The Christmas season has now officially started here in Spain, with the Puente de la Constitucion - the December bank holiday.
Families all over Andalucia are starting to think about their big Christmas dinner, which takes place on the night of 24 December - Christmas Eve here is called Noche Buena (Good Night).
Many people will be popping bottles of bubbly over the festive season - cava is very popular being (currently) a Spanish product, made in Catalonia. And of course on 31 December (Noche Vieja, Old Night) at midnight, once the 12 grapes have been eaten for good luck, more corks will be popped.
But now, here in Andalucia, new types of sparkling wine are being produced, providing a local alternative to Freixenet and other popular brands.
Most Malaga wines are sweet, made from the muscatel (muscat) grape, but one family winery bucks that trend by producing a dry muscatel: the deliciously fragrant, fruity, and floral wine called Botani. Bodegas Jorge Ordonez also makes a sparkling version of this award-winning DO Sierras de Malaga wine - Botani Espumoso.
Produced from Muscat of Alexandria grapes grown in the mountains of Almácha, at 600-800m. Bodegas Ordonez is a traditional, artesan wine maker, using old-fashioned methods to ensure an exceptional result: the grapes are harvested by hand, in small boxes of 10 kg, to prevent damage to the fruit, and the boxes are carried uphill by hand and loaded onto mules, so they arrive at the winery in perfect conditions. The wine is lighter than other sparkling wines at only 6.5%, but with the distinctive floral aroma and taste of Botani.
Another option is the sparkling wine made by Bodegas Salados, a winery in the small town of Umbrete near Seville. Salas is well-known locally for its mosto, unfermented young wine, and its sherry-type wines. But this centuries-old family bodega also produces a sparkling wine, called Umbretum. At a heftier 11.5%, this is made from the Garria Fina grape, native to the Aljarafe region west of Seville, and comes in semi-sweet and dry (Brut Nature) varieties. The taste is fruity and citric, with a hint of honey in the sweet version.
And for something quite different, how about orange sparkling wine? In Palma del Rio (Cordoba), a company called BurNarj - bur from burbujas (bubbles) + narj from naranja (orange) - makes a wine from oranges. This is not orange-flavoured wine, as made in the DO Huelva, but wine made from pure fermented orange juice, using the champage/cava method.
Made with oranges from the Guadalquivir valley, this vino espumoso is the first-ever natural sparkling wine made from oranges. It is fermented to obtain the alcoholic content from the sugar, then fermented a second time inside the bottle, with two litres of juice needed to produce one 75cl bottle of BurNarj. This sparkling wine comes in four varieties: Brut Nature (very dry, 11%), Brut (dry, 11%), SemiSeco (semi-sweet, 11%) and SemiSeco Light (7%). The flavour is not overpoweringly citrussy, and the colour is pale. The drier wines pair well with caviar (such as Rio Frio from Granada) and smoked fish, while the lighter, sweeter types are less fizzy and go well with puddings, especially dark chocolate. Unlike the other two espumosos, this is made by a very new company, which celebrates its third birthday this month.
What better way to celebrate Christmas in Andalucia than by enjoying some locally made fizzy wine? Cheers! Y salud!