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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Canary Malmsey to return after 300 years

Monument commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Wine Rebellion of 1666 in Garachico

The government of the Canary Islands is hoping to project a different image of the sun-kissed Spanish outpost by resurrecting the fortunes of a wine whose qualities were once lauded by Shakespeare and reputedly drowned the brother of a medieval English king."

Malvasia "Malmsey (known as "Canary" in Elizabethan England), a sweet fortified wine made on the islands since the 15th century, was the drink of choice on the British Isles for aristocrats, writers and merchants for more than 150 years, until the trade suddenly ended in the 1680s.". This wine was exported through the north Tenerife port of Garachico and a rebellion, called the "Derrame del Vino" took place in that town on the night of July 3, 1666, in protest against the abusive policies of the British monopoly in the trade. Three or four hundred masked men broke down the doors of the bodegas, destroyed the barrels, spilling the wine and causing "one of the strangest floods in world history", wrote Viera y Clavijo. In other words, the local producers decided it was better to have washed the wine down the drain than to let the British have it for next to nothing. No doubt, we haven't yet been forgiven, but can hopefully now be trusted to pay a fair price.

The "Derrame del Vino", plus other disasters, among them, the 1706 eruption that destroyed the town's port, contributed to the demise of Garachico's fortunes.