The commercial production of wine is a relatively new, but already thriving industry around the town of Ronda in southern Spain. Which comes as good news because, although vines have been grown in the area since ancient times, in the 19th century virtually all of the root stock was wiped out by phylloxera, an aphid-like insect that ravaged vineyards across Europe.
Some 20 wineries have grown up and are now prospering – with an output of delightful, internationally renowned wines – thanks to the foresight of German florist Federico Schatz, who first began growing grapevines to provide shade for his flower gardens in 1982.
And only as recently as 2000, the Ronda area was recognised with its own subzone of ‘Serrania de Ronda’ within the increasingly important and highly regarded Sierras de Malaga wine appellation. The town’s wines are now being found and enjoyed in bars and restaurants across Andalucia and, indeed, the whole of Spain.
Although wine production is a seriously competitive business, it can also have a light-hearted side, and a tasting visit to the town’s wine museum is a great way to learn about – and sample – Ronda’s excellent wines. And at the right time of year, you might even be invited to help the locals with treading the grapes too!
The Heritage Wine Festival takes place during early September each year and, as the grapes are harvested, a festival highlight is provided by local women lifting the long skirts of their brightly-coloured, traditional ‘Damas Goyescas’ costumes and taking obvious delight in stomping the grapes. Needless to say, visitors are always encouraged to join in!
Organised by Ronda’s ‘Museo del Vino’, the festival is housed in a 1000-year old palace in the town’s historic centre where, during the excavation, dozens of Roman artefacts, including jars for storing oil and wine, were revealed and and are still on public display.
Historical evidence suggests that the building was itself used as a winery in the 15th century. While wine production ceased long ago, a current educational and cultural programme remains linked to the local ‘Sangre de Ronda’ (Blood of Ronda) winery, which is successfully reintroducing wines from the golden era of the 17th and 18th centuries, right alongside several new varieties.
The museum features a series of wine-themed rooms and, in a central courtyard, the historical, cultural and social importance – including the religious and mythological significance – of Ronda wine is traced back through the centuries.
Tastings, along with guided tours in English, can be arranged – to include some well-matched tapas as required – and museum opening hours are from 10am to 8pm every day. Visits to Sangre de Ronda can also be arranged. For more information, including prices, go online at www.bodegaslasangrederonda.es or www.museodelvinoderonda.com
Should you be interested in visiting other local wineries during your holiday at Club La Costa World, go to http://www.turismoderonda.es/gastronomia/eng/productoseno.htm or, better still, just make a beeline to the nearest wine bar in Fuengirola!
Ronda, with its spectacularly impressive and extremely photogenic El Tajo gorge, is also home to one of Spain’s oldest and most architecturally revered bullrings. Excursions to the mountain top town are always popular and it is easily accessible, just 110km from the Club La Costa World resort, either by hire car or by taking part in one of the many organised day trips available for booking at the resort.