Malaga's temple to wine, the Antigua Casa de Guardia, is 178 years old this year but, far from being anchored in the past, it never ceases to innovate. The winery at Finca El Romerillo, on the road between Olías and Comares, will be the first in Spain to offer accommodation in cabins shaped like wine barrels. The aim is to provide guests with a unique experience, because during their stay they can learn all about the wines of Malaga, from the way the vines are grown, the types of grape, the way the wine is made and the everyday life and work of the bodega.
This is one step in a much more ambitious project which will also include a rural campsite. The camping area is where the barrel-shaped cabins have been provisionally located; they have been designed and built by the former manager of the Antigua Casa de Guardia, Cayetano Garijo. They have a shower, lavatory and washbasin and can each sleep up to four people.
"We are pioneers. There is no other bodega where you can sleep in a wine barrel. This is a completely new type of rural tourism," says Garijo.
The company is not new to tourism: a few years ago it restored an old farmhouse and converted it into a restaurant and event venue, which has attracted numerous visitors and interested more people in the wines of Malaga.
"With these barrel-shaped cabins, we have moved on from simple wine tourism. People in Malaga are very keen on rural tourism and we think what we offer should reflect that," says Garijo. They have been working on the construction of the barrels for the past year. "There was nothing like this on the market, so we had to design and build them from scratch," he explains.
The bodega still has a huge wooden 10,000-litre deposit which was used in wine production before stainless steel ones were introduced. "We use one as a micro-museum at the bodega. Visitors can go inside and have a drink there. That gave us the idea of letting people stay in barrels, bearing in mind that tourism is very important for a bodega like ours," explains Garijo. The company also has a bar in Malaga city which is very popular with tourists.
The Antigua Casa de Guardia was founded in 1840 by José de la Guardia, who ran it until he was appointed governor of Soria by Queen Isabel II in 1862. He sold it to Enrique Navarro, who ran it until his death in 1895. As he had no children, the bodega passed into the hands of two brothers who worked for him, José and Antonio Ruiz Luque, the first generation of the family who are the present owners.