Experience great winemaking first-hand in Ronda and Jerez

It’s always a pleasure to be able to serve one of “your own wines” for your guests, a wine that you got to know first-hand, fell in love with and has now become a recommended wine by you.

Of course we can all just go to Morrisons or Mercadona and buy one of the wines labelled ‘locally produced’, find it pleasant and now start recommending it; but this is not a true wine discovery nor something you can build on, really that’s just consumption with a preference.

Instead we’re talking about the satisfying feeling that derives from having had your feet planted in the heart of the winery, tasted and seen first-hand how it was fermented in old ceramic tanks instead of modern stainless steel ones, understood the difference in effect from being aged in American oak instead of European oak barrels, what the altitude and temperature levels of the wine field have meant for its grapes – or how the production of this wine was a result of an experiment in organic wine production.

Whatever it is that separates your favourites from other wines of similar types, make sure you go and experience that first-hand. Turn it into a personal story that you can build on and that goes beyond what’s written on the backside label of any bottle.

Ronda

Ronda is a young region for wine production; the up-and-coming organic productions which are flourishing in Ronda’s hilly terrain and diversity in temperature, have really only existed in the last 10 years or so. Ronda is a fantastic place, beautiful and easy to reach from Gibraltar, a perfect venue to learn about organic wines and the special circumstances organic production requires.

Joaquín-Fernández Winery is open for visitors

In Ronda the restaurants also serve local wines, so ask your waiter if you’d like some insider tips as they’ll be familiar with most of the local wineries. Many of the restaurants (and at the tourist office of course) have folders lying in the reception with illustrations of the “wine routes” of Ronda – or you can find an online version here.

If you stay overnight we recommend you book accommodation located just outside of Ronda (3-5 kilometres outside of the town) as this will allow you to simply walk out the front door the next day and head towards the wineries just up the road, now that’s great! Don Benito is a pleasant option as accommodation, a Spanish countryside hotel with pool and tennis court – but more importantly within walking distance of several wineries (Joaquín Fernández Winery being one of them). Remember to confirm with your hotel whether the nearby wineries are open for visitors as expected.

The concept of wine tourism is not that mature yet in Ronda meaning most of the wineries are far from crowded and the staff has plenty of time for you. On top of that many of the wineries in Ronda don’t charge you anything for showing you around and have you taste their wines!

Jerez

Home of the Sherry. This type of wine might just be a distant memory in your head from your grandfather’s 60th birthday; more specifically one of the spirits that waiters carry on a silver tray after the dessert – the one that only the older, more mature guests seemed to prefer.

Well that is far from the true picture. Spend a Friday or Saturday evening in Jerez and you’ll find tapas places packed with young people out on the street area – all with a glass of chilled Sherry wine in their hand.

Fino Sherry by Williams & Humbert in Jerez

Sherry wines are broadly grouped into 5 types – from the dry Fino to the very sweet xx. The Fino goes extremely well with salty or fatty tapas food – better than red wine – and the less dry and slightly sweeter Oloroso type is a pleasure to drink on its own.

The bars and tapas places in Jerez are all equipped with the best of the local wines. The barmen working here can easily give much-needed information about the area and the difference between the local wineries – or bodegas as they prefer to call them. Once ready, head to one of the bodegas and join an expedition.

The tours with the biggest bodegas (like González Byass, maker of Tio Pepe) are very professional and well worth the cost of the ticket.

In general Jerez is a lively place with lots of people out on the streets on Friday and Saturday evenings, a great place for a night out.

Get in the wine mood!

An easy way to build up the enthusiasm before actually visiting a bodega (and to learn some wine basics) is by going to a wine tasting event. Several restaurants and wine bars in Gibraltar host such evenings – but also check out the ticket-free events hosted by Instituto Cervantes in Market Lane (Irish Town). And when you are out eating tapas in La Linea go speak to the barman and ask what local wines he can recommend and why? Often they’ll serve them by the glass at less than 2 Euros each.

Who knows, you might even experience your first wine “aha moment” here, then you know exactly where to start your wine story. Whatever wine you like, if it’s produced in the Sherry Triangle which is made up by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María – or in the hills of Ronda, chances are, the heart of that winery will be open for you to see, smell, taste and learn about!