WHILE I’m here in Spain, I’m eager to make the most of the three day weekends that I have and do a bit of travelling.
I have ambitiously pinned a map of Andalucia to my wardrobe door and I often find myself day dreaming at all the touristy towns I want to visit. So far I’ve been to Malaga, popped across to Almeria and I’ve done a bit of partying in Jaén too.
My latest expedition occurred last week when a friend and I decided that we’d travel to Montilla.
If you haven’t heard of the name, I’m not surprised.
Even some Spaniards I had mentioned it to looked at me with puzzled faces. Located around thirty kilometres from the city of Cordoba, this town might as well resemble your typical Andalusian pueblo if you consider its small size and the abundant olive oil plantations that surround it.
In truth, there isn’t much for the average traveller to do.
What it does have, however, is a quaint wine bodega rather tucked away in the heart of the Cordoban sierra. Lagar Blanco is a family-run bodega which offers tours and wine tasting events for their pale white wines at a very affordable price. Fino, the driest and palest of the traditional wines produced in Montilla and arguably the most popular, is a favourite among the town’s locals.
I had never actually been to a winery before.
In fact, I’m not too familiar with alcohol production in all fairness. Whilst on holiday in Northern Ireland once, my dad enthusiastically dragged the whole family including myself around Bushmills distillery in Antrim.
Of course, as a kid I didn’t have any interest in drinking alcohol, let alone to see how it was made. I remember trying the free whiskey sample at the end of the tour when nobody was looking and felt like I was drinking glue.
For the record, I’m still not a lover of whiskey, but I’ve found you can’t go wrong with a bit of vino. My student experiences have inevitably fortified my taste for alcohol and I’ve therefore had my fair share of blossom hill or merlot.
Miguel, the bodega’s owner, gave us our own private tour and explained everything that there was to know about its wine production.
I couldn’t believe how much information there was – the techniques used in the production process, the importance of temperature and the layer of yeast that forms over the wine in the casks during the fermentation process.
After our tour, the cata (wine tasting) commenced. I assumed that this would simple involve churning the wine around in my mouth before spitting it out – as was my general assumption of wine tasting. I couldn’t have been more wrong – Miguel obviously didn’t want us to waste such fine wine.
The names were just about enough to remember – Vino joven, (young wine) Fino, (fine wine) Oloroso, (wine with a bit of an odour) Amontillado and Pedro Ximenez, a dessert wine, named after the most popular variety grape grown in the region. All of this is obviously accompanied by a few canapés to avoid the inevitable tipsiness – each wine is 15-17% strength in alcohol.
This cute little bodega really is one hidden gem in the heart of Andalucia.
I’d recommend a visit here to anyone looking for a day out seeking something different – Montilla isn’t exactly touristy, so what you’re getting is a real, authentic taste of Spanish culture.
I’m no wine connoisseur myself, but on the bus back to Granada, a bit drowsy after all the vino fino, I realised I didn’t have to be to appreciate the beautiful, technical yet intricate process of sherry making in the Cordoba sierra.