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Tenerife poised to launch new PDO

Published:  14 December, 2017

A surge of interest in distinctive terroir-driven wines has spurred on Tenerife winemakers in the sub-tropical Canary Islands to launch a new Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) scheme.

Known for producing low-intervention wines from indigenous grape varieties grown on Volcanic soils, Tenerife producers grow between three and five million kilos of grapes each year.

In the 1990s, the island of Tenerife created five wine appellations, but now producers have presented a new model for Tenerife wine, involving the entire restructuring of the rules based on a new pyramid structure of quality levels including village wines, single vineyard wines and even wines from singular plots of land.

In late November, Tenerife’s wine producers launched official procedures with the presentation of a plan for the PDO to local authorities.

At the base level of the pyramid structure of the new Tenerife PDO, growers on the island will be able to source grapes from elsewhere on the island.

The move could help growers on the southern part of Tenerife who have suffered from drought in recent years. Meanwhile, producers hope that the higher echelons of the pyramid structure will create added value for the island’s distinctive top wines.

“This new model is about protecting quality, and adding value, not volume,” Borja Perez, producer and general secretary of the Tenerife Vineyard Owners and Viticulture Association, told Harpers.

“We cannot compete in terms of volumes with larger PDOs on mainland Spain, but we can in terms of quality. Average prices for land in Tenerife are higher than mainland Spain and we have extra costs of transportation,” he said.

Perez said the average price for land for vines in Tenerife was now €83,000 (£73,000) per hectare, in comparison with an average price of €15,000 (£13,210) per hectare on mainland Spain.

Meanwhile Jonatan Garcia, owner at the renowned Tenerife producer, Suerte del Marques, told Harpers that prices for land in the north of Tenerife had shot up to “€200,000 (£176,164) per hectare.”

Garcia endorsed the move to create a new Tenerife PDO.

“I am in favour of the new Tenerife PDO as long as it is well structured and respects specific viticulture areas like Valle de la Orotava,” he told Harpers.

Perez said a new PDO for Tenerife was required to modernise and update the existing appellations on the Island.

Meanwhile, he said the generic Canary Islands PDO, created in 2011, which uses the ‘Canary Wine’ brand for international exposure, was not suitable for Tenerife producers.

“Under the Canary Islands PDO, you can make wine from grapes grown from anywhere in the Canary Islands. However, there is a vast difference in climate between Lanzarote, near Morocco, which for example, has about 200ml of rainfall a year and the western island of La Palma on the other side, which has say, 1500 ml of rainfall each year,” said Perez.

Allowing producers just to do what they want was not the way forward, he added.

“The new Tenerife PDO will have stricter rules [than the Canary Island PDO] particularly with regard to authorisation from the tasting panel,” he told Harpers.

Moves to promote Tenerife wine separately from Canary Island wine have however sparked criticism in the past from the Canary Island PDO promoters who wish to promote Canary Island wine as a whole, rather than wine from individual islands.

Together with the Canary Islands PDO, Tenerife’s sister islands, Gran Canaria, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and Lanzarote each have PDO’s for their individual islands. Tenerife’s new appellation, could in the future, absorb the island’s existing five appellations.

Monte Lentiscal, a former appellation on the island of Gran Canaria, was absorbed into the Gran Canaria PDO in 1999.

Perez and fellow producers including the Suerte del Marques, export more than 90% of production internationally and now producers on the island want to safeguard wine production and increase value with a new structure of rules.

“What counts is quality and differentiation for Tenerife, ” he said.