I stared blankly at the shelves of wine directly in front of me. I set down my grocery basket so I could focus more on the towering rows of dark glass bottles. It was hard enough to pick out wine in the United States without knowing “wine lingo” and now I was trying to do it in another country and in another language. After about five minutes of hesitantly taking a bottle of red wine down from the shelf, only to put it back again, I decided to cut my losses and do a little research before I bought my first bottle of Spanish wine.
A Little History
Spanish winemaking is believed to have originated over 3,000 years ago in southwest Andalucia. The Phoenicians planted vines throughout the hills ofwhat is present day Cadíz and Jerez and soon wine became one of the most sought-after trading products in the Mediterranean. Wine continued to flourish under the Roman Empire, where they introduced some of their own techniques that added fruity, floral aromas and flavors. Wine production slowed during the subsequent Arab rule, but after the reconquest of Spain by Catholic kings, winemaking flourished as it played a significant role in religious rituals, became a popular part of the local diet and had the potential for commercial exchange and success.
The winemaking sector faced difficult times when vineyards were hit with the arrival of phylloxera, the Civil War and World War II. In the 1950’s, Spanish winemakers “began a renovation and modernization of the winemaking processes and wineries,” which has now developed into the unique andunforgettable wines produced throughout the country today.
The Montilla Moriles Wine Route
One of the most intriguing wine regions in Andalucia is the up-and-coming Montilla Moriles. Situated in the heart of Andalucia, between the destination points of Sevilla, Granada and Cordoba, Montilla Moriles has a tranquil beauty and charm that rivals that of Napa and Sonoma Valley. And this region offers more than your simple wine tasting experience. The seven towns along the wine route form what is known as “Campaña Sur” and each is more intoxicating than the next. (And I’m not talking about alcoholic content.) It is hard not be entranced by their strong and unforced sense of artistic, architectural, historical and ethnographic heritage as you tour through the Arab Muslim medieval palace of Medina Azahara in Córdoba or find yourself surrounded by the authentic pottery and ceramics of La Rambla.
If there is one thing that makes Montilla Moriles stand out from the rest, it is the non-commercialized and almost untouched feel throughout the region. Wine-makers have small unique wineries where grapes are pressed in lagares, usually located at the center of the vineyard. Traditional white-washed farmhouses, or cortijos, can still be found between the vines and olive trees. This is a place to live and breathe quintessential Andalucia.
Living in Sevilla, I like the thought of buying a local wine and I’m already thinking ahead to a possible weekend get-away. But for now, the only trip I’m taking is to the local store in search of a Oloroso, a “full-bodied wine with a solemn aroma of vine, sun and oak wood.”
This was originally posted on Andalucia Inside.