Grounded at Villargallegos
Francisco Robles had told us that he had a new project in Santaella so invited us to meet him at the Bodega prior to our trip to the region. On approach to the bodega we had no idea what he had planned for us.
We left Bodegas Robles and headed out to their organic Villargallegos Pedro Ximénez vineyard close to Santaella. Francisco wanted to show us an another important part of their viticultural process, soil fertilization. He explained that vines, during their growing cycle take some key nutrients from the soil that need to be replaced. Their philosophy is “you have to give back what you take”.
The soils in the vineyard are regularly analysed and every 3 to 5 years, depending on what is required, an organic fertilizer is used to replace these lost nutrients. In 2019 this organic fertilizer was mostly made up of cow manure from a supplier in Sevilla province, defined to the specification of Bodegas Robles. We were able to see this how process starts when a layer of the manure is spread between the rows of vines using a spreader. It is later rotivated into the soil.
Santaella – Catedral de la Campiña
We next went to Santaella, a town with a little over 6,000 residents. The Catedral de la Campiña, Cathedral of the Countryside, is the name which the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Asunción is also known as. This church dominates the skyline of town and can be seen from miles around.
We were introduced to Pepe Alvarez, the Alcalde or Mayor in the square outside the Town Hall to learn more about the collaborations between the town and Bodegas Robles.
These collaborations involve promoting wine tourism and organic gastronomy in Santaella. They include starting a wine museum and supporting the annual fair celebrating Nuestra Señora del Valle, patron saint of Santaella. One of their first collaborations in 2018 was Santaella – Ecological Enology, Heritage and Theatre. This involved a visit to the vineyards, a dramatic performance by theatre group Teatrados in the Casa de las Columnas, an 18th Century Baroque house, that houses the Historical Municipal Museum followed by a moonlight tasting of four Robles wines. They also produce bottlings of Fino, Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez for these events.
We were treated to a short walk with Carmen from the Tourist office around the historic centre of the town learning about it’s Ruta de las Fuentes amongst other things. This route takes in 8 water sources or fountains over an 8.2km route around the countryside surrounding the town. It can be enjoyed on foot, cycling or even on horseback. This is somehing we may look at doing on our next visit to the region when we hope to spend more time in Santaella. Many thanks to Pepe and Carmen for showing us around.
Back to Montilla
On heading back to Bodegas Robles we weren’t sure what to expect. Another first on this for us on this visit was to see the running of the scales. When “running the scales” in a solera system homogenisation of each rocío, replenishing the casks, needs to occur when a saca, bottling, is taken. The wine taken from each level of the system is blended together before moving on to the next level below. Before mechanisation this was done by hand.
In April 2018, Francisco kindly gave us and our friend Lorcan a special bottle each of verdejo, the 2017 Castillo de Montilla which we all reviewed in our post here. We got to try this wine again with a further 9 months of ageing in the same French oak barrel. It had certainly evolved even further.
Francisco also showed us the casks our good friend Rafa Cabello from Toneleria del Sur is seasoning with organic Oloroso for the whisk(e)y industry.
At the end of our visit Francisco very kindly gave us several bottles to bring back to Scotland. We continue to learn from him and can’t thank him enough for his time and generosity.
Links for Santaella Council
Plaza Mayor 6,
Tel: +34 957 313 003