The view over the gorge
Last week I was lucky enough to join a group of twenty six enthusiasts from the Algarve Wine Society on a trip the wonderful new wine producing area that is Ronda, high in the mountains in the province of Malaga, Andalusia.
Located in a natural bowl, the area has, in the last ten years , become a centre for growing high altitude vines. Some thirty seven growers, all with relatively small vineyards, are now responsible for growing a wide variety of wine and developing a growing industry of enotourism.
A tasting and Lunch at Bodega Joachin Fernandez
three day visit embraced first a visit to the largest and highest organic grower in Andalusia , Joachin Fernandez. This winery sits on a south facing slope at 700metres and has 10 hectares of vines. Here were entertained and educated by Joachin’s son, Moises and were shown the lengths to which organic growers will go, even to the extent of using bees wax (from the finca´s own bees which play a vital part of the eco system) and herbs for sealing bottles. Joachin himself prepared a huge feast of tapas and pork in wine for the group. A real treat.
After a comfortable night and delicious dinner in the nearby, chic, Hotel Molina del Arco, the group was revitalised for day two which started with a visit to Bodega Descalzos Viejos. Owned by two architects this unique 16century property located at 650m has sixteen hectares of vines planted on a south facing slope at the entrance to the famous Ronda gorge. Co owner, Flavio Salesi proudly showed us around his thriving project with a visit to the ancient , authentic gardens and then to the winery itself installed in the exquisitely restored church of the monastery. We saw rediscovered frescos depicting patron Saints of Seville, Saint Justa and Saint Rufina. It had taken a team of four a full six months to painfully remove layers of lime wash to reveal these gems.
The beautiful Winery at Bodega Descalzos Viejos showing the magnificent frescos
The party then tasted the Bodega’s delightful single varietal Chardonnay white wine followed by four exciting , if young and artisanal, reds, all blends of Petit Verdot, Garnacha, Graciano Merlot , Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon with the exception of D V Conarte which is single varietal , Petit Verdot. Wine here is produced to order and mainly to satisfy the local market. The visit was undoubtedly made even more interesting by the presence of an unbelievably strong wind , the Levant , whistling up from Gibraltar and an accompanying flock of vultures soaring overhead on the resulting thermals.
A relaxing afternoon back at the hotel we then departed for the city of Ronda for a slice of culture and sightseeing before enjoying a six course dinner at Restaurant Meson el Sacristan. This restaurant adjoins the majestic and important chuch , Inglesa de Santa Maria la Mayor and has itself got Roman remains and artefacts in its cellar. The food, true to the area, was tapas style and Victoria Berkani, co owner/sommelier from Morosanto who’s wines we were drinking joined us to introduce her full range , a crisp white, a fruity rose, three reds and a delicious dessert wine. Restauranteur , Antonio, paired his food with the wine to perfection.
Just when we thought things could not get any better, day three brought another surprise in the shape of a visit to the opulent Bodega Excelencia the highest of the three at 870 metres and with eight hectares of north facing slopes. A hairy drive in the bus negotiating some twelve kilometres of a mountainous tract brought the group to this impressive and extremely young Bodega which is , unbelievably maintained almost single handedly by Lourenco, a charismatic Cuban. This is an up and coming winery still finding its way to the market. Apart from a very small production of a delicious Rose´ , they specalise in Red wine made from the four grape varieties of Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah.
The wines were tasted and much enjoyed with a wonderful, wonderful lunch of various tapas and a chicken paella. The wines in this vineyard are only in their infancy some already having produced at a mere two years of age but they are impressive.
The homeward bound bus then sadly left this beautiful spot laden with a copious amount of wine together with a happy, if soporific , group of travellers.
Members outside Hotel Molino del Arco