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La Palma

DO area on the Spanish island of the same name; see under Canary Islands

The Canary Islands (Spanish: Canarias), a group of islands belonging to Spain and covering about 7,500 km², are located in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of Africa. That is 1,100 km from mainland Spain, but the easternmost island, Lanzarote, is only 100 kilometres from Africa(Morocco). When the Romans landed on the island of Fuerteventura in ancient times, they found numerous packs of wild dogs, so they named the island "Insula Canaria" (Island of Dogs). In 1402, a Spanish ship landed on Gran Canaria and found the original Guanche population there, living as they did in the Stone Age. The Spaniards and Portuguese brought their native grape varieties with them until the end of the century and founded viticulture. At that time, sweet, alcohol-heavy wines were popular, made from the white varieties Moscatel and Malvasia. The wine was called "canary sack" and was exported in large quantities to England and northern Europe. By the time of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), the island wine was already famous; in "What You Will", Sir Toby Belch asks for "a cup of canary".

The seven main islands are Fuerteventura, La Gomera, Gran Canaria, El Hierro, Lanzarote, La Palma and Tenerife; wine is grown on all of them. They are volcanic islands, the last eruption took place on La Palma in 1971. For this reason, the soil is volcanic and ideally suited for viticulture. The subtropical climate, which is pleasant and constant throughout the year, has earned the archipelago the nickname "Islands of Eternal Spring". The flora is characterised by a high diversity of species and a high proportion of autochthonous plant species. The vineyards cover around 9,000 hectares. A special feature are the exclusively ungrafted vines, as the archipelago was largely spared from phylloxera.

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