Bodegas Toro Albalá is a hidden gem, full of character and history and not forgetting a producer of excellent wines and vinegars.
All the Pedro Ximenez grapes used come from the Moriles Alto region with over 145 hectares used each year, 75 hectares which they own and 70 hectares under their direct supervision.
As well as the bodega we visited in Aguilar de la Frontera producing it’s Pedro Ximenez wines, they have set aside 1200 casks in the Moriles area for the production of quality balsamic and dry vinegars along with some Fino and Amontillado wines. They also have facilities in the towns of Lucena and Moriles for vinification in stainless steel tanks.
When we plan our trips we often seek recommendations, especially from our friends Rafa and Alberto. We were excited to learn that Rafa had organised a personal tour of Bodegas Toro Albala and even better he would accompany us on our visit.
We were not sure what to expect but the warm and enthusiastic welcome from Valentina Pitton, Export Manager for the UK, The Netherlands, Austria and Latin America, certainly set the scene for what was going to be a very memorable visit indeed.
Valentina first took us to where the bottles are sealed and labelled, very artisan, everything is done by hand with pride, authenticity, attention to detail and exudes originality.
In particular the labels Don P.X. Convento Selección are made from oak wood with text burned into the wood and then handwritten details of the vintage along with the bottle numbers are added.
It was fascinating to hear and see how the oak labels were produced, attached to the bottles held in place with rubber bands and taking 2 days to fully adhere.
An extra touch was attaching a string from the label to the cork to ensure that there could have been no tampering of the bottle. More fascinating was the fact that Toro Albalá have taken into consideration that some people buy to collect their bottles and therefore don’t open them.
So with the Don P.X. Convento Selección range, they attach a sample bottle so that the buyer can try while still keeping the integrity of their bottle.
We soon discovered that Toro Albalá was more than just a Bodega.
The roots of the company date back to 1844 to a small bodega La Noria, located near to the Aguilar castle founded by Antonio Sánchez.
Jose María Toro Albalá took over the premises of a decommissioned electric substation in 1922 and converted it into the bodega we see today.
This has resulted in the Eléctrico references in some of their wines especially the Eléctrico Bombilla Fino bottled in the shape of a light bulb.
Fortunately we were able to bring one home which we will review in the near future. That is if we want to open such a fantastically packaged wine.
We have already reviewed the Fino eléctrico en Rama here and will be posting further reviews of some of their other wines in the near future.
Next stop on our tour was the wine museum which is also used as a tasting room. Wow is probably the best word we can use to describe the room that we entered.
There is so much to see from the Amontillado casks in the ceiling surrounding the room which demonstrate the solera production technique and ageing process of this wine. Hundreds of paintings of grape varieties adorn the walls and there are also examples of ancient and original wine making equipment.
A massive library of wine books in many languages (possibly Spain’s largest) and to top it all an ancient vessel that has been proven to have shipped wine from the region to Rome hundreds of years ago are also in the museum.
You could spend hours in this room alone. In simple terms, it captures the history of wine production, not just in the Montilla-Moriles region but in Spain and around the world.
Next stop, and what a treat we were in for, was the the bodega that is set down around 4 meters underground.
It is certainly a cool, dark and welcoming environment. Around the the walls are old posters of Ferias (Festivals) from the major cities of the region covered with the black mould from the evaporation of the wines. There are also empty bottles from bodegas from all around Andalucia as well. This is a similar mould to that found in whisky maturation warehouses in Scotland.
Our first wine was a Fino straight from the cask where we attempted to be venenciadors before we tried it.
The next wine we tried was an absolute honour & privilege to taste, the “Friendship Cask”. Valentina poured us a generous measure of this straight from the cask, an Amontillado that is over a 100 years old at 21%.
Talking of friendship, Antonio Sánchez Romero, oenologist and owner meets with his friends at 1pm everyday to share wines from the bodega and this is one of the wines that he sometime pours.
Then to another unforgettable experience we got to try a 1955 vintage Pedro Ximenez straight from the cask. This was given 98 Parker puntos or points 2 weeks previously.
What a truly incredible experience to be able to try these wines.
Then it was on to our last stop on the tour was the second museum on site, one devoted to art and archaeology and again you could spend hours exploring the 2 rooms
There is such an eclectic mix of objects in this museum with ancient items from the Prehistoric, Roman, Iberian or Islamic eras, some of them even dating from the pre-Hispanic period.
Art pieces from more modern times include typewriters, telegraphs, printing machines and a geiger counter used during World War II to monitor the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A solera of casks from La Noria bodega in 1844 along with foundation casks of the current bodega can be found here too.
A visit to Bodegas Toro Albalá is well worth just for the two museums alone but along with the wines you have a fantastic way to spend a few hours.
Valentina was so hospitable and we definitely want to return in September during our next visit.