By Jon Clarke
THERE are not many shops in Spain where you can buy over three dozen different brands of Champagne and a 2005 Grand Cru Riesling from Germany.
But somehow it seems appropriate that one of Andalucia’s best wine shops Placer ego should have recently opened in Ronda.
The city – that during Roman times featured a tendril of grapes on its own coinage – now boasts the most exciting wine region in southern Spain.
There are nearly 20 different vineyards dotted around the nearby Serrania. Some even sit in the famous Tajo gorge below the town, while others, such as the award-winning Enkvist are based in nearby Gaucin.
They include organic wines, such as those of Los Frutales and Federico Schatz, and vineyards owned by Austrians, Germans and even Argentinians.
There are wines, such as Chinchilla, Ramos Paul and Conrad, already for sale in Japan and New York and others
that merely serve the tables of the local restaurants in Ronda.
Either way, it is not difficult to see that this is a region that is very much on the up.
Celebrated wine writer John Radford wrote in the Olive Press that the “dream has taken hold” and the Ronda wine industry has huge potential.
At a wine conference two years ago Jancis Robinson, sat alongside some of the world’s best winemakers, such as American Paul Draper and Spain’s enfant terrible Alvaro Palacios, to spread the message.
These days the grape variets regulations are generous in scope
So well has the industry progressed that in 2000 the area got its own particular subzone as part of the Sierras de Malaga appellation.
This was in recognition that there was potential for nonfortified wines in highland areas where the daytime temperatures during the ripening season are consistently high, while at night it can be very cold.
This is perfect as it gives a ‘rest’ to the vine and allows acidity and complexity to develop within the grape.
It has been something of a comeback since the wine industry was wiped out by phylloxera in the 19th century .
It began in 1982 when German flower seller Federico Schatz started planting various strains as an experiment.
He was soon joined by Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe (the man who invented Marbella) at Cortijo las Monjas near Arriate.
These days the grape variety regulations are generous in scope, but expect to find mostly Shiraz/Syrah, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo and Cabernet-Sauvignon and also the local Romé thriving in vineyards at between 750 and 1,000 metres altitude.
While initially the wines were expensive, some at up to 40 euros a bottle, the prices have now come down a fair bit and it is possible to buy various Ronda wines for less than ten euros a bottle.
To really try them out there is a unique new wine bar Entre Vinos, near the centre, that is offering over a dozen different Ronda wines by glass.
Set up by the son of one of the vineyard owners, from just two euros you can sample a range of the best Ronda wines, with a tapa alongside it from just a euro!
Meanwhile, Fernando Angulo, who runs wine shop Placer ego, which has over a thousand of the best wines from around the world, certainly sees the potential.
Coming from a family who used to own the area’s biggest cheese factory, he has food and drink in his veins.
“My family have eight hectares of vines here and one day I hope we can make great wine,” he says. “The potential is certainly there to really prove itself, but I don’t doubt Ronda will get there in the end.”
For information on vineyard visits please contact the tourist office.