In the Levante, a common refrain says that nothing grows in this hot, dry, mountainous area besides olives, almonds and grapevines. Starting in Valencia, the region runs down Spain’s southeastern coastline through Alicante to Murcia.
The leading grape variety throughout the Levante is Monastrell, known in most parts of the world as Mourvèdre. Old bush vines of Monastrell have adapted over time to withstand blistering summer heat and a near-total lack of irrigation, producing wines of power and staunch Mediterranean character.
Known wine regions in the Levante include the denominaciónes de origen of Alicante, Jumilla, Yecla, Valencia and Utiel-Requena. Among them, Alicante and Jumilla rank arguably as the Levante’s top regions. Both areas are hot, hilly and known for Monastrell as well as blends based on Monastrell, Syrah and Garnacha. In Valencia and Utiel-Requena, the leading grape is Bobal.
Offshore and to the east of Valencia lie the Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Minorca and Ibiza. While Ibiza is best known for jet-set parties and Minorca its salty Mahón cheese, Mallorca is legitimate wine country, holding about 1,500 acres of mostly native grapes like the dark-skinned Callet and the white Premsal.
Located off the coast of Morocco, the Canary Islands provide another source for Spanish island wines, although few from here are exported. On the island of Lanzarote, where decomposed black volcanic soils rule, wines are made from white grapes that include Diego Seco and Malvasía as well as the red Listán Negro. Many Lanzarote vines are planted in individual depressions that help protect the grapes from persistently high winds.
In addition to Lanzarote, wine is made on the islands of La Palma, Gran Canaria and Tenerife.