The past decade has witnessed a huge growth in the number of wines produced in the Serranía de Ronda and the recognition they receive increases year on year. There are 21 bodegas in the appellation known as Serranía de Ronda, a sub zone of the Denominacion de Serranía de Malaga. As one might expect from Spanish wines, wines of the Serranía de Ronda tend to be fruity, spicy and full of attitude and the family run bodegas reflect the intimacy and passion of the winemaker's art.
The Roman city of Acinipo was an important area for viticulture
Wine has been grown in the Serrania de Ronda for thousands of years, first by the Phoenecians, then by the Romans who sent wine from Acinipo to Malaga and on to Rome. Artefacts uncovered at Acinipo include coins minted with a bunch of grapes and the meaning of the word 'Acinipo' originates from the Latin 'cluster' and Greek 'city' leading to the idea that 'Acinipo' means city of wine. The terroir and climate of the Serranía de Ronda is, indeed, ideally suited to viticulture, the vineyards in the Ronda area are the highest in the Denominacion de Origen de Sierras de Málaga, at around 750m - 900M and it is partly this altitude that lends such attitude to the wines in this appellation.
The terroir and climate of the Serranía de Ronda offers perfect conditions for the vines
The micro climate of the valley means hot days and cool nights, this, combined with the altitude, makes the ideal conditions for the grapes, slowing the ripening process and maintaining acidity. Like the world famous wine growing regions of Chablis, Champagne and Sancerre, the geology of the area is predominantly limestone which offers beneficial nutrients to the vines, encouraging growth and producing sweeter grapes, limestone also retains moisture in dry weather and offers good drainage during the winter. Decent precipitation and protection from the east and west winds is offered by the protection of the mountain ranges of the Sierra de las Nieves and Sierra de Grazalema.
There are 21 bodegas within easy reach of the villa
Perhaps the most prestigious is Bodega Doña Felisa whose Chinchilla wines are highly regarded throughout the Serranía and whose 2010 Encaste, a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, recently received Gold in Lyon. The bodega is in a high and remote location. Accessed via an extremely bumpy track with stunning views at a height of around 800m. The lovely Gema will conduct a friendly tour of the vineyards, the cellars and take charge of the tasting, answering your questions with confidence and ease. There is an interesting collection of artefacts uncovered when the vines were planted that warrants a very close inspection. Gema is justly proud of what she and her husband have acheived from the wines themselves to the beautiful labels designed by Andalucian artists. A visit to this winery is very highly recommended.
A short walk from the villa takes you to an organic winery
Less than a kilometre away, an easy stroll, is Bodega Joaquin Fernandez with a beautiful cobbled courtyard and a terrace with incredible views over the valley known as Llano de la Cruz. Moses offers an informative and detailed tour but perhaps not detailed enough for the aficionado. Tastings are carried out on the lovely covered terrace which is often used for weddings, the views are knockout. The wines produced by this bodega are known as Los Frutales, we were particularly intrigued by the Blanco de Uva Tinta. The wines here are all organic and sealed with beeswax, vines are underplanted with pollinator attracting plants, rosemary, lavender and great attention is paid to the flora and fauna that make up this delicately balanced eco-system.
Barefoot nuns and traditional varietals
This is Spain, so of course Reds predominate but there are also some good rosés to be enjoyed. Cortijo Los Aguillares produces a great rosé, the instantly recognisable label depicts the tools associated with the viticulturist's art. Closer to Ronda, in the shadow of el Tajo, facing the blistering south sun and housed in the C16th former convent of the barefoot Trintarians, Descalzos Viejos (the old barefoot ones) runs tours from its gorgeously verdant bodega. The frescoes uncovered beneath years of whitewash in the former church, now cellar, are really beautiful. For further reading on Descalzos Viejos please see the post on DV coming later this year. The Chardonnay, DV Aires and Rufina are particularly good. One of the best whites in the area is Encina del Ingles from just down the road at La Melonera. This bodega has reintroduced traditional varietals that were on the brink of extinction following the phylloxera plague of the mid nineteenth century. The site was chosen after years of painstaking research and varietals include Rome, Tintilla, Blasco and Melonera. The lovely video above of La Melonera might entice you to book a tasting here or click on the link below.
Sunny vineyards and cool cellars
Of the 21 bodegas in the Serrania de Ronda, some offer tastings for as few as four people, others prefer larger groups, uniquely, Descalzos Viejos offers tastings to couples which makes it the most intimate and a lovely choice for a romantic break. Often the views from the vineyards are incredible, so many being at decent altitudes and the passion that has gone into crafting this wines is palpable.
Take time to sample what's on offer in the Serrania de Ronda
Just a selection of a few of the wines on offer in the Serrania de Ronda - from full bodied reds to fruity rosés and refreshing whites, there's something to suit everyone's palate. We like to keep a selection in the wine cooler in the honesty bar at El Olivar so you can try them for yourself. Our top tipple for Christmas was the Encaste 2010 which stands up to the punchy flavours of a Boxing day spread, it's also great with the flavoursome rabbit or ox cheek stews of the Serranía. A good alternative might be the DV + or DV Rufina. In the hot Spanish evenings we like the Lunera from Morosanto (served at a controversial 15 degrees), Encina del Ingles from La Melonera, DV chardonnay or Cortijo los Aguillares' Rosado, especially with lighter, vegetable based dishes. Bodega F Schatz produce some nice wines that are served in many of the local eateries, many of Ronda's restaurants serve wines from the local bodegas and you can try them by the glass at Entre Vinos. Look out for the Samsara that you can order at Restaurant Almocábar down in Barrio San Francisco.
When in Ronda, do as the Rondeños do
Whilst Tempranillo varietals are grown in the Serranía, other varietals include Pinot Noir, Blasco, Petit Verdot, Romé, Chardonnay, Muskattrollinger, Lemberger, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Melonera, Garnacha and Tintilla. The Rondeños are justly proud of their wine making history and its recent revival and their passion for local wines is infectious. If you are particularly interested in the history of viticulture head to the Museo Del Vino de Ronda in La Ciudad which is run by Bodegas La Sangre de Ronda and sells a good selection of local wines. If you are more a fan of the food and wine of the Serranía than you are of its history then you would do well to head to one of Ronda's many delicatessens, several of which are truly outstanding and offer a very wide selection of the wines of the Serranía de Ronda but the best way to get to know these wines is to visit a vineyard and try them for yourself. Winetasting in one of the vineyards of the Serranía de Ronda is a great way to spend an afternoon in an intimate, relaxed and friendly environment that has you coming back for more.