Shakespeare’s Tenerife tipple making a comeback
Tenerife wines have performed well in the international stage in recent years, featuring prominently among the gold winners at a number of important wine fairs.
But tenerife wines in the past look back to a dramatic history. Grape varieties used in wine making in Tenerife are among the few survivors of a disaster that struck the European wine industry nearly 150 years ago.
An aphid from America was accidentally imported into France in 1860, destroying vines that had been refined and nurtured over hundreds, if not thousands of years. Phylloxera spread across the continent, bringing the European wine industry to its knees in little more than ten years.
Wine producers turned to different grape varieties, mostly phylloxera-resistant imported from America, and slowly the industry recovered.
Tenerife and the other islands in the Canarian archipelago survived the ravages of phylloxera and the ancient grape varieties that European settlers brought with them to the island after the Spanish conquest at the end of the 15th century continue to flourish to this day.
They make the wines produced on the island today unique. So much so that the island authorities are now investigating the possibility of opening a wine office in the UK.
Tenerife in particular and the Canaries in general once had a flourishing trade with Britain. So popular was Canary wine that Shakespeare referred to it in two of his plays, Twelfth Night and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Canary wine, a sweet, white fortified wine similar to Malmsey, was a favoured tipple of the British aristocracy for more than 150 years, until a political row brought the trade to an end. What the Canaries lost the Portuguese island of Madeira gained as Britain turned its attentions to new source of Malmsey.
Now present-day Tenerife wine producers are attempting to re-establish the trade link that was broken nearly 350 years ago.