When UK Investment Manager Ollie Horton quit his job in 2013 for a one-way ticket to Lanzarote, he had no idea what lay in store. Multiskilling as a surf coach, construction worker and Estate Agent, it wasn’t until he tasted his first drop of the Island’s volcanic wine that his destiny became clear.
Produced from vineyards resembling lunar landscapes, the extraordinary quality and story of Lanzarote’s volcanic wine is one of the Island’s best kept secrets. With a subtropical-desert climate and just 150ml of rainfall per-annum, the Island lies outside the geographic norm for winemaking. Even more remarkable, it is not even permitted to water the vines! Boasting 5 native grape varieties harvested from some of the oldest vines in the world, the plants grow at the bottom of 3 metre deep manmade pits, which have been dug to reach the soil lying beneath the volcanic ash, known as Rofe. Unsurprisingly, the vineyards are incredibly low yielding, with Lanzarote producing only around 1 million bottles from the 2020 vintage.
Ollie’s first wine venture was the establishment of Wine Tours Lanzarote in 2017, which soon attracted a healthy flow of winelovers keen to swap the traditional scenery for Lanzarote’s stunning volcanic backdrop. But when the local governement imposed the strictest COVID lockdown in Europe, Ollie’s business came to a resounding halt, and he pivoted his wine knowledge in a new direction. With 90% of Lanzarote’s wines being consumed within the Canaries, Ollie couldn’t fathom how the vast majority of Lanzarote’s wines had failed to make it to the UK and Ireland.
‘For me it was incomprehensible, the wines are high quality, unique and with so many stories and traditions behind them; not to mention that volcanic wines are very much in vogue. They are sought after in the States and are sent as far as Japan, but good luck finding a Malvasia Volcanica in London or Dublin! We also know how much our tour clients love the wines, so we knew we had a small market to help get us off the ground, if we could just pull off the logistics.’
While running around the garden during lockdown listening to a business podcast, Ollie finally figured out his gameplan. With barely anything manufactured in Lanzarote, let alone exported, huge amounts of time had to be committed to overcoming numerous administrative and logistical hurdles. After 5 gruelling months, the hard work finally paid off and Ollie is now working with four of the most famous wineries on the Island, (soon to be 5) and has 23 wines now llisted on www.wineshoplanzarote.com. He’s also expanded into craft beers and cosmetics made from Lanzarote grape skins!
‘You will only find wines on our site that we would recommend and purchase ourselves, but importantly our clients second our decisions as we see what they purchase during our tours. With the UK & Irish drinks market changing and more open minded than ever, we are really excited to be able to share something undiscovered, completely unique and made with passion and the tradition of Lanzarote.’