Steep Slate Slopes
Wine Road Trip Day 14 continued
icente is a fast driver and in less then 40 minutes we have snaked our way up to the little town of Moclinejo, situated 450 m above sea level. Here I am introduced to Juan Muñoz, his partner in this ambitious wine project.
His family has been in the wine making business for 3 generations, making sweet wines in the Málaga tradition. They own a small bodega in the village and a bigger project including a wine shop in Rincón de la Victoria. Juan joins us in the car and off, or rather up we go. High on a windy crest we stop and get out.The 360 degree views are absolutely spectacular spanning the vast expanse of the lalala to the north and the Mediterranean sea to the south – important indicators for the climate.
The impossibly steep vineyards drop from 1.000 meters to about 400 meters above sea level. The mostly ancient vines are bush trained, on these slopes trellising is utterly impossible. Here everything has to be done by hand. during harvest the only help is that of a mule, who carries the boxes filled with grapes.
The grapes are Muscat, Muscat of Alexandria to be exact. The wine tradition dates back to 600 BC and even flourished under Muslim rule. The typical Málaga wine is a Sherry like, sweet wine and was vastly exported. The mid 19th century saw the height of its fame before two pests, powdery mildew and later the phylloxera wiped out the industry. Only in the past 50 years, along with the tourists, a slow revival and new orientation in wine making has come.
From my high vantage point above the vineyards I listen to Vicente and Juan. They are explaining the old traditions of asoleo in the long, rectangular spaces near the fincas that I can make out in the distance below. It is there that the grapes are dried in order to concentrate sugars, aromas and, at the same time, the all important acidity, that keeps a sweet wine interesting.
But now it is time to walk a different wine path. Ana, Vicente’s winemaker wife is part of the team as well as Muñoz’s family. The common goal, to create dry wines, elaborated in new ways while respecting nature and tradition and above all autochtone varietals. While Muscat of Alexandria, locally called Muscat de Málaga, is neither autochtone nor rare, the old Andalusian grapes Romé and Doradilla are all but extinct and deserve a come back.
We drive back to the village for a visit of the old bodega right next the Muñoz family home.
Parts of the old cellar have been made into an interesting little museum. Enotourism is part of the business. Abeit old, the cellar is still a functioning part of the winery. I marvel at old barrels filled with sweet Málaga wines and out of date tools, wondering how difficult life in the vineyards and cellars must have been in the not too distant past.
Meanwhile Viñedos Verticales – Vertical Vineyards, such a fitting name – produces six wines. Two whites, three reds plus one sweet (white) wine. My favourite is the blend of Muscat de Alejandria and Pedro Ximénes which is aged in a very old 3.300 litre barrel, formerly used for Brandy.
Initially my plan was to stay in Fuengirola for a few days of walks on the beach but I decided against it. For my last days on the coast I craved a place with a view and preferably self catering. Also, I was getting bored having to go out for meals by myself. Luckily I found Finca Buenavista run by Casa en Chilches and met their lovely hosts Carmen and José Luis. There I relaxed for 2 days and was spoiled with stunning sunsets over the Mediterranean.
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