Ronda; the vibrant wine town of the Malaga province
We know Ronda of course for its beautiful and world-famous bridge span (El Tago) across the valley, but this photogenic place is becoming increasingly famous for its wines. Ronda is the wine city of the province of Malaga and more and more visitors come especially for that. There are now more than 25 bodegas active in the Serrania de Ronda (the mountain area around Ronda) and this number is growing steadily. Young enthusiastic winemakers provide a storm of innovation. Various bodegas anticipate the future and only make ecological wines (including Schatz, Kieninger, Samsara and Pasos Largos). Other winemakers, in search of their cultural heritage, are also reviving the use of indigenous grapes (La Melonera). The quality of the wines has developed to an excellent level and is in great demand especially in northern Spain (Madrid and above). There the wines compete with the most beautiful Rioja's and Ribera del Duero's. There is also an increasing export to European countries, the United States and China. Strolling through the small picturesque streets in Ronda, we will find plenty of authentic wine bars and restaurants where the wines are paired with the culinary regional dishes. A paradise for wine lovers and culinary gourmets
Ronda wakes up
Despite the fact that the Phoenicians brought viticulture to Andalusia, it was mainly the Romans who provided the first major impulse in Ronda, about 50 years BC. The remains of their settlement, Acinipo (literally; wine country) still adorn the landscape. Remarkably enough, viticulture also flourished during the rule of the Moors. It was the grape louse at the end of the nineteenth century, as in all of Europe, ruined viticulture. It was not until the end of the twentieth century that Ronda slowly awakened from his long dormant existence with the project of the flamboyant Prince of Hohenlohe. This jet set star from Marbella, together with the Madrileen Juan Manuel Vetas (now owner of bodega Vetas), saw the excellent possibilities of the abandoned vineyards of the Serrania de Ronda. Juan Manuel emigrated to the Medoc in France at a young age and worked there for several prestigious chateaus. The Baron and he produced Bordeaux-inspired wines together. With a touch of French bravado and knowledge, a cautious, new thriving future was born for the region. Their influence is noticeable to this day. In their wake came innovative winemakers such as 'mister biodynamic wine' Frederico Schatz and Manuel Maria Lopez Dominques. The latter was born and raised in Ronda and traveled the world as a flamenco singer to buy his first vineyard in 1998 and start his bodega Pasos largos. They now belong to the 'old guard'. Good examples of recently started bodegas by very young winemakers are Samsara and Badman wines.
Climate and ´terroir´
The climate and 'terroir' of the Serrania de Ronda offer many possibilities
The Serrania de Ronda is located at an altitude of 750 to 1000 meters above sea level and has a Mediterranean climate. The average temperature is 15C. There is a significant temperature difference between day and night during the ripening period of the grapes. The low night temperature is important for the grapes to cool down and, as it were, get some rest from the blistering heat of the day. This allows the grape, among other things, to develop sufficient acidity to make a balanced wine. After all, nobody wants a wine of 'cooked fruit'. The proximity of the Mediterranean Sea also provides a cooling influence that makes it possible to make quality wines in the south. The high daytime temperatures, on the other hand, are also important for, for example, a late-ripening grape such as Petit Verdot to thrive. Due to the diverse valleys and the different orientations of the vineyards in relation to the sun (from north to south and everything in between), there is a multitude of microclimates that winemakers can take advantage of when planting grape varieties and choosing the wine style.
The soil consists of sand, clay and limestone. The top layer of the soil consists mainly of poor clayey soil. Fattier clay with more organic matter is in the lower vineyards in the valleys near riverbeds. In the Serrania de Ronda, the soil composition is suitable for many well-known international grape varieties and completely different from, for example, the hard slate layers of the Axarguia, where the muscatel grapes thrive so well and with their roots pierce the ground deeply in search of nutrients.
In short, the climate and 'terroir' offer plenty of opportunities to produce a wide range of mainly silent (not fortified) quality wines in various styles.
Ronda is mainly red
Of course, excellent white wines and even a few rosé wines are made in the Serrania de Ronda. Such as the Burgundian mineral Chardonnay from Schatz or the delicious butter babbler from the same grape from Descalzos Viejos. Yet the red wines are the main trademark. From robust bodies to subtle light fruit explosions, it's all there. The main red grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Tintalla de Rota (Graciano), Granacha and Merlot. The heavy, powerful grape varieties dominate the pallet, which is reflected in a number of iconic wines from the region such as the Petit Verdot Gran Reserva from bodega Vetas and Gadeo from Cortijo de Aquilares, both made from 100% Petit Verdot. The climate for this very special grape is not only suitable for better and faster ripening on the vine, but also ensures naturally softer tannins in the grape that do not require lengthy barrel and bottle ageing. In addition, there are plenty of blends of the various grape varieties that ensure beautifully balanced wines. Good examples are Payoya Negra by Bodega Melonera (Tintalla de Rota, Rome, Syrah), Pago El Espino by bodega Cortijo Los Aguilares (Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Syrah) and Lunares Tinto 2018 by Bodegas Lunares (Syrah, Tempranillo, Merlot, Granacha) . This last wine was recently named this year's best red wine from the province
The crisp, sparkling Tempranillo from the young winemakers of Badman wines illustrates that this freshness is also possible in the extreme south of Spain.
Ronda is especially red and it takes a voyage of discovery to explore it to its distant horizons.
Enotourism is growing
Descalzos Viejos is the bodega of the Argentinian Flavio Salesi and Paco Retamero from Malaga.
They bought the beautiful old monastery from 1505 in 1998 and then spent five years restoring and converting it into a bodega. The gem hangs like a bird's nest on the steep wall of the hill on which Ronda is built. When the monastery moved to the city, the monks continued to work the gardens 'descalzos' or barefoot, hence the name. The vineyards are located right below the monastery in the beautiful valley 'Hoya del Tajo'. Such an important microclimate manifests itself here because it is always a few degrees warmer than in the rest of the area, which favors the ripening of the grapes (bodega Samsara also has its vineyards).
As refined and with respect for the past as the owners have taken on the renovation of the monastery (Flavio is an architect by origin), they also make beautiful wines. Sipping on a golden-yellow glass of white wine, under the rustling shade of an old avocado tree in the monastery garden, you imagine yourself appropriately in higher spheres. A visit to this bodega stimulates all the senses.
Frederico Schatz's Bodega Schatz is also located near Ronda. Frederico is a staunch supporter of biodynamic agriculture that goes one step further than ecological one. An integral look is taken at all natural processes that can influence the cultivation of grapes up to and including the phase of the moon. The vineyards of Bodega Schatz are lined with trees and vegetation that attract birds that in turn eat insects that can harm the grapes. Pesticides are a taboo for him.
Frederico Schatz can tell passionately about how his philosophy works like no other. Based on his biodynamic method, he makes culinary wines with his own unique style.
Whether it's a nice wine and tapas tour, a fascinating wine with dinner at home or a visit to one of the many excellent bodegas, Ronda 'rules'.