

Wines have been exported from the Canary Islands since the late 16th century.  Even a quick look into the history of wine will reveal widespread and common reference to Canary wine.  As popular as it was it eventually experienced a decline in exports such that many readers of this blog may not have tasted an example.  Indeed as broad as I drink I did not taste my first sip of Canary wine until this month.  From what I gather the resurgence of Canary Island wine in the United States is owed to the importer Jose Pastor.  The Canary Islands represent the largest regional share in his portfolio with 14 out of 45 producers listed on the website.  Jose imported his first Canary Island wine back in 2007.  Since then this part of his portfolio appears to have gained traction in San Francisco and New York City.  During my recent trip to New York City one of the first questions I was asked at both Despana Vinos y Mas and Chambers Street Wines was whether I had tried one of the island wines.  I had not so I walked away with three different wines.  My knowledge of the Canary Island wines was spotted at best so for my next several posts I will focus on the turbulent and fascinating history of Canary wine and my actual tasting notes.

The Origins of Canary Wine

CanaryIslands, BT Welch and Co, FLucas Jr, Baltimore, 1823, Image from David Rumsey Map Collection

Canary Islands, BT Welch and Co, FLucas Jr, Baltimore, 1823, Image from David Rumsey Map Collection

The Canary Islands along with Madeira were discovered by the Portuguese and Castilians in the 15th century.  By the end of the 15th century it was agreed that the Castillians would control the Canary Islands and the Portuguese would control Madeira.  The Canary Islands are located off of the coast of Africa and were an important port of call before ships left for the Americas.  Land was cheap so plantations were quickly created to grow and mill sugar for export.  The rise of Brazilian and Caribbean sugar exports to Europe eventually undermined the Canary and Madeiran sugar exports.    Vineyard were also planted on the islands with exports of sweet white Malvasia from Tenerife gaining popularity in Europe throughout the 16th century.  By the mid 17th century West Indian sugar was half the cost of Canarian.  With the decline of sugar production and the rise in price of wine, vineyards were greatly expanded.  The main varietal was Malvasia brought over from Cyprus.    Its popularity resulted in a vineyard expansion to such extent that grain needed to be imported to the islands.

There were three main markets for Canary wine: Spanish and Portuguese provinces in America, Portuguese  Cape Verde, and European markets in France, the Netherlands, and England.  To these markets three types of wine were exported the highly popular Malmsey produced from Malvasia, a greenish dry wine, and a purplish sweet wine produced from late harvested grapes.  Though the vineyards were located in Teneriffe, Gran Canaria, and Las Palmas that vast majority were located in Tenerife.  In 1600 Tenerife account for 62% of the total taxes on trade in the Canary Islands and by 1688 it account for 90%.

War with Spain ended in 1604 and the Canary wine trade developed.  By the mid seventeenth century Portuguese independence from Spain meant the majority of Canary wine was exported to England.  The price of Canary wine in the early 1660s had reached twice that as in 1640.  Meetings were held to fix the price of Canary wine at 29 Pounds per Butt in 1662 and 32 Pounds per Butt in 1664.  With such high prices a group of merchants received a royal patent from Charles II in 1665 to form the Governour and Company of Merchants trading to the Canary Island.  Also known as The Canary Company the goal was to restrict the Canary Island wine import business to the Company so that they could negotiate for lower wine prices.  This was not received well at the Canary Islands where the Company’s agents were expelled from Teneriffe in 1666.  In an attempt to overthrow the Company, English ships were no longer allowed to land and no English merchants were allowed to live on the Islands until the Company’s charter was recalled.  In response the importation of Canary wine to England was banned.

During these very same years London experienced the great fire of 1666 and the Dutch Navy were wearing on British ships.  With the great losses due to the fire and difficulties in transportation within London and over the seas, there were extensive challenges to importation and sales.  In London, members of the Company sought to petition alterations to the patent which ultimately lead to the cancellation of the patent in 1667 and the renewal of free trade with the Canary Islands.  Just one year later Charlie II married Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess.  He subsequently banned the importation of Canary wines to the benefit of Portuguese wines.  Trade eventually resumed, in 1681 4.5 millon quart bottles or 4,464 pipes of Canary wine were taxed in London.  By the 1690s two-thirds of the Malvasia from Tenerife was imported into London alone.  Rising import duties began to reduce the profitability of the Canary wine trade.  The War of the Spanish Succession broke out in 1701 forcing English merchants to once again leave Tenerife.

Canary Wines and Medicine

Dr. Thomas Sydenham, Mary Beale, National Portrait Gallery, London, Image from Wikimedia

Dr. Thomas Sydenham, Mary Beale, National Portrait Gallery, London, Image from Wikimedia

Canary Wine was not just consumed but prescribed in medicine.  Dr. Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) revived the Hippocratic methods of observation and was a founder of epidemiology.  He considered the foundation of medicine to be rooted in beside experiences.  As such he actively studied epidemics in London beginning in the 1650s.  He is famous for the introduction of Cinchona bark and his use of laudanum which reintroduced it to the medical community.  In 1676 he published Medical Observations Concerning the History and Cure of Acute Diseases.  In it we find his recipe for Laudanum.

Strained opium (2oz), saffron (1oz), cinnamon & cloves (1 drachm each), & Canary wine (1 pint)

As to his use of Canary wine we may find reason in his remedy to the symptoms of the Gout.

I have tried many things for the Fits of the last Tears to lessen this Symptom but nothing did so much good as a small draught of Canary Wine taken now and then when the Sickness and Faintness afflict the Sick Nor is Red French Wine or Venice Treacle or any other Cordial thing which I have yet known so effectual But we must imagine that neither this Wine or any other Cordial if Exercise be not used can wholly preserve the Patient.

Canary Wine is used throughout his Medical Observations including a method to invigorate and strengthen the blood in the case of diabetes.

Take of the Roots of Elecampane Masterwort, Angelica, and Gentian each half an Ounce; of the Leaves of Roman Wormwood; white Horehound; of the lesser Centaury and of Calaminth, each one Handful of Juniper-berries one Ounce : Let them be cut small and infused in five Pints of Canary, let them stand together in a cold Infusion, and strain it as you use it.

Canary Wines in Bristol

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

I spent my formative year of wine-drinking in Bristol, England.  It was a fantastic city to buy wine in, with both new and long-established wine merchants.  I often shopped at Averys founded in 1793 and John Harvey & sons founded in 1796.  Starting in the 15th century Bristol was the second most important port after London.  If we look at the 1620s and 1630s we see that this extended to wine imports with London importing an average of 19,650 tuns seconded by Bristol at 2,341 tuns.

There are a large variety of records related to the importation of wine into Britain.  They frequently refer to wine in terms of tuns, pipes, and hogsheads.  A tun is an English unit of liquid volume originally set at 256 gallons then reduced to 252 wine gallons by the 15th century and eventually 210 Imperial gallons in 1826.  A pipe or butt is half the volume of a tun and a hogshead is a quarter the volume of a tun.

Import statistics rely on various customs books.  They reflect the variation in harvest date and yield, alignment with the bookkeeping calendar, and also greater political events.  In looking at 17th century importation volume of Canary wine to some degree they reflect the War with Spain in 1625-1630 and the war with France in 1627 which made 1620 into very early 1630s a difficult time.   This was followed by extra taxes on wine in the 1630s and a privileges granted to London wine merchants.  The decline in wine imports continued with the Civil War 1640-1641 and took until the 1680s to recover.  By then higher duties were being imposed.  With higher wine prices and the availability of alternative beverages wine imports declined again in the late 17th century.

Canary Wine Imports at Bristol

Sept 1600 – Sept 1601 1 – Canary wine 108 tuns (5.8%) out of 1871.5 tuns.
Dec 1612 – Dec 1613 2 – Canary wine 196 pipes (98 tuns, 5.0%) out of 1942 tuns.
Dec 1624 – Dec 1625 3 – Canary wine 171 pipes (85.5 tuns, 4.8% ) out of 1790 tuns.
Sept 1654-  Sept 1655 6 – Canary wine 33 pipes and 10 quarter casks (19 tuns, 2.6%) out of 726 tuns.
Sept 1682 – Sept 1683 11 – Canary wine 15.5 pipes(7.25 tuns, 0.6%) out of 1206 tuns.
Sept 1685 – Sept 1686 12 – Canary wine 78 pipes (39 tuns, 4.8%) out of 813 tuns.

Based on Port Books and Society of Merchant Venturers Wharfage Books

In the 17th century Canary wine imports by volume peaked in 1600-1601 at 108 tuns.  Wine was typically consumed in one quart bottle units so this volume represents some 108,864 bottles worth of Canary wine.  The population of Bristol was approximately 10,000-11,000 during the first decade of the 17th century.  Certainly not all of the wine was consumed within Bristol but if it was this represents 10 bottles for every man, woman, and child for one year alone.

Canary Wines in the County of Suffolk

At a more individual scale we can look at the consumption of Canary wine by John Hervey, 1st Earl of Bristol.  John Hervey (1665-1751) became a member of Parliament in 1694 then became the 1st Baron Hervey of Ickworth in the County of Suffolk in 1703 and finally the 1st Earl of Bristol in 1714.  While his diary is sparse with entries his Expensive Book are particularly detailed with expenditures on wine.  The first recorded year of wine expenditures is 1689 when he bought Clarrett and Duncomb wine.  In 1690 he began to drink Hermitage and in 1697 he purchased his first pipe of Canary wine.  John Hervey drank diversely and well.  In 1702 he purchased 4 hogshead of “obrian” (Chateau Haut-Brion) and in 1703 he purchased one hogshead of “Margoose Clarett” (Chateau Margaux).  Over the span of 54 year he purchased Canary wine ten times for a total volume around 2 tuns.  This represents an approximate household consumption of 2,106 quart bottle or three bottles per month.  The cost of his Canary wine ranged from 30 Pounds per pipe all the way up to 100 Pounds per pipe.  In the absence of an established annual trend this may reflect a range in quality of the Canary wine purchased.

Wine Expenses from The Diary of John Hervey covering 1688-1742

June 18 1697, 80 Pounds for 2 pipes of Fayall & 1 Pipe of Canary.
June 21 1697, Parcell of pictures & for a hogshead of old Canary, 80 Pounds.
Jan 15 1705, 9 gallons 1 quart of Canary he bought for me 4..15..0.
Feb 17 1710, 4th part of a pipe of Canary, 15 Pounds.
Feb 7 1711 60 gallons of Palme & Canary wine etc. 33..10..0.
March 8, 1718, 30 gallons of Canary, 12..1..6.
March 21 1718, Port-wines, Canary, & all other demands to this day, 114..17..6.
Jan 10 1724, 3 parcells of Canary, a pipe of Porte at 28 Pounds.
March 29 1734, for a pipe of Canary 30 Pounds.
Mar 26 1741, a hogshead of Canary at 31..10..0.

Canary Wine in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Geographical Distribution Of Indigenous Vegetation, Arthur Henfrey, Edinburgh,1854, Image from David Rumsey Map Collection

Geographical Distribution Of Indigenous Vegetation, Arthur Henfrey, Edinburgh,1854, Image from David Rumsey Map Collection

The Canary Island wine trade with Britain never recovered the vigor of the 17th century.  At the beginning of the 18th century English imports of Portuguese wines, including port wine, and the wines of Madeira increased due to favorable relationships between Britain and Portugal.  Thus with the Canary wine we see that in 1785 only 65 tuns were imported into Britain, in 1808 it increased to 1683 tuns, and by 1821 it was down to 1000 tuns.  Though exports from the Canary islands to Britain decreased the wines were still exported around the world.  In Williamsburg, Virginia we find 22 bottles of Canary listed in the Inventory of the Estate of Joh Marott in 1717.  Canary wines were also advertised for sale in The Virginia Gazette in 1771.

 ”To be SOLD at John Greenhow’s Store, near the Church, in Williamsburg, for ready Money, on reasonable Terms,…Old Spirits, best and common Arrack, Madeira, Lisbon, red port, Claret, Canary, and Renish Wines…”, Publisher: Purdie & dixon, Page: 3, Column: 2, 1771-12-12.

The 19th century view of Canary wine appears somewhat consistent in that Tenerife produced the largest amount of wine followed by Gran Canaria.  Of the three wines produced the sweet Malmsey from Malvasia was considered the best.  In 1833 Cyrus Redding published a book on wine commenting that the Canaries produce 25,000 pipes of white wine annually while 15,000 are consumed internally or distilled.  Tenerife alone producing 22,000 pipes.  Upon tasting a 126 year old bottle in a small pint-size bottle he found it was “flavour was good, and it had ample body.”  “Teneriffe produces the best wines of all the islands, having the greatest body.”  “On the eastern side of Palma, Malvasia, or Malmsey, is grown, which in a few years gains a bouquet like a ripe pine-apple.  The dry wines are not as good as those of the other islands.  The best vines do not grow more than a mile from the sea.”

In 1863 Agoston Haraszthy found the Canary Islands producing a large quantity of wine with Tenerife alone responsible for 40,000 pipes of wine.  This included the Malvasia wine which he found “of agreeable taste, sweet and spirituous” and the “Vidogne, which though keen and tart when new, gains by age.”  He notes the wines of Palma island were considered inferior.  Two years later wine merchant W. R. Loftus states the principal islands were Gran Canaria and Tenerife.  The wines also known as Teneriffe “resemble Madeira, though far from possessing its flavour or body.”  The dry Vidonia produced from the Vidogna grape “has a good body, and improves with age.  It is made from grapes gathered before they are ripened, and when new it is far from pleasant; but a few years soon removes this flavour, and greatly increases its mildness.”  Palma is inferior to that of Teneriffe.  The Malmsey is “very excellent, although possessing, as some affirm, an acid quality.”  He notes that in 1827 417,703 gallons of Canary Wines were imported into Great Britain but have decreased ever since.

Though Agoston Haraszthy and W. R. Loftus do not mention the Powdery Mildew which hit the Canary Islands in 1852, Thomas George Shaw comments that the Oidium attack “sufferings and losses have been consequently great…”.   The Canary Islands suffered two blows from Powdery Mildew in 1852 and Mildew in 1878.  These attacks devastated the vineyards to such an extent that in 1888 Charles Edwards writes that he no longer purchased the wines for the disease “came disastrously upon the vineyards of Tenerife.”  By the end of the 19th century the wine industry appears to have recovered.  In 1898 A. Samler Brown wrote that wine exports reached a low of 4,855 Pounds in 1885 but just 13 years later had reached some 25,000 Pounds per year.  The grapes planted were Tentillo, Negra Molle, Moscatel (black and white), Verdelho, Pedro Jimenez, Forastero, and Vija-Riega.   The inferior vineyards were found higher up on the hills and were more susceptible to disease.  The better vineyards were lower, warmer, and produced more expensive wines.  Wines in barrel were mature in eight years but improved up to 25 years of age.  Fortified wine was still produced along with a small amount of high quality sweet wine known as Gloria.  Red Canary was also produced and Samler Brown found that the red wines of Tacoronte were the best reds in Tenerife.   Indeed 90 years later Tacoronte-Acentejo became the first Denominacion de Origen (DO) in the Canary Islands.

Contemporary History

Vineyard in Tacoronte, Image from Bodegas Monje

Vineyard in Tacoronte, Image from Bodegas Monje

I have not found much detail on the 20th century history of Canary wine.  In 1972 D. E. Pohren write, “the island of Tenerife, with its strong, dry white wine from Guimar, its heavy-bodied, strong red from Tacoronte, its aged wines from Icod, etc.; and La Palma, with its claret of 14-16% from Fuencaliente and its highly aromatic , white wine from localities scattered throughout the island”.  In terms of varietals planted there are “Malvasia, pedro ximenez, albillo and listan predominate on the islands.”  In 1992 Tacoronte-Acentejo on Tenerife was granted the first DO for the Canary Islands.  Since then a total of 10 DOs have been granted, five of which on Tenerife with the remaining five on La Palma, Hierro, Gran Canaria, La Gomera, and Lanzarote.  This year Decanter Magazine found the wines to have increased by 72.9% in volume and 5.4% in value, and the Balearic Islands, up 20.9% and 5.1% since 2011.


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