Why Bodegas Málaga Virgen?
Before we go any further, many of you may be wondering why we are featuring a bodega located in the neighbouring Málaga D.O.
Bodegas Málaga Virgen is also registered with the Montilla Moriles D.O. as it produces and ages wines in a Solera brought from Montilla in the 1950’s, their Fino Lagar de Benavides.
So now that has been addressed we can continue.
The heritage of Málaga Virgen dates back to 1885 when Salvador Lopez Lopez installed his first barrels in La Cruz del Molinillo. The next year his brother Francisco López López joined the enterprise which they then named Bodegas López Hermanos (Lopez Brothers).
In the 1970’s due to the restrictions on growth and expansion in Málaga city, the bodega moved to the outskirts, Fuente de Piedra, where it had more space and better transportation links.
In 1985 third generation Juan Ignacio de Burgos López and his daughter Piluca, bought all the shares of Bodegas López Hermanos and Inversiones Santa Ana which owned the wineries and vineyard estates.
The two companies were then merged and are now collectively called Bodegas Málaga Virgen. Following the death of her father in 2008 Piluca de Burgos Pérez now represents the fourth generation of this winery since it was founded in 1885.
The bodega is certainly not what you expect when you are on the approach to the buildings. On first sight they seem industrial and with the gate controlled secured entrance it seems a million miles away from the walk in off the street bodegas we have visited in Montilla and elsewhere. But first impressions can be deceiving and we embarked on this visit with a sense of the unknown. Rafa introduced us to Lucas and Alvaro, who would be our hosts for the day. We were honoured as it is Lucas’ family’s heritage whilst Alvaro is the Head of Production.
They led us though the courtyard of the original bodega, prior to the expansion in 2005, where there were various old vineyard tools and machinery on display. Lucas reminisced about his childhood jovially talking about taking the Lamborghini tractor out without consent as a child and being chastised by his grandfather.
This set the scene. Lucas and Alvaro were charismatic and enthusiastic. Passionate. What originally seemed like a large functional production facility, with a wine making capacity of 4,000,000 litres, now had character and life. As we have always said about the region, the people make it a wonderful experience.
Moving on into the modern facility covering 12,000 square meters we walked past the huge stainless steel tanks with a storage of up to 3,000,000 litres containing the various musts and wines.
This led us into into the bottling hall which can bottle up 6,000 bottles per hour. During our visit they were in the middle of a bottling run of the Moscatel Iberia with it’s distinctive blue label and closure.
We were next shown the warehousing and despatch area. Interestingly, it was explained to us that once the bottles are packaged and palletized they are dispatched within 3 days, the just in time process. Distinctive colours are synonymous with some of their brands especially Cartajol. The striking Cartajol branded pink painted casks are distributed around the bars and hotels of Málaga during ferias (festivals) when there are over 300 used. If you have been to Málaga or the region these may be a familiar sight.
Next stop was to the impressive maturation hall with it’s varied range of 6,000 American oak barrels maturing brandy and solera system wines along with table wines. Bodegas Málaga Virgen are the only producer of Vedejo in the Málaga D.O.
At the end of the tour we were treated to tasting with Lucas & Alvaro where a wide and varied range of wines were served to us.
Fino de Lagarde Benavides – 15% ABV from 100% Pedro Ximénez grapes the Fino from the Montilla-Moriles D.O.
Trajinero – 18% ABV from 100% Pedro Ximénez grapes. This is oxidatively aged for two years, fortified to 18% then sweetened with young PX and has a further 3 to 5 years of oxidative ageing.
Málaga Virgen – 17% ABV from 100% Pedro Ximénez grapes made with a crianza of young PX wines and old oloroso wines. It is oxidatively aged for 2 years and is Spain’s biggest selling sweet wine.
PX Reserva de Familia – ABV 17% from the must of 100% Pedro Ximénez grapes with 10 days of drying. It is then fortified to 17% and spends 24 oxidative ageing months in French Vosges oak barrels with a medium toast.
Last up was something truly very special, the Brandy 1885 at 40% ABV. This is a solera brandy which is a unique distillation of various Málaga wines which is then oxidatively aged in casks that give it all its colour. No E150a caramel colouring in this one. This is an amazing spirit that is 34 years old.
We could have spent an entire day there listening to Lucas and Alvaro and exploring their facilities, cellars and wines. If you get the opportunity then take the time to visit. We will certainly return with hopefully a little more time on our hands to do it justice.
Many thanks to Lucas and Alvaro for their generous time and hospitality and to Rafa for arranging our visit.