There is a revolution going on in the Spanish wine industry. And wine producers (bodegas) in the Granada province are among those leading the way. Did you know that you can visit some of the most interesting of these bodegas within an hour’s drive from Almuñecar?
Most of the restaurants in the area still ask if you want a Rioja- or a Ribera del Duero-wine when you are ordering a glass of red wine. Or a Verdejo-wine from Rueda if you fancy a dry, fruity white. But there are a lot of opportunities to find new flavors to your palate because these well-known wine regions are only three out of nearly 70 different DO-regions (DO=Denominación de Origen – in English: designation of origin), that have literally popped up in Spain over the last 10-15 years. So do not forget to ask for the local wines from the Granada province!
Wine experts say that among the “new” and most exciting wines being launched in Spain at the moment are the wines coming from our dear Granada province. However, it is not always easy to find out or understand where these wines are being made. Because of the differences in soil, microclimate, height above sea level and grapes being used, there is not only one big DO Granada, but many different sub-zones.
From 2009 the definition has been DOP Granada (Denominación de Origen Protegida) for the wines from wineries/bodegas located in the province of Granada, extending over 168 different municipalities. Many of the wines will also have their own name/sub-zone on the label. You may find descriptions like “Vino de la Tierra Laderas del Genil”, “Vino de mesa Andalucía” or “Vino de la Tierra Granada Oeste” on the back labels on bottles from Granada. There is also a sub-zone known as “Contraviesa-Alpujarras”, covering another 13 municipalities in the Alpujarras mountains.
Andalucía as a wine-producing area is of course not “new”. Some will point to the fact that the Phoenicians brought grapevines to Andalucía around 1000 years B.C., so this autonomous community was certainly among the first places in Europe where grapes were being grown.
Some of the grapes used at that time have recently been rediscovered and replanted, and are now used by some wine producers in Málaga, mostly around Ronda. The name of these ancient grapes are romé, tintilla de rota, and la melonera. The first evidence of winemaking in Granada is, by the way, the remains of a Roman villa with a ‘lagar’ (grape crushing area) near the village of Molvizar.
Granada Province Wines
One of the main factors behind the success of and the interest in wines from Granada is the location of the vineyards. Because of the climate changes we are experiencing these days, wine producers all over the world are now planting vineyards higher and higher to avoid the extreme heat. In our area, they do not have to do this, for in Granada more than 50% of the territory is already at an elevation of over 1000 meters above sea level, which means that the average temperatures are lower than in the rest of Andalucía. And so the growing cycle is delayed with bud-burst, veraison (ripening) and harvest all occurring later than usual. The harvest is usually between the end of August and the beginning of October.
Many of the bodegas in the Granada province proclaim that they are already producing “Mountain wines”, with vineyards situated from 700 meters up to 1368 meters above sea level. The single-vineyard wine “Pago Cerro Los Monjas 1368” that belongs to Bodega Barranco Oscuro close to the pueblos Cádiar and Los Morones, is said to be made from grapes harvested in the highest located vineyard in Europe, 1368 meters above the sea level!
Another important factor is, of course, the quality of the grapes in these vineyards. Again we see that Granada producers are in a lucky position, as there are a lot of very old vineyards in the Granada province, some of them did actually survive the phylloxera epidemic that laid most of the vineyards in Europe waste from the 1860s onwards.
Some of the oldest existing rootstocks in the world may be found in vineyards in the Granada hills. Say thank you to all the local people who through the years have had their cortijos where they did plant small plots of vineyards all over the Granada area 200 years ago. Old vines very often produce the best grapes you can find. And the best grapes make of course the best wines if the producer does a good job…
Bodegas within 1-hour from Almuñecar
Here is the list of some famous quality bodegas that you can visit within an hour’s driving distance from Almuñecar and great Andalucia wineries.
Visit Costa Tropical’s own wine guru
Bodegas H. Calvente
Calle Viñilla 6
Phone: +34 958 644 179
This winery is just a short drive from Almuñecar, only 8-9 kilometers along A-4050 in Valle Tropical to the little village Jete. There you will find a sign pointing the way to Bodegas H Calvente on your right-hand side in the middle of the town center. Just drive up that narrow, steep road and then turn right again. After another 50 meters, you are by the entrance to the bodega.
Horacio Calvente Almendras is the “King of local wine” for most Almuñequeros and migrants to the area. His dry white Mountain wine Calvente Guindalera Blanco, made on the ancient grape varietal Moscatel de Alejandria, was included in the wine list at the world-famous restaurant El Bulli (voted the best restaurant in the world and also got 3* Michelin). This Calvente wine is also listed in the bestselling book “1001 wines you should taste before you die” by Neil Beckett and Hugh Johnson.
But Bodegas H. Calvente also makes stunning red wines. Calvente’s premium red wine Castillejos, made in a limited number of bottles, is so sought after that it usually sells out a few months after being released. Last year it was not available from October until May, when the new vintage was launched.
Bodegas H Calvente was established in the early 1990’s, when the former entrepreneur Horacio Calvente Almendras started fulfilling his dreams and visions and began distributing wines from his small bodega in Jete. Until then Horacio had been making wines only for himself and friends since 1983, but more and more through the years, people told him that his wines were so good that he should consider switching from building roads and houses to winemaking. From the start his ambition was to rediscover old, forgotten vineyards and from his small artisanal Spanish winery produce and sell singular wines with a distinct personality that should reflect the terroir, the old vineyards and the very special microclimate that we are blessed with on Costa Tropical.
When I first met Horacio Calvente in 2009 his winery produced 90 000 bottles annually and he had three wines in his portfolio. This year he will be bottling more than 200 000 bottles of his different labels – two sparkling wines, one rosado, three whites, and four red wines.
His two main vineyard areas are La Guindalera in the hills above Jete, Otivar and Itrabo and Los Castillejos in the Sierra de la Cazula y la Almijara on the border to the Malaga province. When Horacio Calvente in the 90’s planted some new vineyards in the Castillejos area, he discovered ruins of both a castle and a mosque from the 1000-1100th century, when the Moors lived there. If they found this place, 850 meters above sea level, suitable for gardens where they could grow fruit and vegetables, why not plant rootstocks for wine grapes there, Horacio asked himself. Today the grapes from this vineyard are used in his famous Castillejos red wine.
Besides selling his wines at the door, Bodegas H. Calvente offers wine tasting courses, visits in the vineyards or the barrel cellars and also guided tastings with local food. Be sure to contact the winery before arriving to get an appointment if you want to participate in one of these options.
Bodegas H. Calvente is exporting more and more wines abroad, to countries like The Netherlands, The United States, Poland, Denmark, UK, and Norway.
Give yourself a luxury wine experience
Bodegas Señorio de Nevada
Ctra. de Cónchar s/n, 18659, Granada
Phone: +34 958 77 70 92
If you want a real luxury treat, with an overnight stay at one of the best hotels in Granada, combined with good food and lovely wines, you should consider booking a stay at the four-star Hotel & Winery Señorío de Nevada. It will only take you about 40 minutes with a car from Almuñecar along the main road A-44 towards Granada city. There, sort of in the middle of nowhere, you will find an oasis where the only sounds you will hear when waking up in the morning will be the birds singing.
When arriving from the coast, take Exit 153, and then follow GR-3208 1,2 km before you will see the entrance to Señorio de Nevada. The area is called Villamena.
The luxury hotel and bodega were built over an existing old cellar. The building called La Bodega reminds one of a country house. It was designed by the architect Jesus del Valle and has 25 rooms, 18 of them are double superior rooms. There are also four junior suits plus family rooms. If you get a room with a terrace you will have a stunning view over the vineyards and in the background – the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Outside there is a nice garden and of course – a swimming pool. The main building also features a restaurant, bar and a gourmet/wine shop.
The wine bodega and the production facilities are down in the cellars below the hotel. The old wine cellar has been totally renovated, the concrete jars being replaced by modern stainless steel tanks. On the lowest floor, you will have the opportunity to visit the barrel-aging cellar, with American and French oak barrels.
Bodegas Señorio de Nevada has vineyards close to the hotel, but also some plots on the border to La Alpujarra, 650 meters above sea level. They are mostly planted with internationally famous red grapes, like syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot. But some vineyards also feature the national grape of Spain, tempranillo. The winery also produces, in limited quantity, a much sought after white wine made on the grape viognier. The soil in the vineyards mainly consists of slate, with a large proportion of minerals, making wines with nice structure and firm aromas.
The main red wines are called Oro, Plata, and Bronze, which could be sort of Gran Reserva, Reserva, and Crianza in style and quality. The hotel offers wine tastings and tours of the vineyards and the cellar. You can also participate in a two-hour introductory course on how to taste wine. We recommend you to make reservations.
Meet Spain’s pioneer in natural wines
Bodega Barranco Oscuro
Cortijo Barranco Oscuro, 18440 Cádiar, Granada
Phone: Not available
They are not open to the general public with standard hours, as they do not have staff for open visits. However, they do allow some visits by appointment only. You may email them directly, to make a special request. Please check their site for details.
A visit to this bodega also gives you the opportunity to see and experience some of the famous small La Alpujarra pueblos and of course have a closer look at an amazing and varied landscape. But beware that the roads will be narrow and winding!
You will have two options to get there – either by the A-44/N323a direction Granada, then drive east along A-348 direction Orgiva, through the small villages Los Tablones and Torvizcón, and then turn right on to A-345 for Los Morones. This trip will be around 1,5 hours from Amuñecar.
The second option is to follow the new A-7/E-15 road to Almeria. In La Rabita you then turn left for the A-345 through Los Castillas, Abuñol, and Albondón. You will reach Los Morones and Bodega Barranco Oscuro after 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Bodega Barranco Oscuro is producing only 100% totally natural wines, and are considered to be among some of the best in the whole world on this. The mastermind behind this quite special winery is Manuel Valenzuela, being born and raised in a small mountain village called Marchal in the Granada province, but making his fortune in Barcelona as an industrial designer in the company of the former president of the football club Barcelona FC.
But back in 1981 he was tired of his stressful life in the big city and wanted to go back to his roots in Andalucía. So he took off his suit, moved back to the mountain area south of Sierra Nevada and there he put on work gloves and work boots. Since then Manuel never looked back. He is considered the real pioneer in natural winemaking in Spain.
Today the winery is sort of world-famous, although the production is quite low and the wines are not like the mainstream wines you will find in every wine shop. They are called Vinos de Altura (wines from high altitudes), and the most wanted wine from Barranco Oscuro is named Cerro de las Monas 1368, pointing to the fact that the grapes are grown and harvested from a vineyard on this altitude, making it one of the highest positioned vineyards in Europe. From this point, you can see the blue sea by Motril and the often snow-covered Mulhacén mountain, 3479 meters above sea level. And you will certainly feel the light, nearly cold breeze that makes this terroir so well suited for natural wine growing because there is no need to use pesticides or chemical treatment.
The property of the Valenzuela family in Sierra de la Contraviesa is around 100 hectares (250 acres), but only 15-20 percent is planted with vines. Barranco Oscuro produces 14-15 different wines, most of them in very limited volumes, like 2-3000 bottles of each. The total production capacity is 100 000 liters.
Among the grapes being used are sauvignon blanc, vermentino, riesling, viognier, moscato and albariño for the white wines, and garnacha, syrah, merlot, tempranillo, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon or cabernet franc for the reds. Barranco Oscuro also has a natural sparkling wine (cava) made on the rare local varietal vigiriega, and a sherry like sweet dessert wine on the grape Pedro Ximénez, but without adding alcohol.
Manuel Valenzuela (77 years old) and his son who is now managing the winery, like to play with the names for their wines, so the labels will show you names like El Pino Rojo (made on pinot noir), Salvaje Blanco, V de Valenzuela, El Canto del Mirlo, Garnata, La Familia, Rubayat and Varetúo.
Spanish Wine from the fountains of God
Calle Dr. Horcajadas, 10, 18570 Deifontes, Granada
Phone: +34 958 40 79 57
This bodega is situated in an old, former olive oil factory in the small village of Deifontes north of Granada city. From Almuñecar you just follow the main road A-44/E-902 (Autovia Sierra Nevada Costa Tropical) to Granada, then continue another 15 minutes in direction Jáen before you turn right on to GR-3423 to Deifontes. You should be there within 1 hour and 10 minutes.
The small village of Deifontes (2600 inhabitants) is most famous for a waterfall which at times expels more than a thousand litres of water per second. This waterfall also gave the name to the village. Deifontes can be translated to “God’s fountains”. You know, Jesus made water into wine, so why not make wine where the water flows? I guess that is why Antonio de la Casa and his team moved in some 10-15 years ago, wine enthusiasts with the intention of making the best possible wines in an environment where vines have been grown for hundreds of years.
Antonio de la Casa has been one of the main figures in the “modern revolution” of winemaking in Granada over the last 20-25 years. He studied and worked as a pharmacist for many years, then he got into winemaking (oenologist) and was from the beginning a wine consultant for bodegas like Calvente, Muñana, and Señorio de Nevada when they started. So it was only natural that he in 2005 would embark on his own wine journey with Bodegas Fontedei. The aim is to produce complex wines with great structure and personality. Antonio says: “Every wine from each vintage is a unique and irreplaceable creation, never repeats itself over time. Like the work of an artist”.
He may be an artist himself, for Bodegas Fontedei has already made history on several, different levels. The wines from the bodega have already won medals at large wine fairs around the world. But the big “scoop” for Antonio de la Casa and his collaborators was the agreement they made with La Alhambra, allowing them to use the famous Lion-figure on their labels. This was the first time a commercial company was given a permit to use a symbol from La Alhambra in marketing. The wines from Bodegas Fontedei are featured in the Michelin-star restaurant guide, like El Lago de Marbella.
Bodegas Fontedei has vineyards on three different geographic locations in the Granada surroundings. Close to the village Alhama de Granada in the Sierra de Tejeda, they have planted a 6 hectares (almost 15 acres) vineyard on 1200 meters above sea level with the grape varietals tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, and sauvignon blanc. In Deifontes they have four hectares of garnacha vines planted more than 50 years ago and in Vega de Granada they have a third vineyard, mainly with white wine grapes, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc.
Six different Fontedei wines are now on the market. Two whites – Albayda (green lion on the label) and Zacatin (blue lion). The four reds are named Lindaraja, Prado Negro, Garnata and Tinajas. The last one is the premium wine of the bodega, with a price of around 50€. The Tinajas wine is made from syrah and tempranillo grapes, aged for 12 months in terracotta pots and has the appellation “Vino Alto Calidad de Granada”.
Taste the sweet dream of Andalucía
Finca El Almendro, Pago Cuesta Robano, 29752 Sayalonga, Málaga
Phone: +34 951 38 67 06
This Spanish winery is actually in the Malaga province, but with a car, it’s only 50 minutes away from Almuñecar and well worth visiting, because Bodegas Bentomiz makes wonderful wines, both dry and sweet ones. But the bodega is still a bit of a hidden secret, tucked high up in the rolling Andalucian hills. The sweet wines from Bentomiz can be found in Michelin restaurants in England, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Spain.
Here is how to find the bodega: From the E15/A7 (Málaga-Motril), take exit 277 following signs for Algarrobo. Drive through the town: Turn right at the roundabout and over the bridge, going uphill. Drive through Sayalonga. After three minutes there’s a track on your right with a Bodegas Bentomiz-sign. It’s a sharp turn, and then you drive just 300 meters up the track until you get to the first building on the left and their driveway. Just beyond this paved driveway is a fenced parking area on your left.
There you are, at a small, spectacular bodega built with the use of local slate and big glass windows. From the bodega you have a fantastic view, with the blue sea on one side and the green/grey Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama Natural Park on the other, behind the village of Cómpeta which lays only 15 minutes further north-east.
Bodegas Bentomiz was founded by the Dutch couple André Both and Clara Verheij. They came to Andalucía from The Netherlands in 1995. He was an entrepreneur and made good money building villas for foreigners who wanted to have a home in the south of Spain. She was an anthroposophist and started her own language school. In their search for a quiet place to find peace and rest, they found a property in an area called Axarquia between the villages of Sayalonga and Cómpeta.
They discovered that on the property there was a small plot with old vines, and with the help of neighbors, the couple started to make some wine for their own consumption. Clara was the “winemaker”, without any experience or education in the skill of producing wines. But she was good, doing things in her own way, and succeeding.
In 2003 they released their first sweet wine from Bodegas Bentomiz, under the name of Ariyanas. A few years later they had bought more land, and also had made appointments with other local grape growers to by grapes. The quality of the vines found in the Cómpeta area is outstanding, with a lot of vineyards of more than 100 years of age. One of Spain’s most famous winemakers, Telmo Rodriguez from Compañía de Vinos de Telmo Rodríguez, Comando G, and Bodegas Remelluri-fame, makes his sweet wine Molino Real from grapes grown only a few kilometers from Bentomiz.
André Both and Clara Verheij promoted their wines in a very special way from the start. They made a reservation for a table at the best restaurants around Europe, and before finishing the meal, they invited the sommeliers to taste wines they had brought with them from Bodegas Bentomiz. In London 9 out of 10 Michelin restaurants placed an order for the wines from the couple before the evening was through! Among famous restaurants having the wines of Bentomiz on their wine list is Gordon Ramsay in London and El Celler de Can Roca in Barcelona.
The spectacular building at Bodegas Bentomiz, besides serving and selling the wines they produce, also offers you the possibility of visiting the restaurant (the food being made in cooperation with the best chefs from Nerja), tasting room and production facilities/barrel aging cellars. We advise you to make a reservation if you intend to have lunch at the bodega.
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