Lanzarote, the easternmost island of Spain’s Canary Islands, is known for its startling landscape of ten thousand curious, dark pits spaced closely together. From a distance, the scene looks as if thousands of meteorites have hit the region. But in fact, these are some of the most bizarre vineyards in the world—vineyards that are an ingenious response to the island itself.
Lanzarote, and its most important wine district, La Geria, lie just 78 miles off the coast of Africa. The rainfall here is less than in some parts of the Sahara Desert. In the 1700s, a volcanic eruption covered the island, including the best farming land, with ash and lava. Instead of giving up, local farmers invented a dry cultivation method called enarenado (literally, “covered with sand”). As it turns out, the island’s volcanic soil, called picón, is extremely good at absorbing and retaining moisture from the night air.
Today, Lanzarote’s vineyards are planted primarily with Malvasia grapes. Indeed, Malvasia, along with Listan Prieto (known as Mission in the United States) were the grapes brought by Spanish explorers from the Canary Islands to Mexico in the 1500s. From Mexico, these grapes became the foundation of the wine industries in Chile, Argentina, and the U.S.