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Tag: Málaga

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Trekking in the Andalusian mountains

I have taken a two day break from my seaside city holiday in Málaga. We are now trekking in the mountains. And we, we are my friend Jan Inge Reilstad (writer and culture activist) and me. I thought I’d give you some main lines in a postcard format, before I go into more detail later.

First of all I must say a big thanks to all the kind and lovely people who set their work on pause for a while to welcome us, after having given them a very short notice!

Manuel Valenzuela

First stop was Barranco Oscuro, outside Cádiar in the Alpujarras. I have met Lorenzo Valenzuela many times and many places, but it must be ten years since my latest visit to the winery. This time it’s his father Manuel who welcomes us. He shows us around the premises, before we end in a room to taste some wines.

We can’t help notice the wordplay on many of the labels. Tres Uves resembles the Spanish expression for three grapes, but what it really means is three V’s. And aptly enough the wine is based on the varieties viognier, vermentino and the local vijiriega. It’s obvious that Manuel has great fun talking about this. And he tells the story behind the labels, one by one, ending with the Salmónido, with the subtitle rosado a contracorriente, meaning: rosé against the stream.

And when you think of it: It’s not only the salmon that is going towards the stream. The Valenzuelas started to make natural wines without any additions or corrections at a time when few others did. Manuel Valenzuela is by most regarded as one of the true pioneers of Spanish natural wine.

Everything we tasted was expressive and full of energy; like the Art Brut 2017, a sparkler made according to the ancestral method, the yellow fruit-packed viognier La Ví y Soñé 2017 and the always lovely cherry fruit-dominated Garnata 2012 (obviously from garnacha). For those interested in ampelography (the study of grapes), the La Ví y Soñé has now a small percentage of vijiriega negra, a very rare variety that the white vijiriega once mutated from. We ended the tasting with two vintages of 1368 Cerro Las Monjas, whose name refers to the altitude of their highest vineyard (until recently the highest in Europe). Both were very much alive. Vintage 2004 was a bit reduced, cherry red, showed red and dried fruits, and a good acidity, and a slightly dry mouthfeel. The 2003 was a bit darker, with dark cherry dominating the aroma, and a rounder palate – and still more years ahead. (Read my report about the 2002 here.) A terrific bonus was Xarab, an amber coloured wine from the pedro ximénez (PX) variety, with aroma of apricot, figs, a touch of raisins and a balanced acidity. Manuel had showed us a barrel of the wine in the cellar. At this point it had been fermenting for three years (!).

High altitude vines grown organically and unirrigated on schist and clay soil

After a lunch in the centre of Ugíjar, rabbit and chicken with a dark, meaty nameless Cádiar wine, we continued our short road trip. Just outside Ugíjar we were met by this signpost.

I visited Dominio Buenavista around ten years ago too. Nola, from Dayton, Ohio has been through tough times since her husband Juan Palomar passed away last year. They both used to travel between the two countries. Now she has been forced to stay in Spain to look after the domaine, and continue the work just the way her beloved husband would have done himself.

Nola makes it clear that she wants to have control over the end-product. Therefore the wines can be said to lack the “savagery” of Barranco Oscuro. Their wines called Veleta (the second highest peak in Sierra Nevada, but also meaning weather-bird) are well-made, and their followers in Spain, the US and elsewhere know what to expect. -Natural yeast scares me, Nola says. So she relies on cultured yeasts, and hesitates to go completely organic. But the amount of sulphur is low, and added only following the harvest. In the cellar we tasted some red samples, from tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon (2018), and cabernet franc (2014), the grapes that make up Noladós, one of their signature wines. There was also a promising graciano (2016).

Should I pick just one wine it would be the Vijiriega “Viji” 2017, a fruity and mellow wine with apple, citrus and herbal notes.

We decided to see if there were room for the night in Trevélez. This is the second highest municipality in Spain at 1.476 meters, a place with thin air, good for curing of the famous Trevélez hams. So we climbed the steep slopes, and Jan Inge maneuvered the car through the narrow streets of the town. At last we found a room in the highest hotel of Trevélez.

Hams hanging in the restaurant where we had dinner

Next morning, continuing over the province border to Málaga, we arrive in the village of Moclinejo, as we enter the historic Axarquía landscape. Here we met Ignacio Garijo. He represents both the well-known Bodegas Dimobe, a family company that dates from 1927, and the new project Viñedos Verticales. The director is Juan Muñoz, one of three brothers. We can maybe say that stylistically, at least philosophically, these wines fall in between the two producers from yesterday.

Dimobe’s highest vineyard: Moscatel de Alejandría on slate and stone ground. These are 50-60 years old, while average is 80-90. On the north side of the hill there is moscatel for dry wines, on the south side moscatel for sweet wines picked a little later

Ignacio and Jan Inge looking south

Dimobe was dedicated to sweet wines, as was the tradition in Málaga. Around 2001, when the DO Sierras de Málaga was established as a means to meet the challenges and demands of modern times, they started to incorporate dry table wines in their portfolio. Pepe Ávila (Bodegas Almijara, of Jarel fame) and Telmo Rodríguez probably made the first dry moscatel in the area in 1998 (I visited them in 2001, I think), and since the new regulations came many more followed. Now it’s the norm, and one can wonder about the future of the traditional sweet and fortified wines.

Dimobe owns 5 hectares and controls 38 in total. All viticultors work the same way: Harvest by hand, sulphur as the only chemical product, and organic farming (though not certified). This is easy: -In 40 years we have only had two mildew attacks, in 1971 and 2011.

The old part of the winery looks like a museum. But it is also in operation; there is actually wine in the barrels. -There are many seals in here, says my friend. Ignacio explains that it is goat’s stomachs, very useful in old times to keep wine from oxidating, from Quijote’s time untill much more recently.

We tasted Verticales’ four wines first. La Raspa 2018, a moscatel 70% and doradilla wine. The moscatel is aromatic and fresh, while the doradilla rounds it off. It’s an appealing wine; light in colour, and typical moscatel aromas of flowers, some herbs, and some citrus (lemon). Filitas y Lutitas 2016 is a moscatel 90% and PX. This is a complex and very interesting wine that you can read more about here. We had a 2018 sample of El Camaleón. The grape here is romé (or romé de la axarquía, to be precise). It’s a grape that’s difficult to work and that offers little colour. So the colour is light red, aroma predominantly of red fruits, and fine-grained tannins. Ignacio explains that the tannins come from the vat, and they need some time to soften. He also claims that the tannins from the vat help to get some colour, even if I don’t see how this could work. Anyway, all these wines come under the DO Sierras de Málaga.

The last Verticales wine is Noctiluca Vendimia Asoleada 2016, that is a DO Málaga and comes from grapes totally dried in the paseros. It arrives 10% alcohol and has never seen any barrel. It’s yellow because of some oxidation in the paseros; aroma of apricot, flowers, and some tender sweetness (173 g/L). We went straight over to a couple of wines from the extensive Dimobe range. Señorío de Broches 2017 comes from grapes dried only on one side of the clusters. It reaches 8% natural alcohol, then it’s fortified up to 15. It’s a fresh wine, easy-to-drink, with the same sweetness at the Noctiluca. Trasañejo is an expression from the old Málaga classification that means that the wine must be at least 5 years old. Pajarete Trasañejo is a naturally sweet wine from moscatel and PX (again with the same sweetness), and one is not allowed to use arrope, the traditional reduced must. Amber or mahogny in colour, nutty and concentrated, with figs and dried fruits. Absolutely delicious.

Time to get back to our rented flat on the beach of Málaga capital. I must also confess that my wife and I had the wonderful sparkling moscatel Tartratos 2015 that Ignacio gave us (for the road), during the evening and night. Yellow, yeasty, tasty; just delicious summer drinking.

Ignacio Garijo

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Articles

Los Patios de Beatas, Málaga

Los Patios de Beatas is a favourite in Málaga, and whenever I arrive in the city it will never take long untill I head for a table in that culinary palace, hotel and cultural oasis.

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Speaking of tables, please allow me a short sidestep before we get back to the restaurant. My wife had since she first saw the tables in the street and in the restaurant been an admirer of the work. So she took a picture of the signature, and looked up a facebook site. We soon found out that the artist lived in Mijas village. So we went to Mijas. There were no signs, no directions. But we didn’t give up: We talked to some locals, knocked on some doors, and suddenly we found ourselves in the artist’s living-room.

Joshua Van Den Eeden is of American and Flemish descendant; his parents met in Torremolinos in the 1960’s, and you have already realized that there is a romantic story that could be told. But we must make a short-cut: Joshua is now established with his home-workshop and gallery in Mijas. His tables are made of concrete, and the plates of copper and calcium. The turquoise colour comes from a reaction with air. Finally a glacier is put on top of it, to keep it from further development.

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Joshua Van Den Eeden

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Among other projects are benches for the Mijas municipality. So remember, next time you are there you will maybe sit on the artwork that you see here. The wine map to the left is for a friend. Take a closer look, and you will see a more detailed map of Rioja than the current official one. (You can find more info here.)

Back in the old town of Málaga, Beatas is a small street where the people behind the restaurant have rehabilitated two houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, both architectural pearls of historic importance, and both with beautiful patios. This is the background to the restaurant’s name.

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Julián Sanjuán

The driving force behind the project is Julián Sanjuán, who has studied oenology in Málaga and got his sommelier degree from Barcelona, and had already opened málaga wine museums both Ojén and Mijas, small towns in the Málaga province. He established Los Patios in 2012, and last year he also created a professional sommelier association in Málaga. With his network it’s then easy to understand why the restaurant is full of dedicated sommeliers that know how to describe a wine, and has the knowledge to pair wine and food successfully.

In the main floor there are three rooms with open doors between them, two are more normal restaurants, and one cosy bar where you sit on high stools at van den Erden’s tables. You can also buy the bottles that you see around you in the room and bring them home with you. In the next floor there are two dining rooms, a tasting room with natural light from an inside patio, and in the other jazz and flamenco concerts are held once in a while. The familiy also runs a small hotel in the other building.

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Key words are varied wines from all over Spain (and some from outside), and creative dishes based on seasonal products. Worth mentioning, this is snob-free zone, and all the wines are for drinking, more than 500 references in total. Some restaurants with a much shorter wine-list have some show-wines like Vega Sicilias in old vintages that noone has the wallet to buy. Here there are a few really expensive wines, but the difference is -and while we are talking about Ribera del Duero- that the most expensive Vegas and Sastres are a logical continuation of an extensive list of wines from the Ribera. For Andalusian wines I can only think of one contender, Armando Guerras place in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. (Read about him here.) But for wines from the Málaga province you simply go to Los Patios.

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After so many visits it’s difficult to pick just a few wines. I have tasted many local and regional wines, such as Sedella and Schatz from the Málaga province, the sherries of Ramiro Ibañez and Equipo Navazos from Cádiz. Sparklers from Recaredo (Cava), whites from Lagar de Pintos (Rías Baixas)and Avanthia (Valdeorras) and developed reds from Álvaro Palacios (Priorat), Ánima Negra (Mallorca) and Dominio de Atauta (Ribera del Duero) will rarely disappoint.

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My last visit was earlier this year. I will always discuss with the sommeliers, of course, but this is the kind of place that I can let them get the last word, and I can easily trust that the wine will be good and the pairings successful. This time the first wine was Igualado 2014 a red blend from nearby Ronda bodega Joaquín Fernández. Dark, young colour; balsamic aroma (mint), peppery and spicy, with mature tannins, that went well with “ternera con foie” (veal with foie gras), even if I would suspect the wine to be too dominant. Next was “texturas de panceta”, different textures of pork belly, served with green puré and fennel. the different ingredients blended superbly, and the wine that Julián suggested, Vetus 2011 from Toro (dark, red berries, blackcurrant, morello and a touch of minty oak, mature and integrated tannins, a very elegant Toro) was interesting to see with the varying textures of the food.

2017-03-04 14.55.49 Veal with fois, and a glass of Igualado

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The Vetus bottle, and Julián talking to the next table

After numerous visits to central Spain I have learned to know Daniel Jiménez-Landi (now of Comando G fame and a great ambassador of the light extraction garnacha style). Here we could savour one of his earlier offerings, the Piélago 2010. This Méntrida garnacha was quite hard in its younger years, but after some time in Los Patios’ cellar it had mellowed, and it was perfect with the lamb and quinoa dish.

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Piélago with lamb and quinoa

This was a unusual night in that we had only red wines. But you don’t always need to start with a champagne and end with a dessert wine and a grappa, do you? This particular night we ended with the fabulous Acinipo 2006 from a good friend, Ronda wine producer Friedrich Schatz. And this because the party had already wanted to order a plate of cheeses, a selection with predominantly hard cheeses, so I thought why not. Schatz is originally from Süd-Tirol, and the wine is made from the variety lemberger, a synonym for blaufränkisch. It’s quite different from the more northern-eastern wines though. Named after the Roman ruins further down the road, this wine is quite full-bodied with the dryness in the aftertaste that can be found in this producer’s wines, a feature that makes them go well with a variety of dishes.

On your first visit to Málaga, go to El Pimpi and the Antigua Casa de Guardia, because they are picturesque places and important for the city’s culinary history, and you will get decent tapas there. But once familiar with Málaga they are maybe not the places you will keep coming back to. Los Patios is a place that you never get tired of.

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Articles and Wine of the Week

Terruño Pizarroso at Bodegas Bentomiz

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Bodegas Bentomiz is located in Sayalonga in the Sierras de Málaga. There winter rains are plentyful and the summers long and dry, but this close to the Mediterranean sea the heat is never overwhelming. They dispose of around 80-100 years old vines in what is called in Spanish “terruño pizarroso”, slate soils.

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the Mediterranean as seen from the inside of the stylish Bauhaus bodega

It was the Dutch couple Clara Verheij, a translator, and André Both, a civil engineer, that moved down here more than twenty years ago. They don’t only make some fresh, fragrant wines from local grapes romé, moscatel and others. They set ut a restaurant as well, and we had lunch there not long ago. André is chef, but has had great help from Juan Quintanilla of restaurant Sollun in Nerja, of regional fame, whom André calls his mentor.

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Clara and André

For the lunches they take great pride in pairing 5 or more dishes with wines, not only their own. When we were there Valdespino‘s bold fino Inocente from Jerez was served as an apéritif, and Guitiérrez Colosía’s Puerto de Santa María Oloroso Sangre y Trabajadero was paired with a salad of diced beef in soy sauce. From their own “Ariyanas” range the Romé Rosé 2014 (a very light vintage) came along with a ceviche of corvina, while the Seco Sobre Lías Finas 2014 (a floral and mineral moscatel) came with cod on a spinach emulsion. The Tinto de Ensemblaje 2012 (the ‘ensemblaje’ being petit verdot, tempranillo, cabernet franc and romé, the fullest and most red and wild berry-fruity wine of the day) came with oxtail in reduced sauce with a cream of carrot, ginger and more. One of their dessert wines, appropriately called Naturalmente Dulce 2010 (a dark golden/ light amber coloured floral honey and almond-smelling wine) accompanied André’s own creation “Axarquía”: -We are here; the brown (bread-crumbs) is the earth, the white (vanilla ice) is the snow, says André.

2016-06-29 16.00.33 the Axarquía dessert

Here is another offering, this week’s wine, the Terruño Pizarroso, that got its name from the soil of the place, and that is also served by their lunches – though not that particular day.

The grapes for this moscatel de alejandría wine are grown between 450-900 meters. At Bentomiz no pesticides are used, and all work in the field is done by hand. After harvest the grapes are sundried, then matured for some months in French oak.

LR Ariyanas Terruo Pizarroso 2008

Ariyanas Terruño Pizarroso 2008 (Bodegas Bentomiz)

Golden colour. Aroma of white flowers and herbs, apricot and dried exotic fruits, with toasted hints. Quite sweet in the mouth, reminiscent of honey, but with a certain lightness too, some citrus (grapefruit), and some of the exotic elements continue ’till the end.

Price: Medium

Food: Tropical fruit desserts, fois gras, medium strong blue cheeses

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Articles

Sedella, in the Málaga hills

There is a lot to discover in the interior of Andalucía. Just like last year I have been holidaying in the area. And as there is much more than sand under the sun, a perfect occasion for visiting wineries. This year I saw some people that I already knew, and met some new people and tasted some new wines.

I had read about Lauren Rosillo and his red wines from the village of Sedella in the malagan Axarquía hills. So on a summer Sunday I wrote him an email (that can’t hurt anyone, I thought), and yes!, he answered almost directly. He is not there that much, as he is busy working as an oenologist for Riojan family company Martínez Bujanda, and all their activities around Spain. But that Monday morning he happened to be there on a short trip, so I popped in on my way to Córdoba.

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From the long and winding road I recognize the architect-drawn bodega building in some of the curves, so I’m no longer in doubt that I am on the right track. Lauren greets me. We are the only two people on that hill now.

To explore the bodega was done rather quickly. In one room there were a couple of steel tanks, in another a couple of concrete eggs, one tinaja (clay amphora) and two or three oak barrels, and apart from that there isn’t much more to report on.

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We are 700 meters over sea level, and there is a refreshing breeze coming up from the Mediterranean. To the east we find the Sierra de Tejeda mountains, and to the north La Maroma, a 2.066 meters high peak. In winter it can be down to minus 5 or 6 here, which is well reflected in the wines. The soil in this 1,8 hectar vineyard is slate, and the local romé and the nacional garnacha (known as grenache in France) were the grapes that were planted here around 1940. The vineyard management is organic, and both draft animals and ancient ploughs can be seen here at times.

20160627_121557 Silver coins are used to preserve the wine

Strangely enough, Lauren was born in Villarobledo (Albacete), a town that was once a real nucleous for production of tinajas, and which I have reported on earlier. (See this article about master tinajero Padilla.) The clay tinaja Lauren uses, however, is made in Úbeda, not far away in the Jaén province, in his own words “to honor the Andalusian tradition”.

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Only two wines are made: Laderas de Sedella and Sedella, respectively. Ladera (meaning hillside) is sourced from the steep vineyard towards the south. This wine is aged in concrete, and never sees any oak. The Sedella is from the vineyard on the other side of the winery, facing north-west. This wine is aged for 14-18 months in second hand oak.

Lauren calls them “mediterranean mountain wines”, Mountain Wine being an old expression for some of the dessert wines in the region, and also a branded name for collegue Telmo Rodríguez and his moscatel wines made in association with nearby Bodegas Almijara.

20160627_125412 Lauren Rosillo on the terrace facing the “laderas”

The alcoholic fermentation is always carried out in tank, and only natural yeast is used, the malolactic in concrete eggs. After malo he uses a little sulphur. In Lauren’s opinion it is at this stage that the use of sulphur is most important, as there are microbes that can do some “damage” here.

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We tasted the actual vintage. The Laderas de Sedella 2013, made from grapes romé, garnacha, and a touch of the white moscatel, had 13% alcohol, quite moderate (or: low) to be this far south. The wine is dark with a violet rim, with aromas of plums and cherry, wild berries. It’s rich, but with a lovely acidity, in the mouth, – and with a mineral aftertaste. Next vintage will carry the denomination Ánfora, by the way.

The Sedella 2013 is made from older vines in a north-facing vineyard. It is a touch darker with a violet rim, balsamic on the nose, very fruity, with darker fruits, notes of herbs, some lickorice, and just a hint of oak. On the palate it’s full, with some tannins, and a lovely acidity. The aftertaste is persistent. It’s a very appealing wine for medium term ageing.

Lauren calls the latter the “premium” wine. I understand what he means, and the Sedella is undoubtedly the more ambitious. Still I appreciate the difference: Laderas is the south-faced, clay aged wine, while the Sedella is the north-faced old barrel aged wine. Both very different, and both very good!

The first vintage was 2008. Lauren wanted to fetch an older vintage of the Sedella. We agreed to try the 2010, that had still some violet/purple, wild berries, plums. Rich, still that appealing fruit and acidity. Will keep.

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