Malaga in the Andalucian province of Spain is famed for sun, sea and sand but what many people don’t know is that it is also one of the oldest wine making regions in Spain. Once known as ‘mountain wine’ Malaga wine is a wonderfully unique sweet wine made predominantly from white Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez grapes.
Once the most popular type of wine favoured by the Romans, the demand for sweet wine went into decline in the 19th century and it was thought that it would become extinct; as people began to favour dry white wine many of the vineyards in the area were forced to close. Fortunately there is renewed interest in sweet Malaga wine and it is making a strong comeback with 5.8 million gallons produced every year and wine-makers continuously re-planting vines.
Malaga Wine Production
While the grapes which make this wine are grown, pressed and fermented elsewhere in the Malaga province, if the wine is aged in Malaga city then it is deemed Malaga wine.
Antequera which lies north of Malaga produces the majority of Malaga’s wine, favoured due to the extremely hot summers and very cold winters which help the grapes produce the necessary characteristics for a traditional sweet wine.
In fact the oldest surviving bodega ‘Antigua Casa de Guardia’ is located inland from Malaga city just outside the village of Olias, it was established in 1820 and is still hand making wine today. The vineyard uses the Pedro Ximenex, Moscatel and Romé grapes and produces ten different Malaga wines.
The Process of making Malaga wine
The grapes used in making Malaga wine are already very high in sugar content, they are roasted under the searing hot sun then pressed to reduce moisture and concentrate the sugar. You will notice that wine from this region is actually dark in colour despite using white grapes; it is the over ripening of the grapes which give the wine its dark colour.
Also the longer the wine spends aging the darker its colour, Malaga wines can range from being light yellow to a rich black.
Types of Malaga Wine:
- Malaga Pálido – Maximum aging of 6 months
- Malaga – between 6 and 24 months
- Malaga Noble – between 2 and 3 years
- Malaga Añejo – between 3 and 5 years
- Malaga Trasañejo – over 5 years.
The aging process for Malaga wine uses the same solera system used for making Sherry which also comes from the Andalucía region of Spain, in fact some good quality Malaga wines have been compared more favourably to sherry.
Like most wines, the longer it has spent aging the better is generally is, of course taste buds differ greatly and while one person may favour the aromatic moscatel wines, another may prefer the Solera variety, similar to a sherry and where the wines are aged in oak barrels blending different vintages to create a mix of wines.
A rich assortment of flavours and aromas can be found especially in the more matured wines, coffee and caramel, nuts, spice, plums, cocoa and violet are common and they are a great compliment to a good chocolate dessert.
What better way to sample traditional Malaga wine than to come to Andalucía and enjoy one of the many tours and of course tasting sessions that the Bodegas in the region offer. From the traditional guided tour of an original wine cellar in the sierras to a fun bicycle tour of Malaga city itself with tapas and wine tasting en route.
Here are some of the best in my opinion:
The team of cycling enthusiasts at Bike tours Malaga are experts in offering guided bike tours of Malaga and Andalusia. Check out their ‘Wine and Tapas Tour Malaga’ where you spend around 3 hours touring some of the best sights of Malaga including the Alcazaba fortress, Roman amphitheatre, the Bullring and lots more.
Enjoy traditional Spanish tapas and of course one of the highlights of this tour is a visit to one of the oldest wine cellars in Malaga where you get to sample some wonderfully traditional sweet Malaga wine.
The oldest vineyard in the region as previously mentioned. Casa de Guardia offer tours from Monday to Friday at 20 euros per person which includes a visit to the fantastic old wine cellar, the vineyard and an explanation of how they make the wine. A taste of 3 of their best wines is also included with an option to buy.
Located in the centre of Malaga, a museum of Malaga wine housing over 400 pieces dating back to the days when wine making began in this region. Entrance is just 5 Euros or book a 40minute guided tour of the museum at 25 Euros per group, price includes a taste of 2 wines.
Although not technically a Malaga wine tasting tour, I figured it should get a mention…The founders of Trippy Vines, a South African couple enthusiastic about wine offer a 3 cellar wine tasting tour with lunch or tapas included.
The vineyards are generally located around the stunning Rhonda region of Andalucia and you may even get to have an hour in Rhonda itself in-between vineyards; well worth seeing for the spectacular views and architecture.
Reviews of Trippy Vines are excellent with customers only complaint that they are offered so much food and wine, they struggle to finish everything…not such a bad thing!