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Quaffing in the Canary Islands

You have to go to Gran Canaria to taste the wine made there.

The driveway of Bodega Tabaibilla, one of Vina Mocanal’s neighbors, follows hairpin turns between olive trees, cacti and palms. There is space for only a few cars outside the winery, and dogs greet guests before any human does, but eventually someone comes to see what all the barking is about.

Wine tourists are not a common sight in Gran Canaria. Ask to taste the wine at either of these vineyards, or at any of the other wineries open for tastings, and you’re likely to receive a surprised but enthusiastic agreement as well as, eventually, an invitation to explore the vines.

Unlike the wine production on the nearby island of Tenerife (the largest of the Canary Islands), most of the wine produced on Gran Canaria is consumed locally. Some of Tenerife’s wines, such as those based on the malvasia or malmsey family of grapes, garner global recognition and travel far. The most viable characteristic of wine from Gran Canaria, however, is its youth, so white wines tend to show better than reds and what is produced is primarily consumed close to home.

Wine production on Gran Canaria is almost entirely a local enterprise; each of the 400,000 liters of wine produced each year is bottled in one of 55 small family cellars. Nonetheless, Gran Canaria is extending its percentage of arable land — irrigation for the vineyards is common — and techniques of wine production and processing are becoming more modernized.

But those enhancements don’t mean changing the taste or variety of the wine, which is seen as a way to protect natural landscapes and promote rural tourism. Wine tourists to Gran Canaria should value the local over national, the rustic over the polished, and wines to drink then and there rather than to cellar for later.

It is, in other words, closer to wine production and consumption in its original state than nearly any other “modernized” bodega or winery around the world.

More GlobalPost dispatches on wine:

A glass of wine with your Samosa?

2008 Bordeaux leaves critics pleasantly surprised

Foreigners invest in Argentina's wine industry