WINES OF ANDALUCIA
Wine production in the lands of Andalusia is a fact that has its roots in the first millennium BC according to diverse historical sources. Not even with the Muslim presence for centuries the production of wines ceased in this part of Southern Spain. However, it is in the 16th and 17 th centuries, with the development of a maritime trade (mainly with Great Britain, the pioneer in promote these wines) when andalusian wines are born as we kown them today. They were old wines, able to withstand difficult transport conditions ( thanks to the alcohol tops to avoid the wine going sour). They were wines that, apart from being generous in alcohol, were complex, with multiple nuances, strong but delicate. These characteristics have survived up to nowadays.
It is remarkable how, keeping a proper style, andalusian wines have got such diversity. Let’s mention here the characteristic finos and manzanillas, the amontillados, olorosos and the sweet Pedro Ximenez and Malaga’s Moscatel, the palo cortado…All of them enjoy a great international prestige due to their exceptional quality. But, even if they are the most famous Spanish wines, they are the most genuinely Spanish, too, since the do not follow any foreign model (such as our prestigious cavas or red wines).
There are six denominations of origin in Andalucía: Jerez-Xerès-Sherry, Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Málaga, Sierras de Málaga, Montilla-Moriles and Condado de Huelva.
The D. O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda are situated in the western part of the province of Cádiz. They are two different denominations that share both the same Regulatory Council and vineyard areas. That’s the reason why we comment them under the same paragraph here. Only white grape wines are produced. Mostly palomino and, to a lesser measure, pedro ximenez and muscatel. Palomino is a grape variety that produces wines with low levels of fruitiness and acidity, with body but somewhat insipid. Therefore, it is the elaboration process that gives it the category of its wines.
Jerez’s wines are liqueur (generosos) wines, slightly fortified with ethanol, fermented under a flower veil and bred in sediment. It is this production system that makes unique in the world: once the wine is headed, it is kept in old oak barrels –new ones are very rich in tannins, which would not be good for such a delicate white wine-, not to carry out its oxidative ageing , but to breed its sediments or soleras. The procedures goes on like this: every year it is extracted an amount of wine out of a barrel placed in a lower row (this quantity is bottled and becomes commercialized), then this barrel it is filled with wine from a barrel placed just above it (only some amount, never the whole of it), and, in turn, this last barrel is filled with what a barrel in a third row contains. The final result is the perfect homogenization of wine, being the same every year (that is why Jerez’s bottles do never indicate the year of production).
This process’ resulting wines are, depending on the style or way of elaboration, of two kinds: up to 15 degrees of alcohol fortified wines (fino, amontillado and manzanilla) and those up to 17 degrees of alcohol (olorosos, palo cortado, rayas and pedro ximenez). The first ones breed with flower yeast, in a biological ageing; the second ones suffer an oxidizing ageing, since yeast cannot live under those alcohol levels.
The D.O. Manzanilla only makes manzanilla wines. Manzanilla is a dry style of Sherry, similar to fino, although less deep than them They look golden, straw-coloured and show a delicate and subtle aroma. The explanation to the difference mentioned above lies in the fact that climate in Sanlúcar de Barrameda –the place where these wines are exclusively produced- is more atlantic, allowing flower veil yeasts to act in a more homogeneous way on wine, giving it its characteristic and special finishing.
The D.O. Málaga is located in the province of the same name. It is divided into four sub-regions relatively isolated from each other, finding a climatic diversity. The most widespread authorized grape varieties are muscatel (there are several varieties) and pedro ximenez. The first one is more cultivated in the Western sub-region and in the Eastern region of La Axarquía,, whereas the second one is more abundant in the Northern area of the province and in los Montes de Málaga
Resulting wines are liquorized wines with great personality and a completely different to other wines in style (which makes them having plenty of imitators). Classic wines of Málaga are: Lágrima, Moscatel, Pedro Simenez, Dulce Color, Pajarete and Dry. They differ according to the production process (addition or not of grape jam), sugar content, colour and grape variety. Depending on the addition of ethanol or wine alcohol, we may find Liquor wines (including Natural Sweet Wines) and Naturally Sweet Wines, these last ones not having an artificial increase of alcohol content. Besides, according to ageing, these wines can be classified, from lowest to highest (minimum: six months, maximum: five or more ageing years), in Málaga, Málaga Criadera, Málaga Noble, Málaga Añejo and Málaga Trasañejo. Wine producers in this region are investing money to renew the area, bringing to market new top-quality products by using different methods. In this way, to the above mentioned liquorized wines we should add some other excellent still wines.
The D.O. Sierras de Málaga is a new denomination of origin different to the province’s traditional généreux wines, and is controlled by the same Regulatory Council. In addition to the areas commented in the paragraph on the D.O. Málaga, here we can add the sub-denomination Serranía de Ronda. Most abundant varieties are chardonnay, macabeo, sauvignon blanc and the traditional pedro ximenez and muscatel. The main red grapes are romé, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and tempranillo. The wines thus obtained show the following features, according to the Council Board: whites are pale yellow-coloured, with varietal aroma. They are clear and elegant, of fruity and fresh flavour with acid tones. Reds, on the other hand, are well structured. Terroir and mineral aromas predominate. Both youthful and vintage red wines are produced.
The D.O. Montilla-Moriles is located S of the province of Córdoba. It matches Jerez in the way of classifying wines as fino, oloroso, palo cortado, pedro ximenez, etc., and it also use a winemaking method based on the solera and criaderas system. However, there are differences between a Montilla’s fino and another from Jerez. Here, for instance, the principal grape is pedro ximenez instead of palomino. There are also differences in bouquet; Montilla’s fino develops continental aromas –thyme, rosemary, scrubland- and on the palate you can find hazelnut, whereas Sherry’s fino has got more almond in it, with olive bouquet, sometimes even a bit salty, and the have a very dry taste.
Wines from Montilla have more body and they are more oily. They are less dry and acid, too, and show a bitter, rustic finish. This may be explained because of the simple geographical reason that Montilla is further away from the sea than Jerez, and this distance also explains that the alcohol content in the wines of Montilla-Moriles are the same as Sherry’s ones in spite of the fact that they are not fortified. The alcohol content is naturally highest as the grapes –more exposed to the sun and without the ocean influence- mature until reaching 16 or 17 degrees during the fermentation of their powerful yeasts, while in Jerez the grapes reach 12 degrees of alcohol in harvest. Like other wine-producing regions in Spain, Montilla-Moriles is betting on modernization, incorporating new grape varieties and production systems that lead this D.O. to a better commercialization of its wines, increasing quality and reducing surplus.
Condado de Huelva D.O. is situated in the lower Guadalquivir plain in the province of Huelva. Its wine production ranges from youthful whites (soft and nice) elaborated with the local zalema grape to other higher-quality wines, like the Condado Viejo, which are aged by using the same soleras and criaderas system seen in Jerez. The resulting wines offer an aromatic richness and a quality comparable to the finos from Jerez and Montilla-Moriles. Condado Pálido are another of the D.O.’s principal wines (intense and full).