Sea change (Malaga, Spain)

What motivates people to step away from their comfort zones and start a new adventure in an unfamiliar place? This is a question that I ask myself quite regularly as I make my journey around the world, and encounter people who somehow have ended up somewhere far from their roots, much like myself. In my travels I have encountered viticulturalists and winemakers who are working in a region or country not their own, mostly for the love and challenge of great wine. Everything from Kiwis in the United States, South Africans in Canada, to Swiss in Germany and Spain, and Germans in Italy. And without question there are French everywhere, which is probably to do with the fact that outside of France there are more opportunities to create a reputation for themselves and build something from the ground up. This has particularly been the case in Spain, with at least six wineries I have visited being either founded by a French winemaker or at least employing one.

A cortijo where moscatel grapes are left to dry in the sun
One such Frenchman was David, who works with Telmo and Pablo from the Companio de Vinos that I visited in Rioja. David originally hails not far from Bordeaux, and with Sauternes very close to his heart he was completely besotted with the idea of sculpting a world-class sweet wine from the steep mountain vineyards above Malaga. I visited him to learn more about this unique project. Many years ago Telmo and Pablo discovered this part of Spain that used to be one of the most important for the production of sweet wine in Europe. Like all of their other projects in various regions around the country, they spent many years researching experimenting and learning about the unique terroir and the traditional wines here. They invited David to join the project, and introduced him to a different way of making sweet wines than those he was familiar with. In this part of the world there aren’t really any problems ripening the fruit on the vine, but there are in getting enough concentration in the fruit to make a fresh yet structured sweet wine with the potential to age them in bottle.
Steep vineyards in Malaga
The way that they do it is by drying the fruit after they are harvested on mats on the ground, allowing the fruit to raisin and increase the sugar percentage. A very slow press in a very traditional way extracts the sweet nectar, and the very slow fermentation at low temperatures means the delicacy of the fruit and the integrity of the acidity is protected before it then goes into barrels for ageing. Unlike many muscatel wines in Spain, this wine is not fortified, but it does have a high alcohol content. It also isn’t handled oxidatively, and is a more recognisable sweet wine than other famous examples from Spain. The combination of the steepness of the slopes, and the microclimates in the secluded valleys make for perfumed and structured wines, many of which I got to sample directly from the barrel. As I have now come to expect, the 2010 vintage was exceptional, but there was one special wine from 2005 that was harvested by hand during a lunar eclipse that took a very long time to ferment. A transcendent wine for the ages, but who knows when it will be released. It will most definitely win trophies if it gets entered into wine competitions.
David shows me the traditional press
Click here to see more photos from my visit to Malaga, Spain. To finish my Spanish winery tour for the time being, the next week I visit Jerez.


Filed under Winery Visits

2 responses to “Sea change (Malaga, Spain)

  1. There's nothing I love more than traveling! I hope you're having an amazing time in Spain!


  2. Thanks Jasmine, I had a great time in Spain. I'm already in Portugal celebrating my birthday. Travel really does broaden the mind, especially when it relates to wine.


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