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HOT Attractions - Best Cellars

Southern Spain's wine culture is renowned the world over, not least for its sherry. A few leisurely days following historic wine routes in Andalucia and Murcia, stopping off to sample the delights of their legendary bodegas —many of which are also magnificent examples of ancient architecture - is an enticing prospect whatever the season.

At this time of year, the spectacular countryside is clothed in the myriad hues of autumn, making a trip inland all the more unforgettable. And with the festive season and a long round of parties approaching fast, it's the ideal opportunity to tour renowned wineries and stock up on the most revered of Bacchanial treats. From the light, white, fruity young wines typical of Cádiz and Huelva, and the amazingly wide selection of sherries from Jerez and Córdoba... to the dark and earthy reds of Murcia, and the sweet dessert wines of Malaga, there is something to tempt every palate.

The wine-making tradition in Spain spans more than 2,000 years, although it is not certain who first introduced it. Some believe it was introduced by the Greeks over 2,500 years ago. Others that it dates back even further to the arrival of the Phoenician traders from Syria. What is certain is that throughout Southern Spain it was heartily enjoyed by both the Romans and the Moors — the latter, who despite their religious vows, professed to use it for medicinal purposes.

The export of Andalusian wines dates back to the XV century and the landing of Sir Francis Drake who ransacked the port of Cádiz, stealing some 3,000 barrels of sherry which he took back to the appreciative English Court. Thanks to him, the British became great aficionados of sherry (or sack as it was then known), and remain one its best ambassadors. Today sherry is famous the world over, much like many other fine wines produced in the area. Indeed, it is fair to say that to think of Spain is to conjure up thoughts of its strong vinicultural tradition.

There are four official Denominación de Origen areas in Andalucía. Jerez is undoubtedly the most internationally renowned and, together with Puerto de Santa María and San Lucar de Barrameda, forms the so-called sherry triangle for which the province of Cádiz is justly acclaimed. There are several variations of the popular fortified wine, including fino, manzanilla, amontillado and cream, among others, and more than 60 registered cellars including those of Domecq, Gonzalez-Byass, Harveys, Osborne, Terry and Sandeman. Guided tours and Castings are available at many and an opportunity not to be missed.

The Montilla-Moriles region, located in the province of Córdoba, is another famous sherry centre. With a myth that Montilla-produced wines don't cause hangovers, the official distinguishing factor between the two is the grape variety used. While the Palomino grape is used for sherry, most Montilla wine is made from Pedro Ximénez vines.

The Condado de Huelva is traditionally known for its fortified oloroso wine made from the Zalema grape. However, after centuries of being over-shadowed by its Jerez neighbour, Huelva nowadays produces popular unaged table whites, an excellent accompaniment to the fish and seafood so abundant on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

The final D.O. destination in Andalucía is Malaga, where the province's Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez sweet wines have been famous for centuries. Full-bodied and of almost a syrupy consistency, Málaga's dessert wines are difficult to find outside Spain and are thus best enjoyed here in their place of origin. The best-known of these sweet wines is Málaga Extra Virgen. At the Museo del Vino Malaga in the pretty village of Ojén, just above Marbella and attracting 20,000 visitors every year, you can while away a pleasant afternoon sampling the finest wines and sherries from across Andalucía, while taking a fascinating trip back in time.

 For those resident on, or visiting the Costa Cálida, meanwhile, the province of Murcia is home to three Denominación de Origen regions: Jumilla, Yecla and Bullas, all of which produce rich, unpretentious red wines that are full, round and the perfect choice to complement hearty country casseroles and all types of game.

The Montilla-Moriles region, located in the province of Cordoba, is another famous sherry centre. With a myth that Montilla-produced wines don't cause hangovers, the official distinguishing factor between the two is the grape variety used. While the Palomino grape is used for sherry, most Montilla wine is made from Pedro Xinnenez vines.

The Condado de Huelva is traditionally known for its fortified oloroso wine made from the Zalema grape. However, after centuries of being over-shadowed by its Jerez neighbour, Huelva nowadays produces popular unaged table whites, an excellent accompaniment to the fish and seafood so abundant on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

The final D.O. destination in Andalucia is Malaga, where the province's Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez sweet wines have been famous f6r centuries. Full-bodied and of almost a syrupy consistency, Malaga's dessert wines are difficult to find outside Spain and are thus best enjoyed here in their place of origin. The best-known of these sweet wines is Malaga Extra Virgen. At the Museo del Vino Malaga in the pretty village of 00, just above Marbella and attracting 20,000 visitors every year, you can

Local wine-growing traditions date back more than.2000 year4s while away a pleasant afternoon sampling the finest wines and sherries from across Andalucia, while taking a fascinating trip back in time. For those resident on, or visiting the Costa Calida, meanwhile, the province of Murcia is home to three DenominaciOn de Origen regions: Jumilla, Yecla and Bullas, all of which produce rich, unpretentious red wines that are full, round and the perfect choice to complement hearty country casseroles and all types of game.

With a winemaking tradition as strong and as successful as Southern Spain's, it should come as no surprise that the first crop of the season calls for a big celebration Spanish-style. For however many grape variations and DO rivalries might exist, everyone is agreed on marking the start of the September grape harvest (Vendimia) with a lavish fiesta including the blessing of the fruit, processions, fireworks, bullfights, flamenco dancing, concerts and general rejoicing.

For those who take their wine seriously, or who would like to expand their depth of knowledge and appreciation of it, The Wine Academy of Spain - based in Elviria (Marbella) specialises in a variety of informative courses and international Symposia. This month they are organising a trip to Australia for professionals, hosted by expert, Dr Richard Smith, followed next summer by a tour of Californian vineyards held in collaboration with the Davis University of California.

So, the next time you are washing down a Spanish cured ham with a dry fino, or spoiling yourself with a sweet glass of Málaga, remember that you are sipping a taste of Southern Spain's history, tradition and timeless allure.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Consejo Regulador de las D.D.O.
"Jerez-Xeres-Sherry", "Manzanilla-San Lócar de Bda" & "Vinagre de Jerez":
Avda. A. Álvaro Domecq 2,.
Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz
Tel: (+34) 956 332 050
www.sherry.org
 
Murcia Tourism Portal:
 www.murciaturistica.com
 
Museo del Vino Malaga:
C/ Carrera 39, Ojen, Marbella
Tel: (+34) 952 881 453
Turismo Andaluz:
www.andalucia.org
 
The Wine Academy of Spain
Urb. Romana Playa, Elviria, Marbella
Tel: (+34) 952 839 898
www.thewineacademy.com

Please note: Every effort was made to check the accuracy of the information contained within our archived HOT Properties Magazine articles at the time of originally going to press, but may well have been superseded over the ensuing years. They are now made available as historical archival information only. The said information has not been reviewed subsequently for present day accuracy nor has it been updated and we expressly disclaim any duty or obligation to do so. VIVA cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions, nor for the authenticity of any claims or statements made by third parties. We therefore strongly recommend that readers of these archived articles make their own thorough checks before entering into any kind of transaction. Prices were correct at the time of publication but may now vary due to circumstances beyond our control. The views and opinions of editorial contributors do not necessarily reflect those of VIVA .
 

HOT Properties Magazine Issue 53 - 2005

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