The miracle of Ronda 

5 March 2021

We at Peñín would like to profit from the release of the latest assessment made by the tasting team of the Málaga and Sierras de Málaga wines for the online Peñín Guide 2022, to bring you closer to a unique vineyard. Ronda owes to itself the feat of having broadened the stereotype of the fortified Andalusian wine to that of the Andalusian red, even if this meant the creation of a specific Denominación de Origen called Sierras de Málaga.

This is a place where wine has been part of the landscape since the Phoenicians, with periods of great prosperity until the arrival of phylloxera, when viticultural progress came to a screeching halt and remained merely a local tradition that was little known to the outside world.

There, a group of dreamers have been building their winemaking history almost in isolation, without taking each other into account. This is very typical of our country. We are capable of working the miracle in the most complicated way possible, and although it is more difficult to make progress in this way, when the work is vibrant and the wines follow, magic can happen.

To understand what is happening in Ronda it is important to get close to some of the producers who have unwittingly created a rich and varied wine-growing landscape. Get ready to travel beyond the limits of the law, with no facemasks, no permits, no permissions... wild!

Serranía de Ronda

The Serranía de Ronda is a small part of the Denominación de Origen Sierras de Málaga, where the cultivation of vines becomes a hard task due to its steep slopes, and the impossibility of working in any other way than by manual labour. The complex terrain and winding roads have served to keep its style intact to external influences, a good thing for the visitor who allows himself to be seduced by its innumerable charms. Its vineyards are reminiscent of Tarragona's Priorat, except that the soils in Ronda are not slatey but particularly chalky. Ronda's winemaking boom, which began in the 21st century, did not have a clear direction to follow at the outset. The course of this small winemaking corner was set by the individual work of each producer, which has served to build a diverse picture of what Ronda wine is. So rather than a Rondeño style, we have as many styles as there are relevant wineries working there.

Bodega La Melonera

La Melonera is a project deeply linked to the roots and history of the place, where a big effort is being made to recover the ancestral varieties of the place, an initiative that came in 2003 from the Sevillian Ana de Castro Rufián and the businessman and philanthropist Jorge Viladomiú, determined to investigate all the viticultural roots that underlie the history of the Serranía de Ronda. The union of these two vital energies, the first focused on viticulture and oenology, and the second on the tireless search for the historical footprint of the place, is yielding excellent results.

Ana de Castro y Jorge Viladomiú - Bodega La Melonera

The most characteristic feature of this project is the varietal line they are working on, where tintilla de rota, romé or the melonera grape (thus known for its peculiar appearance) coexist with other grape varieties such as garnacha, cabernet sauvignon or syrah, among others.

The results obtained so far are promising and we hope that they will continue working in this line as it offers a very local and singular vision of Ronda, with purely Mediterranean wines.

Bodega F. Schatz

Another winery that has been making wine in Ronda since the very beginning, before the Sierras de Málaga Denomination of Origin was created, is the one that bears the family name Schatz. Originally from Sütdtirol (Trentino-South Tyrol), a German-speaking area of northern Italy, this family has been involved in winemaking since time immemorial. Friedrich Schatz's story is the story of many young entrepreneurs today who are inspired to dedicate their lives to the countryside. Friedrich Schatz is a pioneer in many respects, firstly in entrepreneurship outside his home country for the love of viticulture and oenology, which today is easier to perceive thanks to social media and the excess of information, but secondly because of his natural way to work with wine. We could say that he was one of the first natural winemakers, when we didn't even use such a name. His wines in Peñín have always been a folly, some of his elaborations bordered on the extravagant, in times when extravagance was not yet defined. His line of work is unique in Ronda and so are his wines, although it should be noted that they are truly extreme wines.

Federico Schatz - Bodega F. Schatz

Cortijo los Aguilares

Cortijo los Aguilares was founded in 1999 by José Antonio Itarte, a Basque businessman with a passion for Burgundy wine who decided to venture into a world outside his own with astonishing brilliance. The project was born from the hand of José Antonio together with Bibi Fernández, an oenologist who has worked in Burgundy and Priorat and who today is the visible head of the winery after the sad death of José Antonio by COVID. Between the two of them, they were able to make the name of Ronda heard in many corners of the world through very sensitive wines, but with the strength of the Ronda landscape. Particularly notable was the impact of their pinot noir, a grape used to other latitudes that there fused its Atlantic essence in Mediterranean lands with a dazzling metamorphosis. Their pinot noir received the Gold Medal on three occasions at the Mondial des Pinots de Sierre (Switzerland), the most prestigious international competition for wines made from this variety in the world.

Bibi Fernández - Bodega Los Aguilares

Then came other more ambitious wines such as Tadeo or Tadeo Tinaja, made from petit verdot. This project has opened the way for many other winemakers, and marked a style where elegance plays an important role, a path less explored to date.

Bodega Kieninger

As we said at the beginning, the similarities between Priorat and Ronda in terms of landscape are astonishing. In these magical places there is always a love match with one of its visitors. This is what happened with Schatz and also with our next protagonist, the Austrian Martin Kieninger, who in the year 2000 decided to undertake a completely outlandish and groundbreaking project, Bodega Kieninger. His passion led him to bring in plants of Austrian varieties hitherto unknown in the area, such as the red blaufränkisch or zweigelt, together with local grapes such as tintilla de rota, garnacha or French varietals such as pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc or merlot. Unknowingly, he opened a new path in Ronda, broadening the viticultural interpretations of the area and betting strongly on sustainable viticulture and oenology. His wines are made under the precepts of organic viticulture and a lesser environmental impact. Beyond his labels he achieves excellent results according to the scores of wines such as Maxx 2016 red (Garnacha and tintilla de Rota).

Martin Kieninger - Bodega Kieninger

As you can see, there is no single path that defines Serranía de Ronda wines today. Its producers have insisted that we see this place as a melting pot of wines with great names, wines that are already influencing future generations who have the challenge of continuing to make Ronda an important place.

    Written by Javier Luengo, director editorial de Peñín