Holidays are about indulging in what you wish you could do at home but don’t dare. This is my excuse to enjoy a second glass of wine at noon, soon followed by a third.
And, although I only take small sips – this is a wine tasting tour, and pacing is imperative – I’m a little drunk.
My giddiness could be as much about the sight as it was about the wine. This is the Canary Island of Lanzarote, and although all of the Canaries are volcanic, this one is different.
Pictured is Lanzarote’s Papagayo beach, a short drive from the vineyards of La Geria
Three centuries ago, a six-year eruption smothered everything in its wake of thick black ash, creating a desolate otherworldly landscape, like a smoky Sahara. But from the ash was born a miracle: the grape. And these grapes make the wines so unique they create a buzz.
“Ash is magic,” says tour guide Ollie. “Without it, there would be no grapes or viticulture. This gives the wine a distinctive flavor that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. ‘
The vineyards of Lanzarote’s wine region, La Geria, are unlike anywhere else in the world. Each vine is cultivated in a dug pit protected by a low crescent-shaped wall. And in the distance are the imposing volcanic cones of the Montanas del Fuego (Mountains of Fire) whose eruptions created this ash.
So far I have tried a rosé and a red, both light, cool and perfectly suited to the hot, dry climate. But Lanzarote is best known for its white wine made from the Malvasia grape. Ollie hands me a drink.
“You can taste the island’s salty breeze and the minerals in the soil it contains,” he says. I sip and think. Taste the breeze or not, the wine is dry, crunchy and delicious. More please.
Lanzarote is 37 miles long from top to bottom and is the fourth largest and easternmost of the Canaries.
Refreshing: Jo during his wine tour. “The vineyards of Lanzarote’s wine region, La Geria, are unlike any other in the world,” she says.
Pictured is a La Geria vineyard built on the black volcanic soil of Lanzaote. Jo says of the wine region: “From the ash grew a miracle: the grape”
It has 150,000 inhabitants, including nearly 2,000 licensed wine growers who make around three million bottles of wine per year.
The island is Spanish, of course, but being dominated by volcanic landscapes, it is nothing like Spain.
My base is the southeast seaside resort of Puerto del Carmen, in the Fariones Hotel, which reopened last September after a £ 25million renovation.
The result is an aesthetic triumph, from its lavish hammock chairs and palm-fringed infinity pool (which has become an Instagram sensation) to its botanical gardens, which lead to what is a surprisingly golden beach for a volcanic island.
All the bedrooms have a sea view, and later I stand on my balcony and watch the sun shine a fiery red as it heads towards the Atlantic. Green parrots sing from the treetops and it sounds more like the tropics than Europe. It’s sweet enough to dine on the outdoor terrace of the hotel restaurant all year round. The hotel company has its own farm and the crafts can be tasted with every bite.
Lanzarote is whitewashed and residents take pride in their homes and gardens. It’s also visibly low, and on a tour of the island the next day, guide Eva tells me it’s thanks to famous local artist Cesar Manrique.
Jo’s base in Lanzarote was in the resort town of Puerto del Carmen, southeast of the photo above.
Timanfaya National Park, pictured, is home to the volcanic fire mountains and is a geothermal hotspot
“He wanted so much to preserve the beauty of his homeland that he spearheaded a decree that banned the construction of skyscrapers.” Manrique has made Lanzarote a Mecca for culture lovers as well as beach and wine lovers. Her specialty was turning landscapes into works of art, and Eva takes me to see some of her masterpieces.
First stop, its cactus garden. Manrique floored a disused quarry like an amphitheater and planted it with cacti of all shapes, shades and sizes. The result is nature’s answer to Tate Modern.
A similar tour de force is his mystical Jameos del Agua water cave, created from the collapsed section of a four-mile-long volcanic lava tube. It is the only place in the world (other than the ocean floor) inhabited by a species of tiny blind white crabs.
Famous local artist Cesar Manrique’s cactus garden is planted with cacti of all shapes, shades and sizes
Pictured is the Jameos del Agua Aquatic Cave, which was created from the collapsed section of a four-mile-long volcanic lava tube
But the island’s most popular attraction is the immersive visitor experience that Manrique helped design in the island’s Timanfaya National Park.
The park is home to the volcanic fire mountains and is a geothermal hotspot where temperatures of up to 610c have been recorded.
Thundering geysers send water and steam to the surface of the earth, and if you’re brave enough, the park ranger will scoop up the dirt from the ground onto your bare palm. The ground is about to be too hot to handle and I hopping like a crazy cartoon character before finally shaking it.
The signature dish of the park’s restaurant is much safer: the chicken grilled over geothermal heat, its skin crispy to perfection.
Back at the hotel, £ 5 buys me one last, tall, delicious glass of Malvasia. And then, in the spirit of finishing as I started, I order another one.