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I do love a good winery. There’s nothing quite like gazing out at a vineyard on a sunny day, with a glass of wine in hand. On my trip to Lanzarote, I was surprised to discover that the island actually has its own wine growing region called La Geria, which is home to a number of artisan wineries and bodegas just waiting to be discovered.
The combination of the high slopes, ashy soil, warm days and cool nights creates the ideal climate for growing grapes. It’s odd to see grapevines growing against the black, ashy landscape, but it definitely makes for some interesting photographs.
While driving around the island, I decided to pay a stop at Bodegas El Grifo, which is the oldest winery in the Canary Islands and the 5th oldest in Spain. Dating back to 1775, the vineyard has been producing malvasia wines uninterrupted for over 250 years, and produces approximately half a million bottles of wine yearly.
In this short guide I’ll tell you a bit more about the history of Bodegas el Grifo and what to expect from your visit.
Between 1730 and 1736 a series of volcanic eruptions left the fertile region of La Geria covered with lava and ash. At first this was devastating for the farmers, but they soon realized that the soil was perfect for growing different types of crops. The ash provided plenty of nutrients and retained moisture, while also kept the soil temperature consistent.
A short time after the eruptions, wine production in Lanzarote began to take off, and the first vines were planted. Sometimes holes had to be drilled into the lava rock in order to be able to reach the soil and cultivate the grapevines.
The fire, wind and rock create extreme conditions that give Lanzarote wines their marked character. Lanzarote’s winemakers did have one issue to contend with though – the constant tradewinds coming in off the Atlantic. To stop the vines from being blown over, wide, shallow holes are dug into the soil and the vines are placed inside. Large volcanic stones are then placed around the edge that faces the wind, creating a protective wall.
Lanzarote has a number of small bodegas that produce and bottle their own wines. The quantity produced is small, which is why you don’t see them all over the world. These artisan wines are usually sold at the bodegas themselves and at establishments throughout the Canary Islands. Sometimes you can also find them in mainland Spain, Europe and the US.
To get to Bodegas El Grifo you’ll need to rent a car, or you can book a wine tour that includes a visit to this particular winery. El Grifo is located on the LZ-30 road; access to the winery is through the Monument to the Griffin Bird made by César Manrique. The best car rental company on Lanzarote is AutoRisen.
Here’s a quick history of Bodegas El Grifo:
1775-1817 – Antonio de Torres Ribera inherited some of the fields of El Grifo from his parents. After the volcanic eruptions of 1730, he organized the planting of the first grapevines. He also built the covered wine press, the primitive bodega and house. When Antonio de Torres died, El Grifo was passed on to his nephew, under the condition that he erect a chaplaincy of mass prayer in El Grifo. Gabriella de Torres, a niece of Antonio who lived in Cuba, filed a legal dispute against Bartolomé. She laid claim to the land, alleging that he hadn’t fulfilled the requirements of his uncle’s will and testament.
1817-1833 – Fearing the outcome of the legal claim, Bartolomé de Torres sold the property surreptitiously to the De Castro family, between the years 1817 and 1824. The plantation was acquired by Ginés De Castro Estevez, who was twice mayor of Arrecife.
1820-1880 – The de Castro family owned El Grifo for approximately 60 years and three generations. It was passed on to Ginés’ sisters, and then to their inheritors.
1880 onwards – Manuel García Durán began acquiring parts of the El Grifo from the de Castro family inheritors over a period of ten years between 1870 and 1880. The current family has owned El Grifo for over five generations. They built the current bodega next to the older buildings, which have been turned into a museum.
The vines at El Grifo are ripened on the mountainside in the protected area of La Geria and are manually handpicked, one-by-one. The winery produces a mixture of whites, reds and sweet wines, which are available for tasting.
Most of the wines cost around €4 or €4.50 per glass, although there are some that are more expensive. El Grifo also offers three different wine tasting experiences, called “Malvasia Experience”, “Black Grape Experience” and “Sweet Experience”. The wine flights cost between €10 and €14. On the menu you’ll also find a selection of snacks, including Iberian ham and Canarian cheeses. You can view the full menu here.
El Grifo also has a gift shop where you can purchase bottles and exclusive products to take home.
Bodegas El Grifo offers a few different types of tickets and tours. I opted to do “El Grifo your way”, which includes an audio guide so that you can discover El Grifo at your own pace.
This self-guide audio tour takes you on a tour of El Grifo’s museum and vineyards. As you walk through the museum you’ll see some of the original tanks and equipment, as well as a replica workshop, where the original tools and old wooden barrels were made.
The tour also includes entrance to the winery’s wine-bar where you can taste a selection of wines and local products. Wine tastings aren’t included in your ticket, so you’ll have to pay for these separately.
“El Grifo’s Most Innovative” is a guided tour of the current winery and its cutting-edge technologies. You’ll see how the Malvasía wines, Muscatel wines and sparkling wines are made, before taking a walk through El Grifo’s centuries-old vineyards. After the tour, you’ll be able to access the wine museum and taste three wines from the menu. The three wines are included in the ticket price.
This guided tour focuses on the history of the winery, taking visitors to see the founding house of the family winery. You’ll also visit the library and archive, which houses a selection of oenology books and preserves more than 5,000 volumes on the history of Lanzarote and the Canary Islands. Your ticket also includes access to the vineyards, the museum and the tasting room.
This is the most in-depth wine tasting experience at Bodegas El Grifo. It includes guided visits to the library and the vineyards, as well as an expert-led wine tasting experience. You’ll have the opportunity to taste 5 very special and unique wines selected by the winery, combined with locally produced cheese boards and appetizers. One of the wines available is the award-winning Malvasía Canari, which is aged more than 65 years.
Museum and Wine-Bar opening hours are : Monday to Sunday, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Store opening hours are Monday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The scenery in Lanzarote is like no other place on Earth, with moonlike landscapes, black sand beaches. It’s certainly interesting to see the bright green grapevines growing out of the dark, ashy soil. If you have the time, definitely include a visit to Bodegas El Grifo on your itinerary, or possibly book a wine tour to have someone show you around the region. For more inspiration on things to do on the island, check out my 4-day Lanzarote itinerary.
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