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Erik experiences “Tasty Andalucia”

My journey through Andalucia started in September 2014 when my wife Laura and I visited Montilla-Moriles and then the Sherry Triangle.

Between us we have now clocked up 11 trips to Andalucia, visited 38 bodegas and lagars to date and have had too many culinary experiences to mention. Visits to Sevilla, Jaen, Granada, Montilla, Moriles, Aguilar de la Frontera, Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Sanlucar de Barameda, Malaga and Cordoba have broadened our knowledge and experience of the region.

In 2015 we started our website, montillamorileswines.com to document our travels, the wines, gastronomy, culture and people of the Montilla-Moriles and others in Spain that we have encountered along the way.

Coinciding with the blog, twitter, facebook and instagram accounts were set up to support our activities.
Twitter- @MMWinesUK @TheWhiskyKiwi @LauraWBurgess
Instagram – mmwinesuk, erik_burgess and lauraburgess39
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MMWinesUK/

Our presence on all of these platforms has presented us with opportunities that we could not have imagined:-
• Acknowledgement and recognition in Montilla-Moriles
• Being invited to write the introduction for Montilla-Moriles for the Vinoble website with its recognition in Jerez

Laura and I became Technical Specialists in the Generous Wines and Vinegars of D.O.P. Montilla-Moriles in September 2016 and in September this year I qualified as a Certified Sherry Educator with D.O Jerez-Xérès-Sherry which includes D.O. Manzanilla, Sanlúcar de Barrameda

The next opportunity arose in mid-October when I was invited by Tasty Andalucia, as part of their ongoing promotional campaign to raise awareness of the region, to join them for a tour in  mid November.

So what is Tasty Andalucia?

To directly quote from their website: – “Tasty Andalucía is a project of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development of the Andalusian Regional Government that was born with the aim of promoting the consumption of food and fish products from Andalusia. In addition to promoting knowledge of environmentally friendly food production techniques.
This is an initiative aimed at international tourists, to increase the visitor’s knowledge and identification of Andalusian agri-food products and, in turn, disseminate the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
The richness of the natural areas of Andalusia: seas, mountains, deserts, meadows, countryside, fertile plains, orchards, rivers, banks, marshes and forests; the different types of climates that occur in these environments, from the subtropical to the desert, passing through the high mountains and the Mediterranean; the hours of sunlight; the nutrients of its soils and different types of land; the cultural legacy of the civilisations that have owned it; the tradition, imagination and creativity of its people; the innovation and cutting edge technology make Andalusia the Great Pantry of Europe.”

The four days presented me with numerous gourmet experiences in both wine and local produce which I hope you enjoy reading about and inspires you to visit the region.

Wine

The Wine Museum of Malaga – Plaza de los Viñeros 1, Málaga

The Palace of Biedmas, which dates back to the 18th century, is also home to the Consejo Regulador (Regulatory Council) for the Denominación de Origen Protegidas of Malaga, Sierra de Malaga and Pasas de Malaga (Raisins de Malaga).

Previously I had only exxperienced Malaga wines when Laura and I visited Bodegas Malaga Virgen and then latterly at a visit to their stand at Vinoble.  A couple of Carpe Diem wines sold at Lidl supermarkets in the UK as well but this is a very limited repesentaion of the region.

Our visit, guided by Vanessa, started on the ground floor where you begin to learn about history of wine production in the region. There is an fascinating collection of bottles , bottle labels, raisin boxes and advertising posters documenting the history spanning over than 150 years. The exhibition also showcases the different grape varietals and wine styles found in the 5 production zones (Montes de Malaga, Zona Norte, La Axarquia, Manilva and Serrania de Ronda) of the region, the terroir and historical winemaking methods. DO Malaga produce mostly sweet white wines from Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez with DO Sierra de Malaga producing white, rose and red wine. Examples of historical winemaking equipment are also available to view.

  • To conclude the visit we got to try 5 different styles of Malaga wines: –
  • Cortijo La Fuente Afrutado Seco, a dry Moscatel de Grano Menudo and Pedro Ximenez wine at 12% ABV from Antequera, north of Malaga, in DO Sierras de MalagaBodega
  • Joaquin Fernandez Finca Los Rutales Rosado 2017 14% ABV, an organic rose wine made from Merlot and Syrah grapes with 6 months in wood from Ronda in DO Sierras de Malaga.
  • Bodega A. Muñoz Cabrera El Lagar de Cabrera Tinto 2017, a 100% Syrah 13.5% ABV red wine with no wood contact from DO Sierras de Malaga.
  • Bodega A. Muñoz Cabrera Viña Axarquía, a naturally sweet wine at 15% ABV made from Moscatel de Alejandría grapes in DO Malaga.
  • Carpe Diem Málaga Añejo, a 100% Pedro Ximenez wine at 15% aged for 3 years from DO Malaga.

My favourite was the Finca Los Rutales Rosado. I do not drink a lot of Rose wine but this certainly piqued my interest in the style with its hint of aniseed on the palate.

It was very interesting to discover and learn more about D.O.P. Malaga, Sierras de Malaga and Pasas de Malaga, a region that I will definitely need to explore more of.

Bodegas Quitapenas – Ctra. Guadalmar, 10, 29004 Málaga

Founded in 1880 Bodegas Quitapenas and now in the 6th generation of ownership by the Suarez family and their connection to the wine trade can be traced back to 1670. The Bodega is now located near the airport where along with their winemaking facilities they also host weddings, corporate events and banquets. They also own three Tabernas in the Malaga area. The aroma of arrope (grape concentrate) being produced fills the air when you enter the building. Alicia was our tour guide accommpanied by family member Marta Suárez. They produce a full range of wine styles from both DO Malaga and DO Sierras de Malaga. Quitapenas produce 400,000 litres of wine annually with 85% destined for the domestic market. Our tour of the facilities included the historical winemaking equipment, production facilities including the arrope close up and concluded with a wine tasting.

• Vegasol Seco Joven, a dry Moscatel at 13% ABV, DO Sierras de Malaga.
• Quitapenas Plata Moscatel, 100% Moscatel at 15% ABV with no wood ageing.
• Quitapenas Dorado Moscatel, 90% Pedro Ximénez, 10% Moscatel 17% ABV and over 10 years of ageing in wood.
• Pajarete at 17% ABV this is a blend of Pedro Ximenez 80%, Moscatel de Alejandria 19% and 1% of Tinta Romé and aged for 3 years in oak, DO Malaga. Interestingly, the Tinta Romé grape is only found in the Malaga region.
• Quitapenas Malaga – 90% Pedro Ximenez with 10% 0f Moscatel 15% ABV and 6 months in oak.
• Florestal, a 100% dry sparkling Moscatel de Alejandria at 11% ABV.

As a fan of sweet Pedro Ximenez, from Montilla-Moriles in particular, I was really impressed by the Pajarete and Dorado Moscatel. It was also interesting to try the dry moscatel Vegasol and Florestel sparkling.

Bodegas Muñana – BODEGA Finca Peñas Prietas; Carretera de Graena a la Peza, s / n, 18517, Cortes y Graena

Muñana 3 Cepas 2012 at 14.5% ABV is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo & Merlot grown at 1050 metres to 1156 metres above sea level with 12 months in French Oak Barrels. Muñana are located in the IGP (Indicación Geográfica Protegida) with Altiplano de Sierra Nevadaloca in the North of Granada Province. This wine was presented to us by Emilio Fernandez, Sales Manager, with the cheese following of our tour with Ignacio at Queso de Leyva. See below.

Bodegas Al Zagal – Paraje Las Cañaillas s / n. Cogollos de Guadix

Our host here was José Olea Varón – Pepe, manager of Bodegas Al Zaga. Along with a group of friends they started making wine for each other in 2000 and in 2009 the Bodega grew from this initial seed. Al Zagal is one of 17 bodegas found in the DO Vino de Calidad de Granada. Pepe is also the President of this DO, which is one of Spain’s newest being founded in 2009. We toured the facilities and tasted two of this year’s wines, a Merlot and a Syrah, straight from the tank.

The grape varieties used are Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc. Depending on climactic conditions, ice and hail are their worst nightmare. Production can vary from 30,000 to 40,000 litres annually. This year they lost 50% of their Tempranillo crop to hail. Yields are low at 0.6 litres per kilogram of grapes and fermentation can take as long as 30 to 40 days. Ageing in wood takes place in a mix of American or French oak casks.

Rafa and Annie enjoyed the wines during lunch

We tried six of the wines during the lunch at Meson del Tío Tobas that followed this visit: –
• Rey Zagal Cascamorres Cosecha 2015 at 13% ABV is a made of Tempranillo 44%, Syrah 26%, Merlot 16%, Cabernet Sauvignon 7% and Garnacha 7% with no wood ageing.
• Rey Zagal Roble 2013 at 13% ABV is made up of 46% Tempranillo, 22% Merlot, 9% Syrah and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon with 4 months ageing in a mix of French and American Oak barrels.
• Rey Zagal Crianza 2010 at 14% ABV is made up of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 6 months in American and French oak barrels.
• Rey Zagal Reserva 2011 at 14.5% ABV is made up of Merlot 44%, 43% Tempranillo and 13% Syrah aged for 12 months in French Oak barrels.
• Rey Zagal Syrah Cosecha 2016 at 14.4% ABV is 100% Syrah, only one of 500 bottles.
• Rey Zagal Sauvignon Blanc 2017 at 12.5% ABV is 100% Sauvignon Blanc.

Local Produce

Vegetables

Clisol Turismo Agrícola – Paraje La Cumbre, s / n., Tierras de Almería, El Ejido (Almería)

Almeria province is home to 31,000 hectares of plastic greenhouses producing fabulous fresh fruit and vegetables all year round. Interestingly this is 1 of the few man made things that can be seen from space. This is a semi desert region, so topsoil had to be imported to facilitate cultivation. We spent three hours in the company of Lola Gómez Ferrón who, along with her husband and 2 sons, produce several varieties of tomatoes, peppers and cucumber in 2 hectares of greenhouses started by her grandfather in the 1950’s.

We were shown two cultivation methods – the traditional “Parral” system in traditional greenhouses where there is 50 to 60cm of top soil with a 10 to 15cm layer of sand on top to limit evaporation. The second “Multi-tunnel” is in narrow tubs using compost produced from coconut husks with computer systems controlling nutrition, irrigation and climatic conditions. What I found most fascinating was the use of insects including aphids, ladybird and spiders as natural insecticides virtually eliminating the need for chemicals. As their name implies, agricultural tourism is a large part of their business and they host visits from local schoolchildren, tourists and agricultural professionals from Spain and around the world. Our visit concluded with a fantastic tasting of a selection of their peppers, mini tomatoes and cucumbers drizzled with copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and/or honey.

Fabulous fresh fruit and vegetables with olive oil, sea salt and honey to finish the visit.

Fish

Del Barco a la Mesa – Lonja de Almeria s / n, 04002 Almería

Elvira, a marine biologist, was our guide at the Lonja de Almeria where we saw the local fishing fleet arriving back and unloading their catch. As well as the seafood the fishermen and fisherwomen also bring back bags of plastic waste which has tangled in their nets. This waste is collected and monitored by one of Elvira’s colleagues. From Monday to Friday the day’s catch is auctioned to local fishmongers, supermarkets, hotels and restaurants. One of these customers is Del Barco a la Mesa which means “from boat to the table” , an initiative started in July 2011, with 137 registered clients. In eight years this has increased to over 900 clients with 35 boats involved selling products directly to the consumer via their website.

We had prime seats to witness some of the 44 species, found along the Almerian coast auctioned from the day’s catch. These species include hake, monkfish, white prawns, red prawns, octopus, quisquillas (a type of shrimp), blue whiting and red head amongst others. It was a very interesting couple of hours seeing the results of sustainable and responsible fishing practices. The two key components of this initiative is maximising returns to the trawler owners and ensuring the end consumer receives 5 star produce. We experienced this exceptional quality later in the evening at the Restaurante el Barque de Almeria.

Cheese

Quesos de Leyva – Avda. Buenos Aires, 41 Guadix (Granada)

Ignacio Miranda Hernandez welcomed us to Finca El Castañuelo, home of Quesos de Leyva, in the hills near to Guadix, an Artisanal cheese maker using sheep’s milk. They use a specially developed feed of alfalfa, barley and corn. (Alfalfa is a perennial flowering plant in the legume family Fabacea used for grazing, hay and sileage).

The Assaf sheep bred produce up 10,000kg of cheese annually. Ewes produce 1½ to 2 litres daily and are milked twice per day. A batch is made every 2 days with a variety of curd, soft cheese, semi cured, cured, old cheese and cured cheese in olive oil produced. We tried the old cheese cured for 6 months along with the cheese in oil (after seeing all stages of the production process) with the Muñana 3 Cepas 2012 red wine.

Ignacio preparing the cheese for our tasting

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Denominación de Origen Sierra Mágina – CR, Ctra. Mancha Real-Cazorla, s / n., 23537 Bedmar (Jaén)

The headquarters of the Denominación de Origen Sierra Mágina in Bedmar was our first Olive Oil related destination. It is one of three olive oil DO’s in Jaen province, 12 in Andalucia and 29 in Spain. Our host was Manuel Jesus Sutil Garcia, Director General of the Consejo Regulador of DO Sierra Magina. He was joined by Juan Balbin Garrido, the agricultural minister for Jaen province. Currenly, there is a campaign to join the three Olive Oil DO’s in Jaen,  Sierra Mágina, Sierra de Cazorla and Sierra de Segura to become an IGP (Indicaciones Geográficas Protegidas) to be known as Aceite de Jaen. Production statistics annually are 600,000,000 kg in Jaen province, 1,300,000,000 kg in Andalucia, 1,600,000,000 kg in Spain with 3,000,000,000 kg worldwide. Production in Jaen province alone exceeds that of Italy, Greece and France’s  put together. Picual is the predominant variety with 90% of planting. This is due to its quality, colour and shelf life of up to 4 years. Other varieties grown include Hojiblanca, Arbequina and Frantoio. Harvesting takes place from October to January with a yield of 14kg of oil obtained per 100kg of olives. In October and November, the best quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is collected from fruit on the trees, never from fallen fruit.

To finish our visit Pilar, the Chief Taster for the DO, took us through the basics of olive oil tasting using three samples. Always in a blue glass with a lid, and warming the glass to 28 degrees Celsius, you swirl the oil around the side of the glass before taking in the aromas then tasting in the mouth like you would a wine. The best EVOO is always low in acidity, poorer oils are high in acidity. The three samples we tried were a 10 day old EVOO, a one year old EVOO and a lesser quality OO. It was a  experience.

Left to right -Molly, Juan, me, Annie and Zorra. Extra Virgin Olive Oil makes you happy

Aceites Melgarejo – Camino Real, s / n (circunvalación) 23110. Pegalajar (Jaén)

Aceites Melgareo is one of 80 mills producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). This is an increase from 30 EVOO mills from three years ago. out of a total of 327 olive oil mills in the province. The Production and Commercial Director of the family owned facility, Blas Melgarejo Cordero, was our guide. The 2018 harvest had started two weeks previously. in late October. and in this time 300,000 litres of their one million litre capacity had been produced.

We saw all aspects of the production process from start to finish, from when the olives arrived by truck or trailer, getting destemmed, pressed, stored and bottled. As well as premium Picual EVOO, they produce single varietal Hojiblanca, Arbequina and Frantoio premium EVOOs as well as a blend of EVOO the Composición. Another tasting followed featuring the Picual, Hojiblanca and Arbequina EVOO.

Markets

Mercado de Salamanca – Calle San Bartolomé, 1, 29013 Málaga, Spain

Constructed in 1922 using heavy Mudejar design influences the Salamanca Market is in the north of Malaga. Although not fully occupied and due for refurbishment, there was a selection of stalls selling a wide selection of the fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and olive etc found in markets across Andalucia. It is worth a visit just to see the façade alone.

Gourmet

Bars & Restaurants

Malaga Province

Restaurante La Barra – Paseo del Muelle Local 62, 1, 29016 Málaga

A popular harbourside restaurant where we shared aubergine chips and salmorejo dip, croquetas and a mixed selection of fried seafood – squid, bacalao , dogfish and lemon anchovies washed down with some manzanilla.

Restaurante La Deriva – Alameda Colón, 7, 29001 Málaga

Great selection of generous wines from Montilla-Moriles and the Sherry Triangle available by the glass along with the usual suspects from around Spain and the world. We enjoyed fabulous Russian salad, salchichon and a first for me bimis or broccolini. It was a good an opportunity to have of Perez Barquero Gran Barquero Amontillado with these. This was the first bodega in Andalucia that Laura and I visited in September 2014.

Antigua Casa de Guardia – Alameda Principal, 18, 29005 Málaga

Next was a step back in time at the oldest bar in Malaga, dating back to 1840. A great selection of Malaga wines were available including those served straight from the array of casks behind the bar along with Vermouth and tapas.

Drinking Vermouth at Malaga’s oldest bar

Fábrica de Cerveza – Calle Trinidad Grund, 29, 29001 Málaga

12 different beers were on tap including five permanent craft beers and two Limited Edition beers. One of these, the Marine Pale Ale, was developed with one of the greatest chefs in Andalucia, Ángel León. It is made with plankton, sea water and Moroccan lemon, then brewed using non-malted barley. This went perfectly with the complimentary olives supplied with the beers.

Almeria Province

Restaurante El Parque de Almería – Parque de Nicolás Salmerón, 9, 04001 Almería

The owner Jose Ronda Clemente warmly welcomed us to his newly refurbished restaurant before treating us to a selection of  delicious seafood, sampling some of the produce that we saw being auctioned at the market earlier. Antonio, Elvira’s colleague then joined us for the meal. The tuna and tomato salad, quisquillas (shrimps), white prawns, red prawns, grilled monkfish, fried monkfish and seafood paella featuring clams and potas were simply delicious.

This was one of the best seafood meals I have had and showcases Andalucian and Spanish cuisine at its best.

A fine bunch ahead of our meal at Restaurante El Parque

Bar de Tapas Taberna Nuestra Tierra – Calle Jovellanos, 16, 04003 Almería

This  popular tapas bar has a varied selection of complimentary tapas, served when purchasing a beverage. These complimentary tapas and tapas from the gourmet range made our visit and I can recommend a visit.

Granada Province

Meson del Tío Tobas – Carretera de Almería, km 1, 18511 Alcudia de Guadix

It wa unusual to eat lunch in a cave but that is what we did with Pepe from Bodegas Al Zagal. The six wines (previously mentioned) from the bodega accompanied the meal. A selection of cured meats, artichokes and a mixed salad of lettuce, tomatoes, walnuts and dried fruit was served along with other dishes includingbroad beans and ham with runny eggs along with niscalos (a type of mushroom). My highlight of the meal, served with the Reserva 2011, was the grilled lamb chops with potatoes. It was interesting to learn that the lamb served is a product with its own DO, Segura and La Sagra Mountains. A dessert of fig ice cream with the Sauvignon Blanc finished off a fantastic culinary experience.

Some fabulous wines, the Sauvignon Blanc was a revelation to me, and the service from the staff of the Meson del Tío Tobas was very attentive.

Confitería la Oriental SL – De N, Plaza la Constitución, 6, 18500 Guadix, Granada

This place is famous for its specialality cakes such as the Felipes, Rums, Alegrias, Piononos and Tiraillas. I decided on an Alegria and it was delicious. If you have a sweet tooth this is certainly worth a visit.

La Cuchara de Carmela – Paseo de los Basilios, 1, 18008 Granada

This is one of three restaurants in the Carmela restaurant group.  Our meal was served with a fabulous local biodynamic wine from Bodegas Villapalana and the Muñana 3 Cepas 2012 red wine we had earlier in the day. Some of the highlights included croquetas of cauliflower and white chocolate, octopus and potato puree, Rio Frio trout and rabo de toro (bull’s tail).

Jaen Province

Restaurante La Alcuza – Calle Baja Fuente, 79 Pegalajar (Jaén)

After our visit to the Consejo, we headed with Jesus to Pegalajar, a village in the Sierra Magina,  to Restaurante La Alcuza. Family owned for 17 years, this restaurant was full of surprises from start to finish. I never expected to get a Manzanilla en rama on arrival. When seated we started with two Melgarejo extra virgin olive oils with warm bread and Cornicabra olives. That combined with the amazing artichokes, the La Panesa fino, aubergines with salmarejo filling, a prean omelette and Cachapo, an Asturian dish of veal with cheese was perfect. Then to finish a a three dessert plate was accompanied by Grahams Tawny Port.

 

In Summary

What an amazing experience and many thanks to my fellow travellers that experienced the best of Eastern Andalucia. I must also thank everyone that we met along the way for making it all the more special: –

Molly –  https://www.piccavey.com/
Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen – https://www.anniebspain.com/
Zora Arroz – https://www.kochtopf.me/
Rafa Bellido – https://www.instagram.com/rafa_bellido/

My fellow travellers from left to right Rafa, Annie, Zorra and Molly

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