June is a wonderful month in Lanzarote: beautiful weather, late spring colour, fresh produce and quieter beaches. More importantly, it’s the month when the Wine Run Lanzarote comes to town!
This amazing event awakens all your senses. Marvel at the spectacular volcanic landscape whilst breathing pure Atlantic air. Outdoor exercise rewarded by some of the island’s finest traditional wine and cuisine, music and dancing.
The Wine Run is for everyone: sports enthusiasts, nature-lovers, foodies, professional wine connoisseurs, or for those just partial to the odd glass or two. People of all generations and nationalities flock to La Geria for this annual celebration.
Save La Geria
The eruptions that created Timanfaya National Park and surrounding areas between 1730-1736 radically transfigured a large part of the island. The region was one of the archipelago’s most important agricultural areas, especially for cereal production. Whilst the lava did not claim many human lives, it engulfed around twenty towns and villages forever.
The islanders were forced to adapt, reinventing their economic activity and finding new ways to cultivate. It was not until 1775 that Lanzarote’s first winery emerged: the family-owned, Bodegas El Grifo.
Wine cultivation gave the landscape a new design. Theporous picón (small black volcanic stones that cover the landscape) meant that grapes could be grown on the ground. Farmers built black semi-circle stone walls to provide wind protection for the vines. Today, La Geria’s landscape covers over 5200 hectares and is one of Lanzarote’s most valuable treasures.
In 1993, Lanzarote was recognised by UNESCO as a “Biosphere Reserve,” a unique honour as it applies to the entire island territory. The “Save La Geria” project is the driving force behind the Wine Run Lanzarote. Its main aim is to achieve economic, touristic, environmental and cultural sustainability whilst promoting the best of what Lanzarote has to offer.
Some of the world’s finest Malvasia white wines
Wine production on the island does not have purely financial gains in mind and has landscape and cultural preservation as a top priority. The government subsidises the wineries to encourage this, and so that they can invest in state-of-the-art technology, ensuring wines of the highest quality. Some have won prestigious wine awards across the world and around 75% of production is dedicated to the Malvasia grape. Other varieties include Diego, Muscatel and Pedro Ximinez, to complement range of white, red and rosé, as well as some ecological wines.
Today, El Grifo is joined be other wineries providing top quality wines: Los Bermejos, Rubicón, Stratvs, La Geria, Vega de Yuca, Guiguan, Reymar, Tierra de los Volcanes, La Grieta, Martiñon.
Sign up for the event
Registering in advance is essential, which is easily done through www.lanzarotewinerun.com. There´s a category to suit everyone: you can choose to either walk or run a distance of 11km, or, for the more serious runner, compete in the 22km race. The lucky winner of the main 22k run wins their weight in wine!
The fun begins
The Wine Run festivities get underway on Saturday, the day before the main event. The town of Uga, in the municipality of Yaiza was the base and finish line for this year’s event. A trip to Uga to pick up the race kit on the eve of the event is necessary, but worthwhile. You are provided with your race number, t-shirt and some complementary tickets for food and wine. The race kits contain other extra bonuses such as ecological Aloe vera gel, juice and cereal bars, a gift jar of locally produced cactus jam, among others.
Saturday is also the kids’ day, as hundreds of children eagerly await their chance to race in the Wine Run Kids event. You can almost touch the adrenaline and enthusiasm of these young runners. There are three age groups categories for kids from 6 to 16 years’ old, racing over distances of 600, 1200 and 1800 metres.
A foodie’s paradise
The advantage of collecting the race kit on Saturday is being able to leisurely sample the delicious fayre at the Traditional Cuisine Festival, which opened at 18:00h. The exhibitors range from artisanal cheese and ice-cream makers, gourmet caterers and restaurants to all of the island’s wineries. One really could spend the whole evening eating.
Try anything from sushi and fresh prawns, to mini gourmet burgers, beautifully arranged tapas and pintxos (a chunk of fresh bread with a variety of toppings), cakes, pastries, cheeses, jams and desserts. All this washed down with crisp white wine - the perfect complement to a hot Saturday evening.
Live music ignites the atmosphere between 19:00-23:00h, setting the tone for the big day, and ending early enough to ensure a good night’s rest.
Race day: bright and early
This is now the seventh year I have completed the Wine Run, and it improves every time. I particularly liked the addition that no plastic bottles would be available at aid stations; you had to take your own for refilling. Also, in order to traffic to protect the La Geria region, participants were to meet at Uga, where ample parking facilities were provided, and then travel by smoothly organised buses to the start line at La Asomada (the 22k runners started at 09:00, from Bodega La Florida).
An electric festival atmosphere awaits as you arrive at the start line. Even at 08:30h in the morning, you find yourself getting into the samba beat of a local batucada troop. And depending on your mood, there is plenty of coffee, water or wine (of course!).
The 11k runners start first, at around 09:30h. Once they are off into the distance, the walkers - the last of the more than 2000 participants in this year’s event - set off. The first mile or so is a little slow, due to the sheer number of people heading off into the lunar landscape. This does ease, however, after the first aid station, as many stop to enjoy a tipple, chat or take a little break.
As the crowd spreads out, and you continue on your expedition, the stunning lunar backdrop comes into its own. Tones of black and red lava contrast with the clear blue sky and green vines. The socos (semi-circles of black lava stones) that protect them stretch out as far as the eye can see, as if painted by an artist. The imposing volcanoes look like majestic pyramids on the horizon and solitary palm trees stand defiant against the elements.
It´s easy to forget the distance that lies ahead. You are surrounded by nature, swept by the cheery atmosphere and the inevitable energising sensation this experience brings. Temperatures were high, along with the thirst, so plenty of water and sunscreen are both recommended and essential.
Mid-course party atmosphere
Just as a pang of weariness rears its head, a refreshing welcome party cheers you on at the La Geria winery, at around the halfway mark. With music and cheerleaders, it’s enough to make anyone dance their way over to the refreshment kiosk. This is definitely my favourite stop of the event. Many walkers linger here, enjoying a snack from the winery’s well-known tapas bar, chatting to friends, old and new, along the way. Their shop is set inside a beautiful old building which provided welcome shade, as well as a range of irresistible products on offer.
After a little refuelling, we’re ready to tackle the second half of our journey towards Uga. The scenery gets better and better, and before you know it, the finish line is within sight.
Reaching the oasis
There’s something very gratifying about finishing an 11k walk and being greeted with the offer of a massage, stretching mats and fresh fruit. After relaxing a little in the shade, food, wine and music are next on the agenda.
Clutching my complementary tickets, I sample some tapas that I had missed the day before. To my delight, I discover that some of the island’s artisan brewers are also offering their wares. Los Aljibes de Tahiche (Lanzarote’s first artisanal brewer) and Cerveza Nao both offer pale and dark beer on draught. I decide to try some, having sampled some wine on the previous day. Just the job to quench the thirst!
A fantastic atmosphere fills the live music arena. Smiling wine runners dance and sing to popular cover tracks, and everyone seems to know the words. The party atmosphere lasts until around 16:00, when the festivities wind down.
The Wine Run Lanzarote brings together thousands of people to enjoy Lanzarote’s finest assets, and raise awareness of how important it is to preserve them. A must-do for anyone visiting the island during the month of June.