A group of friends from France, England and Scotland, with second homes in Marbella, paid a visit to the Joaquín Fernández winery. :: V. MELGAR
Sharif, a British tourist with a home in Marbella, celebrated his 85th birthday recently in a very different way: by visiting a winery in the Serranía de Ronda.
“It was a present from my friends,” he explained as he tasted organic wines at the ‘Bodega Joaquín Fernández’ in Los Frontones area, in the countryside just outside Ronda.
Sharif fits the profile of the type of visitor that is establishing the Ronda area as a destination for wine tourism: foreign, with a medium high spending power and over the age of 30.
Since November the Serranía has had its own ‘Wine Route’, certified by the Spanish Association of Wine Towns (ACEVIN).
“We’re getting a piece of the cake now,” said the president of the Association of Wine Producers of the Serranía de Ronda, José María Losantos, who also owns the ‘Bodega Doña Felisa-Chinchilla’ winery.
“The prospects for growth are very good. The wineries are adapting because at first they hadn’t planned for wine tourism. Our business has grown by 80 per cent,” he explains. “The wine and the wineries are, and can be, a factor for development in this area”.
More on offer
There are no official figures yet but, for example, the ‘Bodega Joaquín Fernández’ registers an average of 5,000 visitors a year, said Moisés Fernández, who gave Sharif and his friends a guided tour. They were all from England, France and Scotland and all had a second home on the Costa del Sol.
“About 80 per cent of the wine tourists we receive are foreigners, but a growing number of Spanish people are showing an interest in how we make our wines now,” he said.
The ‘Bodega Joaquín Fernández’ started operating in the year 2000 and opened its doors to tourists in 2006. “We responded to the demand from people who wanted to visit and see how a wine is made. We adapted the bodega to cater for this. Our visitors are French, Belgian, British, Russian, Polish, Asian... but above all, American. They are very interested in our traditions, but Spanish people also want to find out more,” he explained.
The Joaquín Fernández winery and the others now offer visits in different languages so people can see their vineyards and facilities and taste some of the principal wines, accompanied by cured meats, cheeses and other typical local products in unbeatable natural surroundings.
Some of the wineries are available for celebrations and major events, such as ‘Bodega Los Aguilares’, and others combine concerts or sporting activities with wine. The ‘Bodega Descalzos Viejos’ mixes its passion for wine with art and its facilities bring life to an old convent where the frescoes in the chapel can still be admired.
‘Bodega Morosanto’ also incorporates visits to local Roman ruins and the ‘Bodega F. Schatz’ is considered the top ecological winery in the province and also produces biodynamic wines.
Innovation rules here. The ‘Bodega Joaquín Fernández’ sells red wine jam and a white wine made from black grapes.
The other wineries on the Route and in the same area are: ‘Cezar’, ‘El Chantre’, ‘Conrad’, ‘La Donaira’, ‘Excelencia’, ‘García Hidalgo’, ‘Jorge Bonet’, ‘Kieninger’, ‘Lunares’, ‘La Melonera’, ‘Las Monjas’, ‘Mures’, ‘Pasos Largos’, ‘Ronda La Vieja’, ‘La Sangre de Ronda’, ‘Vetas’, ‘Los Villalones’ and ‘Viloria’.
José María Losantos says the winery owners are now noticing that many visitors come through specialist agencies. “We are the third Route in Andalucía after Jerez and Montilla, and ahead of Malaga. There are 21 routes altogether,” he points out.
About 320,000 litres of wine are produced in the Serranía de Ronda each year, most of them red wines produced under the ‘Vinos de Málaga, Sierras de Málaga y Pasas de Málaga’ seal of origin, and about 10 per cent are exported.
Sharif, who has had a second home in the region for 15 years, did not know about the wines: “I had no idea this magnificent wine was produced in Ronda. I’m surprised and delighted,” he said after his visit. Ronda wines have now joined the ranks of active tourism.