Tag Archives: Andalusia


Dorianne and I are staying in Málaga and Granada for six weeks. The other day, we took a tour of the beautiful white town, Ronda. We were going to go there anyway, but found a local tour company that combines your tour of the town with stops at two local wineries. All in all, a very nice day.

Southern Spain’s Andalucía region is an expansive area the borders the Mediterranean Sea on the south and east, Portugal on the west, and central Spain on the north. It includes cities like Seville, Granada, Málaga, Cordoba, Cadiz, and a host of other smaller towns and villages. The topography and climate are very much like southern California – warm and dry inland, slightly cooler and more humid near the sea. It is the home of millions of olive trees – and, where you can grow olives, you can usually grow grapes.

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Andalucian Valley

The wines of Andalucia are often sweet and/or fortified, such as the famous Sherry wines of the area around Jerez (LINK). Málaga is also known for sweet red wines (vino tinto dulce). But elsewhere, small producers are making dry wines out of unexpected varietals in the midst of olive country.

Our first stop was at Bodega Joaquín Fernández (LINK), just 3km north of Ronda. The bodega is located on a sloped property, and there are five hectares under cultivation, with an additional hectare about a mile away. They produce about 5,000 cases per year. Also, there is a rental unit where you can stay right at the vineyard.

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Moises Fernandez

Our tour was led by Moises Fernández, the son of the owner. He gave a very thorough tour of the vineyard and winemaking operation, with great detail on their organic processes. Only red varietals are grown at the bodega – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot (pronounced Mer-LOT here), Syrah (pronounced SEE-rak), and Garnacha.  A white wine and a rosé (Rosado) made from Merlot are signature wines here along with some red blends.

All wines are fermented in large stainless steel tanks – a fermentation for alcohol, and then a malolactic fermentation. The wines are then stored in oak barrelsFrench and American, for periods from 3 months to two years. This is regulated by the local D.O. Malaga Hills/Mountain. Another regulation is that Tempranillo, the most popular red wine grape of Spain, cannot be grown here. That is why local wine makers rely on Bordeaux and Rhône varietals. In keeping with their organic philosophy, then do not use foils on their wine bottles. Instead, they seal them with a thin coating of beeswax.

Of interest, they have been experimenting with storing bottled wine under water. Here is a sample.

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After the tour, we had a tasting and tapas in the bodega’s outdoor tasting room that overlooks the vines. We tasted all of the wines produced – six in total. Dorianne and I were both impressed with the craftsmanship here – the wines were uniformly well-balanced, and all were very enjoyable. Two favorites were the 2015 Blanco de Uva Tinta – a white Merlot, and the 2014 Garnacha, a blend of 90% Garnacha & 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Their wines sell in the 11€ to 15€ range – great values.

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The line up – note the beeswax seals.

Next, we had a couple of hours to tour Ronda – a beautiful city bisected by a river canyon that runs about 300 feet deep or more. If you visit Andalucía, Ronda should be on your list of places to visit. But back to the wine.

Our second stop would include lunch. We were driven a few kilometers out of town to a small bodega called Bodega Garcia Hildago, a small producer – about 1,000 cases annually. Here, we received a tour by Miguel Hildago, the owner and then a four-course lunch with some of his wines. His wife is an amazing cook, but she was away for the day, so he served the food that she had prepared earlier at a table on the patio of their beautiful home.

Miguel grows the same varietals as Bodega Joaquín Fernández, on about 2 hectares on his property. A few of his wines are in local restaurants, but otherwise, you have to visit the bodega to enjoy them. He makes four wines using organic techniques in his vineyard.

We particularly enjoyed his 2014 Zabel de Alcobazin, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. It was rich, full bodied, and had a nice hint of minerality to it. There was a good tannin structure, so it should age well. It sells for 14€.

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Our tour company, Tannin Trail (LINK), offered a great experience. The van was comfortable (only two couples on the tour, which may have been a factor), the guide, Kelly, who originates from South Africa and has lived in Spain for eight years, was very knowledgeable about the local viniculture and the wines of the region, and the two bodega stops were interesting and fun. The tour company is in the process of expanding their operations to the Rioja Region as well, and have been re-branding from Trippy Vines to Tannin Trail during that time. Their Tripadvisor.com ratings are also excellent (LINK).

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It was good to get out and visit some of the wine makers who are making dry wines in this area of mostly sweet wine production. To be sure, Andalucía has a lot to offer.


Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard


Dorianne and I spent Easter weekend in Jerez, Spain, both to take a break from the hectic Santa-Semana schedule in Seville, and to explore a bit of Sherry country. Andalusia, the southwestern region of Spain is known for its production of Sherry Wines.

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Lobby and Waiting Room for the Tours.

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There are a number of bodegas or Sherry houses in Jerez. The only one open on Good Friday afternoon was Gonzalez-Byass (LINK), makers of the best-selling Tio Pepe and a number of other Sherries and brandies. Gonzalez-Byass is the largest Sherry producer and also has wineries in every major Spanish Wine Region – they are sort of the Mondavi of Spain. The bodega is located adjacent to the Cathedral of Jerez and The Alcazar – prime real estate to be sure.

The tour cost 16 euros, including a tasting of two wines and a plate of tapas. Gonzalez-Byass is a big operation, and the tour was extensive. There were groups taken out in Spanish, English and German while we were there. You also take a tram for part of the tour. It is very touristy, but I was impressed at the amount of information provided by our guide, Rachel and the expanse of the bodega. The tour is not an intimate experience, but it is a great introduction to Sherry wine production.

Sherry is made with only white grapes, primarily palomino, which grows well in the gray soil of the region. Dry Sherry or Fino is made from earlier harvests, sweet sherry or Cream or Dulces is made by adding late harvest grapes to the blend, in some cases, raisins.

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Almost all Sherry is blended – a process where there is a stack of barrels four high. The bottom barrel contains up to 60 vintages, the second barrel is newer, the top barrel the current vintage. The winemaker takes 1/3 of the bottom barrel and then replaces that 1/3 with wine from the second barrel, and so on. Some from each of the upper barrels is added to the current wine being made. This, according to Gonzalez-Byass, results in a uniform product over time. There are some vintage Sherries, which are not made using this process.

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The grey soil of Andalusia.
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Samples of Brandies.
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Rachel shows us the Old Brandy Stills.
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Signed barrels at Gonzalez-Byass.

Here is a good PDF showing the process of making Sherry wines (LINK).

The tour concluded in a very modernistic tasting area built inside the storage building for Tio Pepe wines. We tasted three wines – a Fino, a Cream, and a Blend, and had tapas at a table shared with a mother and daughter from Moscow who had taken the English language tour. They told us about Russian wines, which I would love to try sometime.

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World’s Largest Weather Vane.
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Tasting Area inside Tio Pepe Storage Building.

I recommend Gonzalez-Byass for those who want to learn about Sherry production and enjoy the big touristy experience. They do it well. There are lots of opportunities to experience other bodegas in Jerez – just don’t go in Easter weekend!