Gran Canaria’s Dry Valley Cider: A Way of Life

Gran Canaria’s Dry Valley Cider: A Way of Life

“Higher, Mateo,” urges Ángel. “Raise the bottle in your right hand, tilt the glass with your left, and pour.” Mateo is yours truly, as I’ve found Canarians have a problem with pronouncing Matthew, mangling it in a Cockney-style way as Mafu. I’ve learned, therefore, to introduce myself as the Spanish equivalent. Ángel is Angel Rodríguez, a taxi driver by profession and cider producer when not behind the wheel. 

You’ll find Spain’s cider industry in the Iberian peninsula’s north. As acclaimed author Jason Wilson, the scribe behind Cider Revival: Dispatches from the Orchard, reveals: “In Asturias and the Basque Country, sidra culture dates back hundreds of years. As long ago as the 15th century, Basque fishermen set out to sea with hulls full of cider barrels. Many historians believe the wild apples in North America that the first settlers discovered originated from Basque seafarers.” 

Ángel wearing protective gear

Cider, A Way of Life

As a Brit who grew up with the potent scrumpy, I consider cider a summer beverage. Indeed, I fondly recall my brother and I bribing fellow Glastonbury Festival goers to help us put up our tent by sharing our supply of the amber libation. It’s the reverse in northern Spain as Wilson discloses: “During a Basque wintertime, the cider house (sagardotegi) becomes a way of life.” 

Unsurprisingly, a good deal of my sidra ends up outside the glass and that’s not because we’re in an Asturian cider house where spillage is so expected that sawdust sprinkles the floor to soak up the fluid. We’re in a different time zone altogether, over 2,000km south west of this mainland province’s Villaviciosa in deepest cider country. Our location is north-central Gran Canaria, Valleseco (Dry Valley) to be precise. I’m a novice pourer thrown into further ineptitude by the distraction of Ángel’s bizarre get-up of surgical cap, gown, wellies, and, well, not much else. 

Later, listening to Ángel describe the cider-making process though, I realize that he reminds me more of an accoucheur than a sawbones. Why? He’s helping to give birth. 

Barrels of cider

Cider Manor

Ángel’s babies are his ciders, which he produces in both still and sparkling varieties, along with sibling cider vinegar. Prompted to describe what sets his cider apart from others, Ángel replies: “Love. They’re prepared with my personal care and attention which isn’t possible for other, bigger producers to provide. I’m in this for the long term too, and short-term commercial gain doesn’t interest me.”           

El Lagar de Valleseco, Ángel’s family firm, sits proudly in the Doramas Rural Park. This area is named after a championed canarii warrior. The canarii were the Berber-descending people who occupied Gran Canaria or, more accurately, what they knew as Tamaran before the 15th-century Castilian conquest. 

This was Doramas’ manor. He used to roam the rainforest-like green interior before losing his life at 1481’s Battle of Arucas. Governor Pedro de Vera and his army spiked Doramas’ severed head for display purposes. They left it as a putrefying warning in the island’s three-year-old capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. 

A way to pack bottles of cider.

The Celebrations

Most of Gran Canaria’s twenty-one municipalities have a fiesta tied to food and drink. In adjoining Firgas, it’s dedicated to watercress, the key ingredient of the island’s signature stew, potaje de berros, and in Santa María de Guía, the Fiesta del Queso celebrates the flower cheese made by utilizing an artichoke thistle’s head to form a vegetarian-friendly rennet. In Valleseco, they party hard about apples with October’s Fiesta de Carmen, the patron saint of the municipality, held during the manzana-harvest season.  

Ángel’s previously strange brew (he was the first to produce cider on Gran Canaria back in 2010) has been garnering positive publicity because of its organic roots. There’s a real commitment to KM0 here, with apples sourced from the family’s 700 trees, and at the nearby EcoValles market. Ángel’s still cider is essentially boozy juice, as it doesn’t contain water or chemical additives. He’s keen to stress that you can’t over-press the apples as you risk damaging quality. 

The average Canarian will tell you they don’t get drunk like the Brits who holiday on Gran Canaria (although carnival season seems to be the exception, which proves the rule). They certainly produce enough in the way of alcohol to create a stinking hangover. The dark and white rum in north-coast Arucas and east-coast Telde, vodka (the purest in the world) in the south-east’s Ingenio, and wine, primarily in the north east’s Bandama are all well-known. Then there’s the coffee of the north-west Agaete Valley (the only one to be made in the Northern Hemisphere) to help with that morning after the night before. 

Bottles ready for cider

Ángel’s Cider

Despite his outfit, Ángel is very much a showman. He talks about his cider as if delivering a Ted Talk. But then, when seemingly in full flow, Ángel interrupts his presentation to show me his mobile. 

There’s a new botellín (20cl bottle) in production and Ángel enthuses about the logo. It’s half apple, half wolf. I can’t help but agree it’s very striking. 

Then he becomes more animated. “Lobo,” he almost spits, speeding up. “Two syllables are perfect. Easier to order. Think a-gua, vi-no.” 

Ángel returns to the cellar from the everybar his bubbling brook of enthusiasm has conjured up. “Look at these barrels,” he gushes like a proud parent. “Oak. Many use American, but French roble is superior.” 

The apples have a Gallic connection too. They’re of the highly-prized Reinette (French for little queen) variety planted in the mid-1800s to replenish Dry Valley land gone to waste. The tree takes pride of place on Vallesco’s coat of arms.

This is green Gran Canaria, a world away from the Sahara-like Maspalomas dunes. The local Tourist Information Office’s Carmen Angulo accentuates the appeal of breaking out of the all-inclusive bubble with a trip to the island’s interior: “Valleseco’s home to Gran Canaria’s only completely ecological market with local, organic fruit and vegetables sold alongside bread made from various cereals.” 

A bottle of cider with the labelA Cure-All?

I chew on this both literally and figuratively with a late lunch at the nearby Mesón Los Chorros. Where the bread’s matalauva (peppered with punchy aniseed) style and the traditionally salted wrinkled potatoes (papas arrugadas) come paired, as always, with mojo, which is almost as fluorescent as Indian restaurant curry sauce but not quite as spicy. I wash it down with a bottle of Gran Valle cider which, whilst drinkable especially due to the current heatwave, tastes more artificial than Ángel’s product.

Ángel swears by his cider. And by his cider vinegar too. “It’s part of my morning ritual, Mateo, to drink hot water with lemon and vinegar as it cleanses the colon and (many believe) prevents cancer.” 

This is news to me. Before my visit with Ángel, I consumed cider vinegar on a regular basis, allied to an intense fitness routine, all to prevent middle-age spread. Many believe it suppresses appetite and lowers blood sugar levels. 

We’re back to more sane than manic street preacher Ángel, as he steps up onto his soapbox to proselytize: “It’s all about controlling the pH. The perfect balance between acid and alkaline should be around pH 7.4, as in slightly more alkaline. Acidic cider vinegar becomes alkaline once consumed. Diseases such as cancer, and some have also suggested COVID-19, are no fans of alkaline.” 

The Cider Prophet

Ángel has been in full flow since bumping elbows. Which explains my later-than-normal lunch (my UK-reared stomach’s still timed to remind me to eat around midday no matter how much cider vinegar I’ve spoon fed into my system). He’s in tour-guide mode from the off, pointing out the feed he grows for goats one minute, the confusingly-named cidra, which has nothing to do with apples but is in fact a pumpkin whose angel-hair exterior, when combined with sugar, lemon peel, and cinnamon makes for a popular not-quite-sickly-sweet jam and pastry stuffing, the next.


The Ángel gabbier is an incredibly open individual who loves showing people around. There are the certificates on the wall, a testament to the courses Ángel’s completed on the mainland. He returned to his island with Asturian glasses. Nonetheless, he says he’s more interested in producing a stronger Basque-style cider than the more well-known classic from Asturias. 

“Look at this, Mateo,” exclaims Ángel as he admires the clarity of his product. “In Asturias, they prefer a cloudier consistency. But I like the simplicity of a Basque sidra which is as clear as chicken soup.”

A bottle

Cider Pairings

A Q-and-A session follows Ángel’s presentation. What effect does organic production have on the cider-making process, taste, and price, I ask. “It slows it down with the still cider taking around two months and the carbonated variety between nine and twelve months,” he answers. “Ecological apples are punier and uglier than ones grown with chemicals, but they’ve got far more flavour. In terms of price, not much. I sell as cheaply as possible because, as I’ve already told you, I’m not motivated by profit.” 

Ángel turns sommelier when I quiz him about the optimum temperature to drink and what food to pair it with. As he generously pours me yet another generous glass. He adjusts his glasses, which only serves to make him seem more authoritative. “It’s best served cold but without ice. You should treat it like a white wine. For that reason, it goes well with fish.”

Indeed, the Basques marry cider with a renowned cod omelette comprising the expected egg and fish with the less familiar purple garlic and red onion. Ángel offers me olives by way of sustenance, not noted for their soaking-us-booze properties. I make my excuses and leave, not before receiving an invitation to the Rodriguez family’s Fiesta de Carmen celebrations.

Read about another experience studying abroad on the Canary Islands!

58 thoughts on “Gran Canaria’s Dry Valley Cider: A Way of Life

  1. I would love to experience that area for myself one day. That cider sounds really good. I love that Q and A they have at the end.

    1. Fingers crossed that can be sooner rather than later, Bill. It deserves a wider reputation which I hope this article helps it acquire. My tour was an unofficial one and the questions I asked were the ones Ángel hadn’t already answered in his presentation.

  2. I would really love a trip full of cider testing. I love ciders, but you see I always have it with ice. I just learned now is not the best way to have it….

    1. It’s definitely inspired me to visit more cider producers. Perhaps the ice would come in handy whilst testing, in order to dilute the alcohol. Most bars I’ve been to in Spain serve it with ice.

    1. It certainly was, Kevin. What I like about Valleseco is that you’re pretty high up. So you’re afforded gorgeous views of the rest of the island.

    1. Ángel gave me enough material to write a book, Brianne. Hope you get there with your family. It’s well worth the trip.

  3. That would be such an amazing experience. That place was never on my radar until now. My only experience with cider is with American Cider that we have during the holidays, they are sold in bottles that look pretty much like apple juice, and then an orange is poked with cloves and put in the cider while it heats up. Or these little dry powder packet of instant cider where you just add hot water, haha. Definitely a different cider than this!

    1. Matt, Valleseco is a pretty under-the-radar destination for those who live on the island let alone tourists. I’m now on a mission to explore the world of cider. Jason Wilson has become a bit of guru for me.

    1. Most people come to Gran Canaria to top up their tan, Ashley. Particularly in winter which is our high season as the rest of Europe feels the chill. However, this is a great day-trip idea.

  4. thank you for sharing. i would love to visit some day to taste this cider and see it being made.

    1. It was a pleasure to write. You should thank Dreams Abroad founder and director Leesa Truesdell for commissioning me. She’s such an inspiring figure.

  5. Thank you for your comments . Our web site is if you want to know more about our village.

    1. I feel like I’ve already left it too long to return to Valleseco. Can’t wait to see you soon. Love your website.

  6. I don’t drink alcohol, but looks like you had an amazing experience and perfect for those that like a glass or two x

    1. I love visiting vineyards. But this was something different. As is the rum distillery in nearby Arucas.

  7. I really loved learning about this cider maker. I grew up in the Southern United States, so I love exploring various types of farms and seeing what they do on them.

    1. Ben, my parents used to live on a farm in the south west of England. They didn’t have any animals though. Just lots of trees (more pines than fruit ones).

    1. Everything tastes better with cinnamon, Heather. Especially if it lists apple amongst its ingredients. I’m thinking pie and strudel.

  8. I’m a fan of apple cider as well! I recently met someone who moved to the US from the Canary Islands and, after talking to him, I want to visit!

    1. The beauty of the Canary Islands, Pam, is that they’re all so very different. From the wild (and at times wet) west of El Hierro to the dry but mightily windy Fuerteventura in the east. Your friend sold the archipelago well.

    1. Thanks, Lucy. Although cider vinegar has more health benefits than cider. Nevertheless, an apple a day and all that.

  9. Wow this looks to be an amazing experience. I would really love to visit it some day. I had cider in UK, love it. Had in both hot and cold form.

    1. It’s an area I really fancy revisiting, Kileen. The cider sure tastes good. And I loved the views too.

  10. I have tried a few ciders and have really enjoyed them! I am interested in visiting this area, so much to discover!

    1. There’s so much range, Natalie. Valleseco is definitely very different to the Gran Canaria resorts. You’ll love it.

  11. I love cider! Such a good warm day drink. I’ve never been to Spain but would love to go one day and try some of the incredible cider!

    1. You’re right, Stephanie. It does quench a thirst. Cider would make for an interesting but short-lived souvenir.

  12. It’s interesting to know more about cider because of this post! And Angel seems to do a fantastic job in informing others as well. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Hazel. Ángel and his family firm are excellent adverts for craft cider. He’s a natural salesman.

    1. That’s interesting, Marie. I’d already arranged a tour in advance for the purposes of this article. However, two locals hiking in the area were invited too as Ángel came out to greet me as I was asking them directions.

    1. I do too. In England, we fall in love with it at an early (teenage) age. I’m now having snakebite flashbacks: cider with blackcurrant cordial.

    1. Heather, nowhere is that far on Gran Canaria. I’m rather partial to cider myself. Getting to learn about the production process was fascinating.

    1. I’ve got itchy feet, Lynndee. But I’m lucky to have a continent in miniature on my doorstep to explore. For a small island, Gran Canaria has so much to offer.

    1. It’s a quickly-acquired flavour, Kita. As it tastes good from the first to last drop. It’s such a beautiful setting too.

  13. Wow! How interesting, I did not know so much went into making cider. It seems to be one of the best. -Lois

  14. I want to try Gran Canaria’s Dry Valley Cider! It has a vast history and so cool. I hope I can visit it also.

  15. This is fantastic, Mateo! The local people we meet always have interesting stories to share. Gran Canaria sounds amazing, and worth a road trip to visit all these fantastic places for cider, wine and vodka. I always enjoy learning about the islands from you!- Estafanie

    1. Glad you liked it, Tiffany. Gran Canaria is known as a party island. Maybe that’s why it produces so much booze.

    1. It’s such a beautiful island, Catalina. You’ll love it. The cider vinegar is more of a miracle than the cider but the latter is more drinkable.

    1. It was the first time for me, Lily. I’ve now got a taste for it. Would love to repeat the experience on the Spanish mainland.

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