Living the high life in Andalucia

LAST UPDATED: 10 Jun, 2010 @ 11:50
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Living the high life in Andalucia

HAVING worked as a successful city trader for Morgan Stanley it would have been difficult for Jose Ramos Paul to have waved goodbye to the high life.

So when he and his vetinary-trained wife Pilar took the life-changing decision to plant a vineyard a decade ago it was fitting that it should be the highest with appellation status in Spain.

At over 1000 metres in height, Bodega El Chantre has majestic views across two provinces.

Sitting just below Ronda’s ancient Roman amphitheatre of Acinipo, there is a real sense of history and privilege.

Despite having only vultures as neighbours, the formidable 20-hectare vineyard has proved to be one of the success stories of Andalucian wine.

As well as achieving a benchmark 91 score for its robust red, Ramos Paul, from US guru Robert Parker, the wine is currently for sale in 16 countries, including Japan, America and Germany.

Much of this is through the hard work of the couple, who are not only involved in every aspect of the production, but who personally promote their wines internationally.

“We are hardly on the ground and seem to spend more than half the year in the air,” jokes Jose, who spent much of his youth travelling to the UK, even busking around Liverpool, before landing a job as a more conventional banker in Madrid.

“We realise you don’t get anything without incredibly hard work and we have ended up involved in practically every aspect of the production.”

That can literally mean putting the labels on the bottles over a long weekend, or mopping up the floods of rain in the cellar at Christmas.

His wife Pilar, whose family have close links to Andalucia’s celebrated Cruzcampo beer, has been the brains behind the marketing campaign and stylish design.

She is also a natural link to the wine business; her maiden names being Mejias Lafite, the family behind the first growth Bordeaux Chateau Lafite.

Today the vineyard comprises a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot and the wine spends two years or more in French oak barrels before being bottled.

The vats sit undisturbed in an incredible James Bond-style series of underground tunnels, modelled on the ancient monastery in Charaval.

So high-tech is the system, that should the temperature of the wines suddenly change during production that an alarm is sent, whether day or night, to a technician in Sevilla.

It is a breathtaking bodega, beautifully built and landscaped by the couple over five years.

Stylish and in a commanding position it is no surprise that a string of politicians, including PP leader Mariano Rajoy and Javier Arenas, have made a beeline to visit, and at least one famous celebrity has told them to name their price to sell the vineyard.

“But we are not interested in selling,” says Jose. “We have built this up through the sweat of our labour.

It is our land, our bodega and we want to make this into one of Spain’s best red wines.

“Our first vintage, the 2004, was good. The 2005 is even better. In fact, a bomb!”

TASTING NOTES

Ramos Paul: Resurrection for Ronda

According to Robert Parker, said to be the world’s most influential wine critic, the Ramos Paul’s 1994 vintage is “spicy, well balanced, with a pure finish”.

He adds: “It is plush on the palate, with a full-bodied personality.”

In his magazine The Wine Advocate, he explains how Ronda was once a highly regarded international region before the ‘pre-phyloxera 19th century’.

“However, thanks to people like estate owner Jose Ramos Paul such regions are being resurrected.”

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