Other sparkling wines Young. Winery: Jorge Ordoñez. D.O. Málaga-Sierras de Málaga. (Andalusia) Variety: Moscatel de Alejandría
Vine cultivation and wine production have been linked to the socioeconomic history of the province of Malaga since the colonisation of the coast by the Phoenicians in the ninth century AC. Viticulture and wine have been the cultural and economic backbone for the various people who have settled in the territory of Malaga, whether that be the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Visigoths, Muslims and Christians. There have been numerous historical references that show the importance of viticulture and wine in the province of Malaga, known has ““xarab al malaqui” in the Muslim era, and celebrated by many poets and writers throughout history, where in England the wine was known as "malligo sack" or "mountain" and in France "vins de Málaga".
The importance of wine in Malaga was such that in the late fifteenth century, by the will of the Catholic Monarchs, the first organisation of winegrowers in Spain was written: the Brotherhood of Vintners (La Hermandad de Viñeros). But in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the wines of Malaga suffered two major setbacks; the outbreak of phylloxera, which arrived in Malaga in 1874; and the numerous imitations as a result of the prestige of its wines.
In order to prevent counterfeiting and protect the general interests of the wine trade, in 1806, the ‘Casa y Compañía de Comercio de Viñeros de Málaga’ (the House and Trading Company of Málaga vintners) was created by royal decree, however the arrival of phylloxera in 1874 was a heavy blow, both in the development and trade of wines, and the region’s vineyards would never fully recover from the crisis. The diversion of commercial capital towards other activities contributed to this loss of prestige, rising from dubious practices and the need to reconstruct the vineyards. The wines were in crisis.
Historically, the different types of wines in Málaga have been extensive and complex due to their age and exporting tradition, the mastery of their winegrowers and winemakers, the towns that shape them, the native varieties and the nature of the production area. This area was traditionally composed of all the municipalities that now constitute the province of Malaga and some neighbouring, traditional suppliers of wine products to the city of Malaga, which became a strategic centre of international trade in wine through its port.
Wines from Málaga, whose quality had been unquestioned for centuries, managed to gradually rebuild their image and the DO Málaga was officially established and recognised in 1932. However, the outbreak of phylloxera and the territory’s uneven recovery resulted in the fragmentation of the area dedicated to vineyards, which used to occupy 110,000 hectares and spread across all of the towns in the region. The present situation reflects the history, since the vineyards are dispersed in masses of vines, spread more or less across the length and breadth of the province, which has also affected varietal diversity in the vineyards. Today, the DO Malaga brings together some 1300 hectares of registered vineyards, about 480 growers and about 45 wineries.
Climate, Soil and Varieties.
The Málaga province consists of several distinct zones. However, the whole territory is generally characterised as being mountainous and articulated by numerous mountains that are the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Vine-growing plots are located at altitudes ranging from sea level to 1000 metres, which encourages numerous microclimates.
The region is home to a Mediterranean climate, characterised by mild winters, dry summers, little precipitation and many hours of sun exposure due to its latitude at the southernmost point on the European Mediterranean coast. This climate helps and encourages the potential for maturation and ripening of the grapes, while the strategic location at the entrance of the Atlantic, mountainous topography and proximity to the sea helps buffer temperatures.
Axarquía and Los Montes are characterised by their shallow slate soils, abrupt orography, steep slopes and varying orientations. The proximity to the Mediterranean Sea results in mild temperatures, with annual precipitation varying around 300 and 700 mm, which in the driest areas is ideal for sun drying or pacification of the grapes. Los Montes also experiences extreme variations in temperature between day and night during the maturation period of the grape. The Serranía de Ronda subzone is characterised by its soils with limestone substrates and milder slopes, with high annual rainfall, and hot and dry summers. The subzone is located at altitudes between 600 and 1000 metres and also experiences stark differences in temperature between day and night. In Manilva, the soils are albarizo (chalky), with a high limestone content. This subzone lies on gentle slopes, and its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean gives it a humid and fresh microclimate. The northern zone, situated in the highlands of Antequera over 400 metres above sea level, is home to deep brown limestone soils, with lower slopes. Being an area inside the province the climate is more continental, with extreme temperatures in summer and winter.
The DO Málaga mainly produces their wines with the Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel de Málaga grape varieties, although other varieties are authorised, such as the Muscat de Alejandría, Moscatel Morisco, or other grapes such as Lairén, Doradilla and Rome.
Another feature that can be present in the classic wines of Málaga is the classic syrup, which is boiled ‘must’ reduced to 30% of its volume and then added to the core wine either before or after fermentation. After this syrup, the next step is the so called “vino de color”, also known as “pantomime”. To make this, the ‘must’ undergoes a longer boil, reducing it to up to 50% of its original volume.
Types and Varieties of Malaga Wine.
Wines produced in the region are distinguished into two different categories: fortified wines, with alcohol levels of between 15 and 22%; and unfortified wines, produced using overripe or dried grapes, with no artificial alcohol added, usually at around 13% alcohol.
Wines from Málaga can also be classified under different names depending on the length of ageing: Málaga Pálido, which is not aged; Málaga, aged between 6 and 24 months ; Málaga Noble, 2 to 3 years ; Málaga Añejo, 3 to 5 years; and Málaga Trasañejo, aged over 5 years.
Málaga Blanco Dulce. The production of this wine involves stopping fermentation with grape spirit, known as arrope. This is the base wine for all Málaga wines, except those that can be dry. It is usually made with Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel grapes which are left to dry in the sun for a couple of days. Fermentation usually takes place in traditional open oak barrels.
Málaga Seco. Usually this wine has a slightly higher alcohol content and is produced with a grape juice which has undergone fermentation. This is a typical “seco” (dry), with an alcoholic content of around 17-18.5%, while the alcoholic content of sweet wines is around 15-17%. The best dry Málagas spend a long time in contact with the wood, acquiring a character similar to Olorosos from Jerez or Montilla-Moriles.
Vino tierno. This is made with grapes that are laid out in the sun for 7 days, and either trodden or pressed on the eighth. It is used to soften harsh or drier wines, and is very sweet with a low alcohol content.
Pajarete. This is a ‘vino de licor’, or a naturally sweet wine with a sugar content of between 45g – 140 g/l, produced without adding arrope (grape syrup). It is aged and has an amber or dark amber colour.
Vino maestro. This can be just a simple mistela. It is obtained from grape must headed with alcohol at up to 17º, or a wine headed at 8º and fermented slowly.
Vino de Licor. It is a mixture of syrup, colour and brandy.
Vino de lágrima. Also known as Virgen or “de gota” (drop), these wines are produced exclusively using the juice from the first pressing, and can be enriched with syrup or other ingredients.
Vino borracho. This type of wine is an equal blend of wine and alcohol. Some wineries use this variety instead of pure alcohol to fortify the wine, which lesser disturbs the balance of the final product.
There are some wines in Málaga that also exist in international trade under the labels of sweet, cream, brown or golden, whose characteristics match the English definition.
DO Sierras de Málaga.
The production area of Sierras de Málaga coincides with the DO Málaga. The DO Sierras de Málaga was officially established many years later, in 2000, and is home to the Serrania de Ronda subzone. To really understand the roots of the Sierras de Malaga, it is important to discuss the role of phylloxera, which led to the reduction of the total area of vineyards, resulting in the creation of small wineries and medium sized vineyards. This enhanced the expression of the terroir and marked the beginning of what has evolved into the current styles of production and ageing of red, white and rosé wines. The use of historical red and white grape varieties has been recovered, including those from experimental fields established by the regional administration in 1995, which were perfectly adapted to the place and from which quality wines are obtained unde the DO Sierras de Malaga.
In fact, the difference between Málaga and DO Sierras de Málaga is that the latter produces “calmer” wines, with a lower alcohol content of between 10 – 15.5% and a sugar content below 12g/l. The wines are classified as red, white or rosé, and can be qualified according to their period of ageing as either: Crianza, with a minimum ageing of 2 years, of which at least 6 months must be in oak barrels; Reserva, aged for a minimum of 3 years including 12 months in oak barrels; and Gran Reserva, aged for a minimum of 5 years, 24 months of which must be in oak barrels.
The white grape varieties authorised by the DO include Pero Ximen (Pedro Ximénez), Moscatel de Alejandría, Moscatel Morisco (Moscatel de grano menudo), Chardonnay, Macabeo, Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, Lairen, Doradilla, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Verdejo and Viognier; as well as the red varieties Romé, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot, Graciano, Malbec, Monastrell and Tintilla de Rota.
Wines and Wineries.
One of the problems when trying to discover the world of Málagan wine is the sheer variety and complexity of the different styles the region offers. This variety is reflected in the diversity of characteristics, with wines coming in a wide range in colours from yellow to black, with fruity and floral aromas in younger wines, more complex aromas in mature wines, and tastes from dry to sweet wines.
Producers and winemakers carry out production with this sweet white wine and a notable series of ingredients. Some winemakers and wineries use a large quantity of syrup (arrope), since it has an almost burned caramel palate, which is what many fans expect of Malaga wine. Then there are wineries and winemakers who limit the amount of syrup used, producing a more elegant wine that is less syrupy. In a classic Malagan wine, as well as the basic sweet wine, there can also be arrope, vino tierno, vino maestro, a final addition of alcohol or vino borracho. The art of this winemaking is to create a harmonious blend from these elements, an extremely complicated task.
A pioneer of this new generation of wines is Jorge Ordóñez, from Malaga, with Bodegas y Viñedos Botani, in the Axarquía region, along with the Kracher family and other partners. Alois Kracher is a renowned Austrian winemaker, and was the founder of the winery, although his son Gerhard is now in charge of technical direction. The philosophy of the winery was to restore the old glory of Malaga wine and to produce unfortified dessert wine using the latest technology, as well as to pioneer the development of a dry Muscatel. The winery produces various types of wine, both under the Botani brand in DO Sierras de Málaga and the Jorge Ordóñez & Co. brand in DO Málaga. Under the Botani label in DO Sierras de Málaga, the winery produces: Blanco Seco, a single variety Moscatel de Alejandría, with fresh aromas, fresh fruit and white flowers, which is expressive and tasty with good acidity; their red wine Botani Garnacha, with aromas of red fruit, balsamic, herbs, ripe fruit, tasty with a good acidity; and Botani Espumoso, again 100% Moscatel de Alejandría. Under the DO Málaga, the winery produces wines using only the Moscatel de Alejandría grape. One of their wines that stands out is the naturally sweet Selección Especial Nº1 Blanco, with potent aromas, floral and honeyed notes, candied fruit, tasty, sweet, and fresh, with a good acidity and long finish. There is also the naturally sweet Victoria Nº2 Blanco, which is a reflection of a new vision and direction for Malagan wine, with a perfect harmony between concentration and subtlety, and a true representative of this region of sun and mysteries. This wine has a fresh taste, with a high quantity of exotic aromas with touches of minerality and a persistent taste. This is followed by the naturally sweet Viñas Viejas Nº3 Blanco, which is vinified in the barrel, with the highest complexity and intensity of aromas and flavours, among which stoned fruit are most prominent. Finally, there is the naturally sweet Esencia Nº4 Blanco, which ferments in French oak barrels for over two years, and is exotically scented with notes of fruit, melon, honey, and flower essences, with an intense palate of sweet peach compote, pear, honeydew melon, as well as a backdrop of racy acidity that gives the wine energy and concentration.
Another relatively unique and recent project is La Melonera, which is located in the Serranía de Ronda and is part of the Grupo Perelada with the help and support of Mas Martinet Assessoraments. The winery has planted various small sized plots at 800 metres above sea level, located between oaks, home to Syrah, Garnacha and Monastrell grapes, as well as native varieties such as Romé, Tintilla de Rota and Melonera.
Currently the winery produces two reds and one white under the Payoya Negra label, white and red wines under La Encina del Inglés and two reds under the Colección MHV (Manking Heritage Vines), Yo Sólo and Embajador Glávez, both of which are produced using native varieties which were nearly completely wiped out after the phylloxera outbreak, and have now been undertaken by the oenologist Delfi Sanahuja, founder of the ExEx en Castillo de Perelada collection, and Ana de Castro, a young winemaker of the La Melonera estate, paying homage to this unique varietal heritage.
Yo Sólo is a single variety wine made with the Rome grape, a variety native to Andalusia, and pays tribute to Malagan Bernando de Gálvez, Viceroy of New Spain and a key figure in US Independence for his contribution to the spread of Andalusian grape varieties in the USA, helping lay the foundations for viticulture in California.
Embajador Galvés is another red wine, and is a blend of two different grape varieties: Tintilla de Rota (67%), and Rom (33%). This wine honours the history of Ambassador Miguel Gálvez, who sent samples of great Malaga wines to Empress Caterina II in 1791, which granted import duties to Russia for Malaga wines.
An example of a traditional winery in the region would be Málaga Virgen. Bodegas Málaga Virgen, founded in 1885 by the López brothers, is still in the hands of the same family today and continues to produce vintage wines in a silent landscape that does not bow to the turmoil of the city.
The winery is home to 500 hectares of vineyards, more than half of which are registered under the Regulatory Council, and are divided between the north and south slopes of the Axarquía, where a large part of the vineyards belong to the Vistahermosa estate.
The different generations that have led the winery have adapted their wines to the tastes of each era. Thus, during the fifties, the Quina San Clemente gave the López Hermanos winery great popularity in the domestic market. Later Quina would give way to Málaga Virgen, which achieved a very high level of popularity, thanks to a successful advertising campaign and superb quality that helped to launch it as a leader in the world of sweet wines.
Currently, the winery produces two star products, Cartojal and Tres Leones, which have helped revolutionise muscatel wines. The winery also produces trasañejo wines that have been aged for over five years: PX Don Juan, el Moscatel Don Salvador (named after the grandparents of the current owners), and Seco Trasañejo. These wines have been aged in casks almost since the founding of the winery and are produced in strictly limited quantities. These wines boast exceptional organoleptic characteristics, and are the pride of the family winery, which itself has become the flagship in recovering the glorious past of Malagan trasañejo wine. The winery also produces wines under the DO Sierras de Málaga classification, the labels Barón de Rivero Blanco Chardonnay, Verdejo and the Rosado 1005 Syrah, as well the red Pernales, another single variety Syrah wine, aged for 18 months in new French (80%) and American oak barrels.
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