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A wine time in Ronda!

Federico Schatz

THERE are nearly 30 different vineyards dotted around the Serrania de Ronda. Some even sit in the famous Tajo gorge below the town.

They include award-winning organic wines, such as those of Los Frutales and Federico Schatz, and vineyards owned by Austrians, Germans and even Argentinians.

There are wines, such as Vetas, Ramos Paul and Morosanto, already for sale in Japan and New York and others that merely serve the tables of the local restaurants in Ronda.

Either way, it is not difficult to see that this is a region that is very much on the up.

Celebrated wine writer John Radford wrote in the Olive Press that the ‘dream has taken hold’ and the Ronda wine industry has huge potential.

At a wine conference a few years ago Jancis Robinson, sat alongside some of the world’s best winemakers, such as American Paul Draper and Spain’s enfant terrible Alvaro Palacios, to spread the message.

So well has the industry progressed that in 2000 the area got its own particular subzone as part of the Sierras de Malaga appellation.

This was in recognition that there was potential for non-fortified wines in highland areas where the daytime temperatures during the ripening season are consistently high, while at night it can be very cold.

This is perfect as it gives a ‘rest’ to the vine and allows acidity and complexity to develop within the grape.

It has been something of a comeback since the wine industry was wiped out by phylloxera in the 19th century.

It began in 1982 when German flower seller Federico Schatz started planting various strains as an experiment. He was soon joined by Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe (the man who discovered Marbella) at Cortijo las Monjas near Arriate.

These days the grape variety regulations are generous in scope, but expect to find mostly Shiraz/Syrah, Petit-Verdot, Tempranillo and Cabernet-Sauvignon and also the local Romé thriving in vineyards at between 750 and 1,000 metres altitude.

While initially the wines were expensive at up to €40 a bottle the prices have now come down a fair bit and it is possible to buy various Ronda wines for less than €10 a bottle.

One of the most exciting vineyards to visit is Morosanto which is sited on the site of a former Roman villa, near Arriate, and where archaeologists have discovered proof that wine was made in Roman times.

Aside from a treading floor, they have discovered where the vats were held and how the wine juice flowed to them.

A total of 12 hectares are planted, including the grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and even Viognier.

The owner Miguel Angel Cespedes has a great art collection and is often on hand to charm visitors and explain the wines.

Other vineyards that can be visited include trailblazer Federico Schatz by appointment only.

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