Gourmet Gazette Fine Cheese and Wine Finds from The Canary islands
When it comes to wine and cheese pairings, France immediately comes to mind, or perhaps Italy. The Canary Islands, however do not, but they should. These are mythical islands, for some dreamers this was the legendary land of Atlantis, swept beneath the sea with its highest mountains remaining as islands, the Canary Islands. And for the not so dreamers, the Canaries are home to four national parks including two UNESCO World Heritage sites. So while you are waiting to head to the Canary Islands, The Gourmet Gazette brings a sample of these fine cheese and wine finds to you.
The earthly paradise settings found on the islands surround superb vineyards and great craft cheesemaking operations, with the islands, part of Spain and sitting in the Atlantic Ocean just west of Morocco. And some 14 wines and cheeses, emanating from one of the eight main islands of the archipelago, enjoy a designation origin label or appellation.
The vineyards and the pastures for the goats, cows and sheep benefit from a unique micro-climate conferring upon the wine and cheese a unique taste. The wines and cheeses are elaborated using traditional methods and draw their unique taste not only from the micro-climates but also the drastic changes in altitude and the volcanic soil. This year’s grape harvest was excellent and the island is know to produce at least 135 grape varieties with the world-renowned malvasía being introduced there in the 16th century already by the Spanish conquerors. One of the island specialties is the volcanic malvasía. This produces a fine, powerful red wine and an enticing white while varieties like the diego and the verijadiego produce spicy whites. What’s more, these are old grape varieties found practically nowhere else anymore.
The raw milk cheeses of the islands are creamy and not too sharp often coated with paprika, oil or gofio, a type of local corn starch. Some are smoked. There are three cheeses bearing the protected designated origin label: Majorero AOP, Palmero AOP and the Flor de Guía AOP, AOP being the acronym for Protected Designation of Origin.
Majorero which is made of goat cheese in Fuerteventura and coated with paprika was the first to obtain the label in 1996 while the smoked goat cheeses of Tenerife as well as the craft cheeses of El Hierro are generally made from goat, ewe or cow milk and offer up a different savor. Other tasty cheeses are made on Lanzarote and La Gomera.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette