Wines of Malaga - Sweet wines

Traditional harvesting methods maintained in Axarquia. © Michelle Chaplow .
Traditional harvesting methods maintained in Axarquia.

MALAGA SWEET WINES

The traditional Malaga sweet desert wines (DO Malaga) are produced mainly from the Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grape varieties - the Moscatel de Alejandría, and Moscatel Morisco. Other grape varieties sometimes used are Doradilla, Romé (a rare grape indigenous to the region), and Lairén.

The Malaga sweet wine vineyards are found in four hilly areas (which also produce DO Sierra de Malaga wines).

 

 

1)   LA AXARQUIA

The most important area is La Axarquia in the hills around the town of Velez Malaga. The predominant variety of grape is the Moscatel, growing on picturesque terraced vineyards, many of which are so steep that donkeys are still used today to haul the baskets of grapes up to collection points. Ninety percent of this crop is laid out in open-air beds to dry in the sun, becoming the famous raisins of Malaga.

Wineries or Bodegas that you can visit in this area:

 © Michelle Chaplow Harvesting in the Axarquia, Malaga
Harvesting in the Axarquia, Malaga

BODEGAS JORGE ORDOÑEZ produce Botani (blanco, tinto, espumoso) and sweet wines, from Muscatel and Garnacha grape varieties. Bodega and vineyard visits must be pre-arranged by calling 952 504 706.

BODEGAS BENTOMIZ produce Ariyanas wines, from Moscatel, as well as Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Romé grapes. The Bodega is located in Sayalonga (Finca Almendro, Pago Cuesta Robano); visits must be pre-arranged by calling 952 115 939. Bodega tour and wine tasting is 40 euros for up to eight people, or 5 euros per person for groups of nine of more; with home-made tapas for 9 euros per person (minimum eight people). English, Dutch, German and Spanish spoken. 

BODEGAS ALMIJARA produces Jarel wines made from muscatel grapes (dulce and seco). The Bodega is located in Competa (Ctra. de Canillas de Albaida s/n); visits must be pre-arranged by calling 952 553 285. The bodega also has a shop "SIERRA ALMIJARA-TIENDA DE VINOS" in the centre of Competa next to Plaza de la Almijara.

SEDELLA VINOS produce SEDELLA wine (red wine from centenarian Romé and Garnacha vines aged between 16 and 20 months in new French oak barrels). The futuristic bodega, designed by architect Paco Varela combines vernacular and contemporary architecture, is located outside Sedella (las Viñuelas de Sedella, Carretera de Canillas de Aceituno, km 3); visits must be pre/arranged by calling 687 463 082.  A wide range of different tour options are available.

BODEGA A MUÑOZ CABRERA produces DIMOBE wines (nine sweet, four red and one dry white). The Bodega is located in Moclinejo (Bodega: San Bartolomé, 5); visits must be pre-arranged by calling 952 400 594. 

 

2)   MONTES DE MALAGA

The second area is called Montes de Malaga, which cover the hills to the north and east of Malaga city and is also a Natural Park of the same name.

Wineries or Bodegas that you can visit in Montes de Malaga are:

BODEGA ANTIGUA CASA DE GUARDIA.

BODEGAS GOMARA, S.L.

BODEGAS PÉREZ HIDALGO C.B.

BODEGAS QUITAPENAS S.L.

BODEGAS SÁNCHEZ ROSADO

LASCAS DE PEDERNAL 


3)   SIERRA NORTE

The third zone is an inland zone north of Antequera, and due to its climate with extreme temperatures (scorchingly hot summers and often freezing winters) the grapes develop the character needed for a fine wine.

The predominant grape variety here is Pedro Ximenez, a white grape named after a 17th-century Spanish soldier believed to have introduced it from Germany. These wines have an exceptionally high sugar content, which is made even higher thanks to the process of letting the grapes roast in the sun before pressing them, which reduces their moisture and concentrates the sugar. This partial raisin-ing accounts for traditional Málaga wines' dark colour, although the Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez are both white grapes.

Wineries or Bodegas that you can visit in Zona Norte de Antequera  are:

BODEGA Y VIÑEDO DE LA CAPUCHINA S.L

BODEGAS MÁLAGA VIRGEN, S.A.

ORTIJO LA FUENTE S.C.

TIERRAS DE MOLLINA S.A.

VIÑEDOS DE MÁLAGA J. LÓPEZ S.L.

 

4)   MANILVA

Lastly Manilva, to the west of the Malaga province around the village of Manilva near Estepona. This is closer to the Atlantic, and consequently experiences more humid weather and has richer soil.  The predominately Moscatel grapes can swell to an enormous size without losing their sweetness.

These are not wine vineyards - their grapes are mainly dried in the sun to make pasas (raisins) under the DO Pasas de Malaga (Malaga Raisins). The young sweet wine produced is called mosto and can be purchased locally. There are no bodegas open to visit in Manilva.

 

Sweet Malaga wine types

Officially there are two Malaga wine types.

"Vinos de Licor" - wines fortified with 15% - 22% alcohol

"Vinos tranquilos" - unfortified wines including:

  • "Dulce Natural" and "Vino Naturalmente Dulce" - naturally sweet wines produced from an over-ripe Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel grape, where the alcohol content (only from fermentation, not fortification) is greater than 13%.
  • Sweet wines made from sundried grapes (uvas pasificadas).
  • Dry wines with up to 15% alcoholic content.

Age Classifications

The wine is aged in cask and bottle and classified with the following names.

 "Málaga" - from 6 to 24 months.
"Málaga Noble" - from 2 to 3 years.
"Málaga Añejo" - from 3 to 5 years.
"Málaga Trasañejo" - more than 5 years.

"Málaga Pálido" - produced using the solera system, where the age is not relevant since the vintages are blended following the same system used in Jerez to make Sherry. The longer the wine has spent making the rounds of the solera barrels, the better it is.

 

White Wines

Now, thanks to modern enology and the introduction of cold-fermentation methods, the region is making some exceptional sweet white Pedro Ximenez wines. These full-flavoured wines can stand up to the best Sauternes.  Some of the best ones are Cartojal from Lopez Hermanos and Carpe Diem from Tierras de Mollina, while the best-selling brand of classic Málaga wine is Málaga Virgen from López Hermanos.

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